BELLEVILLE -- After an 0-2 start, the Belleville West Maroons are now setting their sights on clinching their fifth straight state playoff appearance.
Belleville West improved to 4-4 overall and 4-2 in Southwestern Conference play with a 37-13 win over the Granite City Warriors on Friday. The Maroons can clinch a winning season and a state playoff berth with a win over Alton next week.
“It was huge for us obviously,” Belleville West coach Cameron Pettus said. “We knew we had to win this game before we can play for the next game because we have to win our last two games to be playoff eligible. It was a big game for us and we knew they were going to be ready to play and they did. It was a very hard fought and competitive game.”
The Warriors dropped to 4-4 overall and 3-3 in Southwestern Conference play with the loss to the Maroons. They have to beat Edwardsville next week to keep their state playoff hopes alive.
Granite City is looking for its first state playoff appearance since 2011.
“We’re going into next week practicing and trying to make the playoffs,” Granite City coach Carl Luehmann said. “We have a chance for the playoffs. That’s what we’re looking forward to.”
Pettus is in his sixth season as Belleville West coach. After finishing 2-7 in Pettus’ first season in 2011, the Maroons have transformed into one of the top football teams in the Metro East. Last year, they went 5-5 and qualified for the state playoffs for the fourth straight year, a school record.
“It says a lot about our program and where we wanted to go and how we wanted to continue to build,” Pettus said.
This year, Belleville West lost to Batavia and Lincoln-Way East in its first two games before winning four of its next six. The Maroons also beat Collinsville, Belleville East and O’Fallon.
“When you play good teams, you got to come and ready to go,” Pettus said. “We still have a lot of work to do. That’s for sure.”
The Warriors lost to the Maroons for the fifth straight year. Granite City’s last win over Belleville West was in 2011, when it made the state playoffs for the first time in Luehmann’s tenure as head coach.
“It was a good high school football game,” Luehmann said. “It was back and forth. They were two good high school football teams playing high school football.”
Belleville West senior Paris Johnson was too much to handle for the Warriors. He scored three touchdowns, including a 60-yard touchdown run with 4:03 left in the second quarter that gave the Maroons a 17-13 lead they never relinquished.
“He was the man tonight,” Pettus said. “Once we saw what he can do, we kept feeding him the ball because he was something special. He did a great job.”
The Warriors had a chance to take the lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, when they had the ball at the Maroons’ 4-yard line. But Granite City quarterback Freddie Edwards slipped at the 6 while attempting to run into the end zone.
“We had it inside the red zone at the end and we didn’t execute and didn’t get the job done there,” Luehmann said. “That was the football game right there.”
The Maroons outscored the Warriors 20-0 in the second half. They scored all of the points in the fourth quarter.
“It was huge,” Pettus said. “For our defense to hold that quarterback (Edwards) and that offense to 13 points is awesome. That was a great effort by our guys. We can play better, but overall, I thought it was a nice effort from our defense. I’m really proud of that.”
Johnson scored his third touchdown of the game -- a 13-yard run with 7:09 left -- to boost Belleville West’s lead to 24-13. The Maroons also got touchdowns from Jack Lanxon and Cortez Moore in the closing minutes.
Edwards scored a pair of touchdowns for the Warriors. He scored a five-yard run earlier in the first quarter to give Granite City a 7-0 lead.
After Johnson scored a three-yard TD run to tie the game at 7-7, Edwards scored a 70-yard run to give the Warriors a 13-7 lead.. He now has a team-high 21 touchdowns on the season.
Luehmann said he was pleased with his team’s effort despite the loss.
“That score was not indicative on how hard my kids played,” the Granite City coach said. “I’m proud of what they did. It was a good high school football game.”