St. Charles East adjusts, knocks off Lemont
Kept off the scoreboard while being held to just 4 first downs in the opening half, St. Charles East's football team was in dire need of some sort of spark Friday night.
And then the Saints (1-0) found the ignition switch.
Stringing together consecutive 80-yard scoring drives in the third and fourth quarters, the Saints rallied to a hard-fought, 12-6 nonconference victory over Lemont (0-1) at Norris Stadium.
"We installed a brand new offense so I think a lot of it was getting to understand it in game speed," said Saints coach Bryce Farquhar. "With new stuff come new struggles. We were able to adjust and fix some stuff."
After Lemont's Mark Orszulak misfired on a 48-yard field goal attempt midway through the third quarter, the Saints marched 80 yards in 13 plays, trying the game at 6-6 on quarterback B.J. Crossen's 4-yard touchdown plunge on a 4th-and-goal play with 29 seconds left.
The drive included a 21-yard pass play from Crossen to senior scatback Clay Conn (3 receptions, 38 yards) and a crucial 20-yard pass over the middle to Gino Cerrone on a 4th-and-10 play from the Indians' 26 yard-line.
"I saw an opening and I took advantage of it," said Cerrone, who caught 4 passes for 52 yards -- 50 of them coming in the second half. "At halftime, we talked about stepping it up as a team and that's what we did.
"We just had to be more confident in ourselves. We weren't being aggressive (in the first half). We were a little tentative."
Lemont took the ensuing kick and moved the ball inside the Saints' 22 but the drive stalled and Orszulak's 39-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right, leaving the game tied at 6-6 with 9:29 remaining.
From there, the Saints seized control with a 9-play, 80-yard drive fueled by junior Logan Light and Cerrone.
Sophomore quarterback Nathan Hayes (8 of 14, 150 yards) connected with Light for completions of 38 and 14 yards before hitting Cerrone for a 14-yard strike on a 3rd-and-7 play to the Indians' 3.
On the next play, senior tailback Cole Conn raced around the right side into the corner of the end zone to give the Saints their first lead at 12-6 with 5:38 remaining.
"Our senior group is really good," said Farquhar. "They gave us some diversity where Lemont couldn't cover just one person."
Led by Nick Schumann, Gavin Tatar, Jalen Farmer and Jacob Robak, the Saints' defense did the rest, forcing a 3-and-out series before Crossen drew a key offside penalty on 4th-and-2 on their next offensive possession with 2:13 left.
St. Charles East ran out the clock with Crossen taking the final snap, sliding down for a 31-yard loss as time expired.
"The caliber of opponent that we played tonight was huge," said Farquhar. "We're lucky to come out of here with a win."
Despite enjoying solid field position throughout the first half (5 of 6 possessions in Saints' territory), Lemont managed just a 6-0 lead on a pair field goals from Orszulak.
"We let one get away from us," said Indians coach Bret Kooi. "We should have put the game away in the first half."