WOOD RIVER — A solid performance from the Bunker Hill Minutemen in the fourth quarter made the difference in Friday night’s Prairie State Conference contest against the East-Alton Wood River Oilers at Memorial Stadium. Bunker Hill won 36-26.
EA-WR owned a 26-22 advantage at the end of the third quarter, but big running plays and an Oiler turnover turned the tide. Bunker Hill (4-0, 2-0 PSC) started off the first drive of the final quarter on its own 11-yard line and six plays later Damin Jones ran the ball into the end zone to make the score 28-26. Jones broke six Oiler tackles in the momentum turning 50-yard touchdown run. Jones said the Minutemen “played as a team and as a family.”
The Oilers (0-4, 0-2 PSC) committed a fumble at the 2:14 mark in the fourth quarter and the Minutemen recovered and took control of the ball on their own 25-yard line. On the next play, Chandler Phillips ran the ball 75-yards into the end zone to make the score 34-26. Then the Minutemen put together a successful two-point conversion.
“This week, like every week, we preach the kids that we can’t have turnovers,” EA-WR coach Garry Herron said after the 36-26 loss. “It doesn’t matter if it’s against Bunker Hill or it’s against Columbia, we can’t do it.”
Herron said he felt his team didn’t tackle well on Bunker Hill’s big running play.
“On the one (Jones), we hit him in the backfield for a two-yard loss and he slips off of the tackle,” he said. “Then he proceeds to break four or five more. I don’t think that it’s because we’re out of position. We just did a poor job of tacking. We knew he was a bull and we did a poor job of tackling.”
Bunker Hill’s small squad, 20, includes four freshmen.
“We were clawing on defense to get a stop,” Bunker Hill football coach Tom Haynes said on the fumble recovery. “They put the ball on the ground a couple of times and there was a couple of times we couldn’t get on the ball. We were swarming really good at the end and we were in the right place at the right time to pick that up. Offensively, I’m super proud of the guys to come out and not just be complacent with getting the ball back – pretty much the same guys that were on offense were on defense. Those guys turned right around and put one in the end zone. ”
EA-WR owned an 18-14 halftime advantage. Sophomore running back Zach Womack scored the Oilers' first touchdown at the 11:01 mark in the first quarter, but Bunker Hill scored on its next drive to tie the score up at 6-6. The score remained tied at six at the end of the first quarter.
The Oilers pulled ahead early in the second quarter (11:44) when sophomore quarterback Justin Englar connected with sophomore wide receiver Luke Wells on an 11-yard pass in the end zone to give EA-WR a 12-6 advantage.
Bunker Hill responded with a 12-play, 64-yard drive capped off by a two-yard run into the end zone by quarterback Storm Coffman. A successful two-point conversion made the score 14-12.
But the Oilers responded on the next drive. Starting on their own 35-yard line, they moved into Bunker Hill territory with a series of running plays. On a fourth and two play on Bunker Hill’s 30-yard line, Englar connected on a 25-yard pass to Lukas Westbrook who made a short trip into the end zone. The Oilers then had an 18-14 lead at the 3:42 mark in the second quarter.
The Minutemen scored a touchdown on their first drive of the third quarter to establish a 22-18 lead, but EA-WR responded with a touchdown scoring drive. Englar connected with Westbrook again on a six-yard pass in the end zone. Chris Hamby ran the ball into the end zone on the two-point conversion to make the score 26-22. Herron said Englar “plays beyond his years.”
“He’s smart with the ball and makes good decisions,” Herron said. “If we get in a pinch, he can get us out of it. He’s just done a very good job.”
The Oilers face Marquette Catholic next Saturday at 1 p.m. at Public School Stadium in Alton in a PSC battle and will be looking for that elusive first victory.