GRANITE CITY — With 36 seniors and four returning all-Southwestern Conference selections from last season, the Belleville East Lancers are setting their sights on turning in a successful season under first-year head coach Kris Stephens.
"We just have to keep working hard and put in the work," Belleville East senior offensive lineman Dominic Colbert said. "We'll be good."
The Lancers improved to 2-1 after cruising to a 44-7 victory over the Granite City Warriors in the Southwestern Conference opener for both teams on Friday. Belleville East also beat the Warriors for the eighth straight season.
"Our plan was to come out and win and execute," Granite City senior offensive lineman Blake Carmack said. "As the scoreboard showed, we didn't. We're a better team than what the scoreboard showed and we're going to come out a little better."
Granite City dropped to 2-1 overall with the loss to the Lancers. The Warriors got off to their first 2-0 start in four years by posting non-conference victories over Jersey and Riverview Gardens.
"The start was great," Carmack said. "I think our heads got a little big thinking that we were going to come out here and stomp the ground and it didn't happen that way."
The Lancers, who finished 5-5 and qualified for the state playoffs last year, bounced back nicely from their season-opening, 63-31 loss to Normal at home on Aug. 28. They have scored 99 points in the last two games. Belleville East beat Normal West 55-48 in Week 2 on the road.
"We did good," Colbert said. "We have room to improve. We can always do better. The O-line did good. We still have a few mistakes that we've got to fix for next week."
On Friday, the Lancers never trailed against the Warriors. Belleville East stormed to a 24-0 lead late in the second quarter.
Belleville East senior wide receiver Anthony Dean scored a pair of touchdowns, giving him five for the season. He gave the Lancers a 7-0 lead after scoring a 10-yard touchdown catch with 5 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first quarter. Dean also scored a 35-yard touchdown catch with seven seconds left in the second quarter.
The Lancers also got touchdowns from senior quarterback Drew Millas, senior running back Moses Holman and sophomore Freddie Waller. Millas and Holman scored their touchdowns in the second quarter and Waller scored a 68-yard touchdown run with 4:12 left in the game.
Senior Matt Sotiropoulos, who earned third-team all-conference honors as kicker last year, kicked three field goals and five points after touchdowns.
"They're a good football team," Granite City head coach Carl Luehmann said. "They executed better than us on third downs. They executed and we didn't. We had guys who missed tackles. We have to be better disciplined on the defensive side and make tackles. Bottom line."
Granite City got its only points with 1:13 left in the second, when junior Kyle Thompson scored a 36-yard touchdown catch to cut the Lancers' lead to 24-7. He also finished with four tackles on the defensive side of the ball.
"That was a nice play," Luehmann said. "Gabe (Jarman) threw him a good ball there, but we have to execute overall better than that to compete in our conference."
Senior quarterback Gabe Jarman went 10-for-27 with 152 yards passing and rushed for 75 yards on 13 carries. Senior Caleb Venne finished with eight tackles.
The Warriors travel to East St. Louis next Friday. The Flyers routed Alton 56-0 in their league opener on Friday.
"We come up against East St. Louis next week and they're a very good team," Luehmann said. "It's going to be a tough task, but we've got to learn to get better every day and the kids have to hang in there and play football."
The Lancers play Alton at home next Friday.