GRANITE CITY — The Granite City Warriors’ football team got new black uniforms this season.
"They're nice," Granite City senior wide receiver Ron Allen said. "We love them. Once they said we were getting new uniforms, everybody was just jumping and was just crazy.”
The new uniforms were a big help for the Warriors in Friday’s season opener against the Jersey Panthers.
Granite City came from behind to beat the visiting Panthers 49-30, making it the second time in three seasons the Warriors opened their season with a victory. They beat Marion 25-13 in their 2013 season opener.
"It's nice to get that very first win," Granite City coach Carl Luehmann said. "The kids are excited and pumped up and ready to go next week. That carries over to the next week when you get wins like that. I'm proud of what the kids did tonight. They worked their butts off and got that first big win.”
Senior quarterback Gabe Jarman rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns, junior Brandon Bettag rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries with three touchdowns and junior Jacob Spears finished with seven tackles.
The Warriors will travel to Riverview Gardens at 1 p.m. on Sept. 5, their only Saturday game on their schedule. Last year, Granite City cruised to a 21-0 win over the Rams.
The Warriors came back from a 14-13 halftime deficit to cruise to the victory over the Panthers. They outscored Jerseyville 22-0 in the third quarter to take a 35-14 lead and never looked back.
Granite City beat Jersey for the first time since 2011, the same year it qualified for the state playoffs. Last year, the Warriors began their season with a 21-12 loss to the Panthers.
"The kids have been working hard for a couple of weeks beating on each other," Luehmann said. "It was nice to come out and play a game. In the first half, we had a lot of penalties that we haven't been doing in practice and stuff. So it was just the hype and everything. The kids settled down in the second half and came through and did some good things in the second half. I'm proud of them."
A three-yard run by Bettag and a two-point conversion by Jarman with 3:24 left in the third quarter gave Granite City a 21-14 lead. The Warriors extended their lead to 28-14 after junior Earl Green intercepted a pass from Jersey quarterback Drew Sauerwein and scored a 10-yard touchdown run. Bettag increased Granite City's lead to 35-14 after scoring his third touchdown of the game with 51.7 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Warriors added a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter — a 10-yard touchdown run by Jarman with 11:17 left and an 85-yard touchdown kickoff return by sophomore Eugene Williba with 7:32 remaining.
Allen rushed for 71 yards on four carries, all of them were in the third quarter. With the Warriors having the ball at their own 46-yard line on first down with four minutes left in the third, Allen ran for 51 yards to the 3-yard line that later set up Bettag's TD that gave Granite City the lead.
"Ronald came out and played hard in the second half and so did Brandon Bettag," Luehmann said. "Both of our running backs did good, but it starts up front with our linemen. We're going to do good things if we keep improving on our offensive line. Our defensive line did well. Our defense did much better in the second half once we settled in a little bit. I'm proud of the progress that we made, but we have a long way to go."
The Warriors got their new uniforms during picture day on Aug. 21. Last year, their uniforms had GCHS written on the top. This year, GCHS was changed to Warriors.
"We raised the money for these uniforms and these kids were proud of breaking them out tonight and they did well in them," Luehmann said. "That's what they wanted to do. It was an exciting thing for them to break out their new uniforms. They wore them to school and they're proud of them. When you're proud of your uniform like that, it carries over, too. They look good."