After giving up 49 points to Cary-Grove last weekend, St. Charles East's defense was burned a few times for big plays against West Aurora Friday night.
But with the game on the line, the Saints' defense stepped up with a huge goal-line stand in the final minute to help preserve St. Charles East's 26-21 nonconference triumph over the Blackhawks (1-1) at Norris Stadium.
Led by the lethal combination of quarterback Quintez Jones (12-of-27, 162 yards) and wide receiver Cole Childs (8 catches, 135 yards, 2 TDs), West Aurora took over possession at its own 15 and marched 79 yards in 11 plays to set up a first-and-goal from the Saints' 6-yard line.
Jones completed 4 passes to Childs for 50 yards during the drive, including a 25-yard bubble screen on third-and-10 from the Blackhawks' 15.
On first-and-goal from the 6, the ever-elusive Childs took a direct snap from center before running into Saints linebacker Mike Candre, who tackled him for an 8-yard loss.
On second-and-goal from the 14, senior defensive lineman Andrew Szyman broke through the Blackhawks' offensive line to stop tailback Booker Ross for a 5-yard loss.
On third-and-goal from the 19, a high snap sailed over Jones' head. By the time Ross recovered the loose ball for a 30-yard loss, the Blackhawks were faced with an insurmountable fourth-and-goal situation near midfield.
When defensive back Andrew Badowski tackled Blackhawks wideout Aaron Kennebrew far short of the end zone after a 29-yard gain, the Saints ran out the final 36 seconds for their first victory.
"We saw on tape that they like to run it inside at the goal-line and we adjusted to that," Saints senior linebacker Joe Hoscheit said of the first 2 plays inside the red zone. "Candre and Szyman made awesome plays."
"Sometimes the ball bounces your way," said Saints coach Mike Fields. "I've been on the wrong side of that. I'm an old center and I made some bad snaps in my day, too. You feel for those guys. But I can't say enough about our defense. We never quit."
"Terrible job," Blackhawks coach Nate Eimer said of his team's final series of plays. "I don't know what else to say."
Trailing 14-6 at halftime, the Saints took a 20-14 lead with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns -- the first on a juggling 23-yard reception by junior Brannon Barry (5 catches, 62 yards) and the latter on Hoscheit's 1-yard plunge.
West Aurora took a 21-20 lead on Jones' 32-yard TD pass to Childs on a fourth-and-6 play with 11:17 remaining.
"Cole was amazing tonight," Eimer said of his 6-3, 195-pound receiver. "He really put us on his back and gave us a chance to win this football game."
The Blackhawks' late lead lasted just 23 seconds, as Mitch Munroe returned the ensuing kick 98 yards to set up Hoscheit's second 1-yard TD run with 10:54 left.
"We put him (Munroe) back there when (Anthony) Sciarrino was tired and we didn't think twice about it," said Fields. "What a gutsy play."
The Saints, who lost the services of starting tailback Erik Anderson (11 carries, 83 yards) to a first-half right shoulder injury, are now 1-1 after starting the season with 0-2 marks the past 3 years.
"This is the first time in four years that we've been 1-1," said Fields. "I challenged these guys before the game to be 1-1 before conference starts and they took the challenge."
"The last couple years, they would have scored in that situation," Hoscheit said of the goal-line stand. "It shows how much progression we've made the last two years."