For most of the first half of Saturday’s Homecoming football game against visiting McCluer, the were right on schedule.
They were moving the ball, collecting first downs, and even scoring points on offense, while also completing limiting the Comets and controlling the line of scrimmage on defense.
West was in pretty good shape with only a few minutes left until the halftime break.
Late in the half though, sparked by a pair big-time touchdown tosses by quarterback Berlin Hollomon, McCluer got its air attack on track, and flew right past Hazelwood West, for what would become a 36-20 win for the visitors.
“That’s two weeks in a row,” said McCluer head football coach Joe Henke. “We just start slow. And that comes from going into a game, expecting it to be easy.
"You’ve got to expect a battle.”
And that’s certainly what the Wildcats gave the Comets for the first 20 minutes or so of the game.
West had possession of the ball for 13 of those first 20 minutes, racked up 128 yards to McCluer’s 16, and totaled eight first downs to McCluer’s one.
And the Wildcats turned that early edge into a lead on the scoreboard, thanks to two 38-yard field goals by senior Danny Potts.
But then McCluer finally woke up, and Hollomon began to find the Comets’ best player, senior wide receiver Darrion Dillard, for a couple a pass plays that really opened up some holes in the Hazelwood West defense.
First, Hollomon and Dillard connected on a 14-yard pass that gave McCluer possession deep in West territory.
A few plays later, Hollomon threw a perfect screen pass to senior Jeff Shumpert, who raced through the Wildcat defense for a 23-yard score that tied the game at 6.
“After we got up, it was almost as if these guys thought the game was over,” said Hazelwood West head coach Duane Hawthorne. “And that’s a sign of a team that hasn’t learned how to win yet.
"The excuse of being young and inexperienced doesn’t fly anymore. We’re half-way through the season.”
The key play in the first half, came on McCluer’s next possession, when Hollomon and Dillard hooked up on a 50-yard pass that again gave the Comets the ball deep in Hazelwood West territory.
This time though, Hollomon looked for Dillard on the next play as well, and hit him for a 15-yard touchdown that, along with a two-point conversion pass from Hollomon to Shumpert, gave McCluer a 14-6 lead with 49.7 seconds left in the half.
“That touchdown before the half was a killer,” Hawthorne said. “That one really hurt.
"We played pretty good in the first half, and to be down at halftime really seemed to hurt us.”
On McCluer’s first possession of the second half, Hollomon and Dillard did it again, with the 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior taking a short pass and turning it into a 30-yard gain that set up a 1-yard touchdown run by teammate Kenneth Young.
“Darrion’s a really good kid,” Henke said. “And what’s great about him, is he has the ability to focus and concentrate all the way through on what he’s supposed to do.
“It also helps that he’s tall, and fast, and has great hands, and all that God-given stuff, but what he does is focus and stay in the moment, and that’s why he’s so good, and one of our team leaders.”
Dillard finished the day with five catches for 110 yards, as McCluer won its second straight game, and improved to 2-4 on the season.
For Hazelwood West, which fell to 1-5, senior Justin Moss was the star, with 112 rushing yards on 15 carries, including a sensational 49-yard romp midway through the fourth quarter that got the Wildcats back into the game.
McCluer had gone up 28-6, after Young scored his second touchdown of the day, early in the fourth.
But Moss came right back mere moments later, with a scamper through the Comet defense that brought the still fired up Hazelwood West Homecoming crowd to its feet.
Moss also added a successful two-point conversion run that made the score 28-14, and gave the Wildcats some hope of a possible comeback.
But McCluer’s Dillard ended those hopes with his second touchdown of the day, on a 5-yard toss from Hollomon, that put the game out of reach.
“We’ve still got a whole lot of work to do,” Hawthorne said. “But I told the kids, my preparation won’t change. I’m still going to work as hard as I have.
"I want to know if they’re willing to work harder so we can all get better.”
Both teams have home games scheduled for next week.
McCluer will host Hazelwood Central Saturday at 1 p.m. West will take on Pattonville Saturday as well, in a game that will also begin at 1 p.m.
Score by Quarters
HW: Danny Potts 38 yd FG, 1:06
HW: Danny Potts 39 yd FG, 8:01
MC: Jeff Shumpert 23 yd pass from Berlin Hollomon (pass failed), 6:12
MC: Darrion Dillard 15 yd pass from Berlin Hollomon (Jeff Shumpert 2-pt pass), 49.7
MC: Kenneth Young 1 yd run (pass failed), 9:32
MC: Kenneth Young 5 yd run (Donnell Drake 2-pt pass), 11:51
HW: Justin Moss 49 yd run (Justin Moss 2-pt run), 8:22
MC: Darrion Dillard 5 yd pass from Berlin Hollomon (Jeff Shumpert 2-pt run), 6:45
HW: Lens McKeown 7 yd pass from Aaron Davis (run failed), 1:23