O’FALLON – Belleville West punched its ticket to the upcoming IHSA football playoffs following a 45-24 win over Alton at O'Fallon Township High School Friday night.
The Redbirds will have to wait until Saturday night to see if they will get an invitation.
While the Maroons improved to 6-3 overall and finished 5-2 in the Southwestern Conference, the Redbirds are perched on the playoff bubble. Alton, 5-4 overall, finished 3-4 in the SWC.
“We’ll have to sit and wait and I don't feel good about having to do that,” AHS coach Jeff Alderman said of Saturday night’s announcement. No fewer than 256 teams, representing eight classes, will advance to postseason play. The Redbirds will be cast in 7A if they qualify.
They have 38 playoff points, yet Alderman is unsure if that’s enough. “Waiting to hear if we will get in isn’t fun, but it’s something we have to do," he said. "We put ourselves in that boat.”
Four turnovers, plus a blocked punt and a partially deflected one, hounded the Redbirds in their regular-season finale. They accumulated 340 yards overall to 237 for the Maroons, but West proved opportunistic at O’Fallon. The game was played on the Panthers’ field since the Belleville West field is undergoing renovation.
“We dug ourselves too big of a hole early in the game and you can’t do that against a team like that,” Alderman said.
The first quarter told the tale as the Maroons built a 24-0 lead and never looked back.
A partially blocked punt enabled West to take possession and the Maroons scored on Antoine Davis’ 6-yard run at 6:02 to make it 7-0.
Then a fumble gave West the ball back quickly at the AHS 20. Dominic Davis scored on a 6-yard run at 5:01 and it was 14-0. The Maroons used their first of three interceptions to set up Austin Seibert’s 42-yard field goal with 3:21 remaining in the quarter.
West wasn’t finished. The Maroons blocked a punt and recovered at the Alton 5. Two plays later, Antoine Davis scored on a 1-yard run and it was 24-0 with 50 seconds to go. So the Maroons scored all of those points in just five-plus minutes.
“It was huge to get out in front early like that,” West coach Cameron Pettus said. “We did a good job coming out quickly and then we were able to punch it in against them.”
The Redbirds matched up better with the Maroons the rest of the way, but Alton couldn’t overcome a sluggish start. The Birds seemed to have too many anxious moments.
“I think we were a little nervous early on and pressing a little bit,” Alderman said. “And that didn’t turn into anything positive.”
Larry Calvin gave them a booster shot. He rushed 11 times for 71 yards and scored on second-half runs of 3 and 39 yards. Quarterback Lavonte Hobbs hooked up with Keenan Stegall for a 35-yard touchdown with 5:29 remaining in the half. The Redbirds also got a safety when West quarterback Sherand Boyd was called for grounding the ball in the end zone. Hobbs had a conversion run and backup quarterback Dalton Hamberg pitched a conversion pass to Demonte Wigfall following Calvin’s 39-yard score with 2:44 to play.
At one point, the Redbirds fought back from a 31-6 deficit to get within 31-16 early in the fourth quarter. However, Jack Lanxon ensured the Maroons’ victory on the third play of the fourth quarter. He rambled 53 yards with an interception for a TD to make it 38-16.
“That interception slammed the door shut,” Pettus said.
Alderman added, “You can’t blame it (loss) on one play, but we had a little momentum going at the time and the interception for a TD took the wind out of our sails.”
Running back Justus Pedrero complemented Calvin’s work by rushing for 66 yards. Hobbs was 10 of 23 for 129 yards and three interceptions. Joshua Lovings snared four passes for 68 yards, including a 59-yarder. Stegall had three receptions for 50 yards.
Still, the main numbers favored West, especially the Maroons’ prime field position.
“I don’t know what more our defense can do,” Alderman said, “because West was on our end of the field most of the night. We didn’t help out our defense.”
Pettus said the Maroons helped themselves in securing a spot in the postseason.
“We know we are in the playoffs now,” he said. “This win is a tribute to our seniors. They had a great week of practice.”
BELLEVILLE WEST 45, ALTON 24
Alton 0 6 8 10 – 24
West 24 7 0 14 – 45
BW – A. Davis 6 run (Seibert kick), 6:02
BW – D. Davis 6 run (Seibert kick), 5:01
BW – FG Seibert 42, 3:27
BW – A. Davis 1 run (Seibert kick), :50.9
A – Stegall 35 pass from Hobbs (pass failed), 5:29
BW – Boyd 2 run (Seibert kick), :25.1
A – Calvin 3 run (Hobbs run), 3:48
A – Safety, 11:45
BW – Lanxon 53 interception return (Seibert kick), 10:53
BW – Boyd 1 run (Seibert kick), 3:58
A – Calvin 39 run (Wigfall pass from Hamberg), 2:44