By JEREMY HALL
MT. VERNON — It was a game of firsts for Cahokia during its visit to Mt. Vernon on Friday, but the one at the end made all of the others worthwhile.
The Comanches trailed for the first time this season and played a fourth quarter with their starters on the field for the first time in winning 33-29 and giving current Cahokia players their first outright South Seven Conference championship.
The Comanches needed to move the ball 80 yards in 27 seconds to win the game. After Mt. Vernon scored on a one-yard plunge into the endzone by quarterback James Mulvaney, and an extra-point kick by Mike Swinnen, the Rams gripped a 29-25 lead.
Mt. Vernon’s Josh Sears then kicked the ball through the uprights to give Cahokia the ball at its own 20-yard line with no timeouts and 26.9 seconds showing on the clock.
From there, Comanches quarterback Patrick Ivy completed a 50-yard pass to Donald Collier and a 14-yard pass to Brandon Beckner to give Cahokia a first-and-10 at the Rams’ 13 with 19 seconds remaining. Ivy then hit Jimmie Hunt across the middle and Hunt raced into the endzone to give the Comanches the lead for good. The play was the fifth lead change of the second half.
“It’s a conference championship,” said Cahokia coach Antwyne Golliday, whose team clinched the league title by improving to 4-0 in the South Seven and 7-0 overall. “What do you expect?”
The Comanches’ win snapped a four-game win streak by the Rams (4-3, 3-1) and halted a string of nine straight Mt. Vernon victories in South Seven Conference contests.
The Comanches also won against the last team to defeat them, as Mt. Vernon handed Cahokia two of its three on-field losses a year ago and ended the Comanches’ season in the first round of the playoffs.
“Last year they beat us for the conference championship and they beat us in the playoffs,” said Ivy. “We had to get our revenge at their house. Last year, they beat us for the conference championship at our house.”
Mt. Vernon seemed to take control of the game for good on its final scoring drive. The Rams moved the ball 70 yards on 10 plays in just 3 minutes, 43 seconds.
Running back Marquette Moore tallied 52 of his 55 yards for the game in the drive, as Mt. Vernon picked up four of its seven second-half first downs to move into the red zone.
Mings said he was too quick to call for a timeout prior to Mulvaney’s scoring run.
“[It] left them with too much time,” he said. “We know their athletic ability is what it is. I won’t forget this one.”
Mt. Vernon stymied the Comanches in the first half, converting a pair of Cahokia turnovers into Swinnen field goals of 36 and 32 yards before stringing together a nine-play, 52-yard drive that resulted in another Swinnen field goal that gave the Rams a 9-0 lead just before halftime.
The drive was kept alive on a play that saw Mt. Vernon receiver Brian Sipe stay with a pass from Mulvaney, through a near-interception by the Comanches, and haul it in for a 40-yard gain.
Cahokia managed just 35 yards of total offense in the first half and maintained possession of the ball for just 4 minutes, 11 seconds.
“I tip my hat to Mt. Vernon,” said Golliday. “They had a game plan. I told Coach Mings last week, ‘man, it looks like you’ve got my number.’ Mt. Vernon comes ready whenever they play us.”
The Comanches stormed to the lead in the third quarter, scoring on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Ivy to Beckner midway through the period and on a 17-yard TD strike from Ivy to Hunt late in the quarter.
Cahokia opened up a 19-9 lead on a 37-yard scoring run by Deonta Beverly with 8:34 left in the fourth quarter before a roller-coaster ride to the finish.
Mulvaney connected with Eric Fowler for a 76-yard touchdown pass — the Rams’ first passing touchdown of the season — to pull to within 19-15 before taking a 22-19 lead on a four-yard run by Torrey Pollard and Swinnen extra point with 5:10 left to play.
Cahokia responded with a 59-yard touchdown pass from Ivy to Hunt with 4:19 remaining, but Sipe blocked his second extra-point attempt of the game and the Comanches led just 25-22.
“I’ve ridden that roller coaster at Holiday World, that big, crazy one,” said Mings. “And I was ready to get off of it when it was over. It’s the same type of thing. Ups and downs, twists and turns, scared to death, happy, excited. All those emotions go into what we were feeling on the sidelines.”
Ivy completed 11 of 15 pass attempts for 223 yards and four touchdowns, while Hunt caught four passes for 100 yards.
Pollard finished with 73 rushing yards on 14 attempts for the Rams, while Darrell Mitchell added 71 yards on 22 carries.
Mulvaney nearly doubled his season passing yardage total in the game, completing five of eight pass attempts for 151 yards.
The Comanches last won sole possession of the South Seven Conference title in 2004. Cahokia had beaten its first six opponents by an average of 34 points a game and hasn’t lost since its last trip to Mt. Vernon in the 2007 playoffs.
The Rams will have to wait a week to try again for the all-important fifth win that secures playoff eligibility. Mt. Vernon will host Centralia in the Rams’ homecoming game next Friday.
At Mt. Vernon
Cahokia 33, Mt. Vernon 29
Cahokia 0 0 12 21
Mt. Vernon 3 6 0 20
MV — Swinnen 36-yard field goal, :43.
MV — Swinnen 32-yard field goal, 7:15.
MV — Swinnen 22-yard field goal, :33.
CAH — Beckner 7-yard pass from Ivy (kick blocked), 7:02.
CAH — Hunt 17-yard pass from Ivy (pass intercepted), :47.
CAH — Beverly 37-yard run (Schmid kick), 8:34.
MV — Fowler 76-yard pass from Mulvaney (pass failed), 8:16.
MV — Pollard 4-yard run (Swinnen kick), 5:10.
CAH — Hunt 59-yard pass from Ivy (kick blocked), 4:19.
MV — Mulvaney 1-yard run (Swinnen kick), :27.
CAH — Hunt 14-yard pass from Ivy (Ivy run), :06.
First Downs: Cahokia 10, Mt. Vernon 15. Penalties: Cahokia 4-50, Mt. Vernon 5-25. Fumbles-lost: Cahokia 2-2, Mt. Vernon 1-0.
Rushing — Cahokia: Ivy 9-48, Beverly 7-60, Collier 2-5, Beckner 1-9. TOTALS: 19-122. Mt. Vernon: Alvis 2-5, Mitchell 22-71, Mulvaney 8-(-14), Pollard 14-73, Moore 8-55. TOTALS: 54-128.
Receiving — Cahokia: Beckner 4-54, Hunt 4-100, Collier 3-69. Mt. Vernon: Alvis 1-29, Moore 1-(-1), Sipe 1-40, Fowler 2-83.
Passing — Cahokia: Ivy 11-15-1, 223. Mt. Vernon: Alvis 5-8-2, 151.