BELLEVILLE • Belleville West senior Keith Randolph Jr. knows a thing or two about winning a state basketball championship.
Now the 6-foot-5, 240-pound defensive end wants to lead the Maroons to a title in football.
Randolph, a CBC transfer who is weighing offers from Illinois, Purdue and Wyoming despite being in just his second season of football, was in the middle of the action Friday as West pounded Riverview Gardens 41-16 in both teams’ season opener.
“We don’t want to go pretty far (in the playoffs). We want to go to state,” said Randolph, who had three tackles, two of them for losses, and a sack. “I’m trying to lead my guys. I want another state ring - not just in basketball, but in football.”
Randolph was a bruising forward in basketball, teaming with classmate EJ Liddell, one of the top prospects in the country, to power West to the Class 4A championship in March.
Randolph’s stock in football took off late in the winter and through the summer, and he received more than 20 NCAA Division I offers.
The Maroons are expected to contend for the Southwestern Conference championship, yet Randolph has learned it’s fruitless to place limits on possibilities.
“It would be phenomenal. Words can’t even explain it,” Randoph said of earning a state title in football. “I helped us in basketball to win the state title. I just want to help us in football to do the same thing. I know what it takes and know what you have to do. Some of our players are like, ‘Man, I want to make it to the first or second round of the playoffs.’ Forget that. If you don’t think state, don’t play. Period.”
The Maroons, who were 6-4 last season and lost in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs, led Riverview Gardens 41-0 with 8 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
A continuous running clock was used the rest of the game.
Jack McCloskey threw four touchdown passes, two of them to Dominic Lovett, and Ka’lon Carraway recovered a fumble and scored from 2 yards out. DJ Johnson added a 19-yard TD run. McCloskey finished 6-of-8 for 137 yards.
The Rams, who were 8-4 last season but graduated several key players, scored two second-half touchdowns against the Maroons’ reserves, one of them on an 81-yard pass from Donavan Savory to Charles Rush-Bey.
“After (West) scored the quick 21 points, our defense stood up a little bit more,” Riverview Gardens coach Rolando Merriweather said. “I was proud of that. The expectation for the team was to give me 100 percent. The first quarter, they didn’t do so much - missing blocking assignments and everything. But we picked it up and did better and were able to move the ball a little.
“Good things are about to come. We did what we could.”
Randolph said the Maroons were eager to get on the field.
“We’re a brotherhood,” he said. “I told our defense, ‘We’ve got to turn it up.’ On offense, we’ve got to score. That’s what wins games. We had to punch them in the mouth first. That’s what we’ve got to do (every week). We got after it hard.”