BETHALTO – The Civic Memorial Eagles opened their Mississippi Valley Conference season on Saturday with a victory.
But it wasn’t easy.
CM came from behind to beat the Jersey Panthers 31-27 in its league opener at home. The Eagles improved to 3-1 overall, all of their wins came at home.
“It’s great and exciting,” CM senior wide receiver David Lane said. “We hope to keep it rolling. We haven’t really done anything yet. We have to keep coming out here performing every day. We just got to keep getting better.”
Now, the Eagles are setting their sights on finishing with another winning season in conference play. A year ago, CM finished 3-2 in the MVC after three consecutive losing seasons.
“I think we can compete with everybody,” Lane said. “I think we’re going to give everybody run for their money. Don’t count us out on anything.”
The Eagles will play Mascoutah and Highland in the next two weeks on the road. Then, they’ll have home games against Waterloo and defending conference champ Triad.
“It’s a tough conference from top to bottom,” first-year CM coach Mike Parmentier said. “We have Mascoutah next at Mascoutah. They’re going to be a tough out as well, so every game we have in our conference is a very competitive game and it’s a last second type of game. We were tested tonight (against Jersey), but I’m happy that we responded.”
Mascoutah is 1-3. The Indians lost 28-0 to Highland in their conference opener on Saturday.
The Eagles are looking to win their first road game of the season on Friday at Mascoutah. Last week, they lost 40-6 to Mt. Zion on the road.
“We’ve got to get off the bus and we just got to play our game,” CM senior offensive lineman Cody Reynolds said.
The Eagles and Panthers were originally scheduled to play on Friday, but rain moved the contest to Saturday.
“We wanted to play in the rain,” Reynolds said. “Then we were like, ‘OK, today will be better.’ So we might as well play today.”
Jersey (1-3) has lost three straight games after coming from behind to beat Granite City 39-35 in the season opener on Aug. 26.
Quarterback Drew Sauerwein scored a pair of touchdowns and Blake Wittman and Brandon Baalman each scored a touchdown for the Panthers, who will play Triad on Friday at home.
“Hats off to Jerseyville,” Parmentier said. “They have a great football team and great coaching staff.”
Wittman gave the Panthers a 27-23 lead on a 44-yard touchdown catch with 50.7 seconds left in the third quarter.
With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, Lane intercepted a pass from Sauerwein at the Jersey 30-yard line that later set up a two-yard touchdown run by Corey Price.
Price’s TD run with 5:46 left in the game and a two-point conversion by Lane gave the Eagles a 31-27 lead.
“On the sidelines, my teammates congratulated me (after the interception) and it was really good,” Lane said. “For us to get that touchdown, it made it so much better.”
Jersey recovered a CM fumble with 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter, giving the Panthers one last chance to win the game. But Sauerwein’s pass at the end zone as time expired was incomplete.
“It’s probably one of the most exciting games I have ever been part of,” Parmentier said. “It was just back and forth. People got their money’s worth tonight.”
Price finished with three touchdowns. He scored a nine-yard TD run with just 52 seconds into the second quarter to give CM a 7-0 lead. He also scored a seven-yard TD catch with 3:32 left in the quarter to give the Eagles a 13-7 halftime lead.
Trevor Panyik kicked a 37-yard field goal with 4:20 left in the third to give the Eagles a 16-14 lead. After CM recovered a Jersey fumble on the kickoff, senior Nick Newell scored a 25-yard TD run to give the Eagles a 23-14 lead.
“The kids had a great effort,” Parmentier said. “We had a lot of kids who stepped up tonight. It was a great game tonight and the ball was rolling our way, so the kids were fortunate to kick off the conference with a victory and up it to 3-1.”