St. Charles East offense in high gear vs. Rock Island
Rock Island wasted little time jumping on top of St. Charles East during Friday night's football season opener.
On the game's first play from scrimmage, the Rocks ran a trick play to perfection as receiver Ben Ellis caught a lateral from quarterback Nick Roessler and tossed a 79-yard touchdown pass to Michail Sudberry.
The halfback option pass left the Saints in a 7-0 hole just 20 seconds into the game.
It also evidently left the Saints (1-0) in a foul mood.
St. Charles East answered with touchdown drives on 5 of its next 6 possessions on the way to a 41-7 nonconference triumph before an enthusiastic Norris Stadium crowd.
"Our kids are confident but they did catch us off guard," said Saints coach Bryce Farquhar. "I don't think we played to our level for a little bit there. That big play shocked us. Their heads went down a little but they learned from it."
After allowing the 79-yard, quick-play TD strike, the Saints' defense allowed just 157 yards the rest of the way -- 50 of those yards coming in the last 2 minutes on the Rocks' final possession.
"We were surprised by the trick play," said senior linebacker Nico Piaskowy, whose 21-yard interception return for a touchdown with 7:47 remaining capped the Saints' scoring. "We really didn't know what to expect but the rest of the game we shut them down.
"I rerouted my guy and the ball was right there," Piaskowy said of the pick-6. "My eyes got big and I took it to the house."
The Saints also received huge offensive contributions from senior quarterback Clayton Isbell and junior tailback Justin Jett.
Isbell (11 carries, 102 yards) scored the team's first 2 touchdowns -- the first coming on a 21-yard run that featured the 6-3, 205-pounder bulldozing past a pair of defenders into the corner of the end zone to tie the score at 7-7 after the opening quarter.
"I thought Clayton made some good reads and audibles at the line tonight," said Farquhar.
From there, Jett became the center of attention as he scored the Saints' next 3 touchdowns -- the second coming on a 39-yard run that extended their lead to 27-7 in the first 50 seconds of the second half.
Jett, who added a 1-yard TD run late in the third quarter, finished with a game-high 227 rushing yards on 21 carries behind an inexperienced offensive line anchored by Justin Hull, Alex Cox, Aidan Flynn, Dylan Barrett and Alex Pahadi.
"Our four new guys on the line came out and absolutely dominated," said Jett. "We graduated four of our five linemen (Hull the only returnee) so we knew it was going to be interesting. They opened up those gaps."
"A lot of credit has to go to the O-line and (Justin) Jett," said Farquhar. "I thought we played a downhill game tonight."
Rock Island never recovered after losing 2-way starters Tavion Brooks and DeAngelo Horne to early injuries.
"St. Charles East had a great game plan," said Rocks coach Ben Hammer. "They're a super physical team and they know their scheme well but the injuries were really tough coming on the first and third plays of the game."