St. Charles East's football team avoided the pitfalls of the so-called trap game Friday night at Norris Stadium.
Fresh from three consecutive emotional victories over Geneva, St. Charles North and Batavia, the Saints shook off a sluggish start and powered their way to a 37-19 Upstate Eight Conference crossover victory over Bartlett (2-5).
Looking to spoil the Saints' homecoming plans, the Hawks grabbed an early 7-0 lead on a 17-yard touchdown run by senior tailback Vanshon Lindsey.
An interception by Chris Sanft gave the Hawks the ball at the Saints' 29.
"The one mistake they did make -- we were able to punch it in and take a 7-0 lead," said Hawks coach Eric Ilich.
St. Charles East (6-0) answered with the tying touchdown two possessions later, as senior wide receiver Justin Galante made an acrobatic catch of a 25-yard touchdown pass from Zach Mitchell in the back of the end zone with 1:32 left in the first quarter.
Galante wound up on his backside to make the grab and give the Saints some much-needed momentum.
"I got my left hand on it and was kind of bobbling it," said Galante. "I got up and I wasn't sure if I was in or not."
The Saints' opportunistic, ball-hawking defense ignited a late flurry before halftime.
First, junior linebacker Abe Swanson recovered a fumble near midfield to help set up Justin Jett's 14-yard TD run as the Saints took a 14-7 lead.
About a minute later, Bartlett's Mark Repiscak pinned the Saints inside their own 5 with a 51-yard punt.
After a 26-yard pass completion from Mitchell (9 of 16, 186 yards, 2 TDs) to Clayton Isbell got the Saints out of trouble, the senior quarterback connected with junior Josh Luedtke (3 receptions, 79 yards) for 27 yards to the Hawks' 44.
"It was a good day for our split ends," said Galante. "We haven't gotten much action but today we looked really good and that's exciting to see."
Matt Burns' 37-yard field goal extended the Saints' margin to 17-7 with 34 seconds left in the half.
On the Hawks' next play from scrimmage, Saints senior Sam Grohe scooped up a fumble and returned it to the Bartlett 3, setting up Jett's second TD run with 11 remaining before intermission.
"We just shot ourselves in the foot," said Ilich. "I thought we proved that we belonged but we couldn't overcome our mistakes and they were able to capitalize."
"Our defense gave us some great field position a few times," said Saints coach Bryce Farquhar, whose team clinched its first playoff berth since 2013. "I thought Bartlett had a great game plan. They shut down our run and made us pass the ball."
Mitchell, who added a 45-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, fired a 9-yard TD pass to Isbell on the Saints' opening possession of the second half to take a 30-7 lead.
Lindsey's 61-yard TD reception from Joey Daum highlighted the second half for the Hawks.
After back-to-back 4-5 varsity campaigns, Galante will now get his first taste of the postseason.
"It feels good to get some payback," he said.