BELLEVILLE • It was cold, muddy and sloppy.
In other words, the conditions were just right for the Edwardsville football team.
Friday night, the Tigers posted their second consecutive shutout and third of the season with a 24-0 Southwestern Conference victory at Belleville East.
The game, which was scheduled for 7 p.m., didn't start until 8:02 due to a lightning and rain delay.
“It was challenging, but the kids played good enough to win,” Edwardsville coach Matt Martin said. “(East) was just what I thought they would be -- they’ve got runners and hitters on the back end, and they had some big guys up front and they were hard to move.”
The Tigers’ defense hasn’t allowed a touchdown since the third quarter of the Alton game, a 49-13 win on Sept. 21.
“Those kids have worked hard to improve each week, and the coaching staff has done a great job,” said Martin, whose team clinched a playoff spot.
“We’ve got three or four of their games on film, and they caused East St. Louis some problems and Belleville West didn’t score on them,” Lancers coach Tim Funk said. “Our kids played pretty well at times, but there were a couple big plays that turned the field position tide on us.”
Edwardsville (6-1 overall, and 4-1 in league play) scored on its second possession, which started at the East 39 after the Lancers had to punt from their 5-yard line. Fullback Sam Mulford scored from 2 yards out on the seventh play of the drive, and Brandon Baker's extra point made the score 7-0 with 6:03 left in the first quarter.
“We came out, and we executed well in the first half,” Mulford said. “The second half I wish we would have played better, but we’ve got such a great defense. They’re what’s keeping us in ballgames right now.”
The Tigers added to their lead on a 3-yard touchdown run by Mulford with 9:07 remaining in the second quarter. The eight-play, 50-yard drive included a 17-yard pass from Will Collins to Darius Crochrell and an 11-yard run by Bennett Gray.
“(Mulford) is about all we had tonight, but in this slop, it’s hard to run a tailback game,” Martin said. “Everybody was loading up the box, so it was tough sledding out there tonight.”
“I get excited when it’s raining, and you know you’re going to get the ball when it’s slippery and all that,” Mulford said. “One thing I’m most proud is that I held onto the ball.”
East, meanwhile, was unable to generate much offense in the first half. Midway through the second quarter, the Lancers drove to the Edwardsville 24, but on fourth down and 1, Arkim Lewis, who usually plays split end, replaced Anthony Garza at quarterback and was stopped for a 1-yard loss.
“They didn’t have any trouble (moving the ball),” Funk said. “They beat us up front, and that’s a good football team. They’re 6-1 for a reason.”
With 31 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Edwardsville took over the ball at midfield after an interception by Jake Vinyard. On the next play, the Tigers had an apparent touchdown when Gray broke several tackles down the left sideline, but it was called on a penalty for illegal blocking in the back.
After a 13-yard punt by East, Edwardsville started its next drive on the Lancers' 28. The Tigers couldn't get a touchdown, but Baker kicked a 20-yard field goal with 7:57 to play.
Edwardsville closed out the scoring on a 60-yard interception return by Craig James with 2:16 on the clock.