ELGIN – St. Charles East's first-stringers triggered the running clock for the second half of Saturday's game at Elgin midway through the second quarter.
With that, the Saints' 58-14 Upstate Eight Conference River Division romp officially became a dress rehearsal for the reserves.
Most starters retreated to the sideline for the following series, patting one another on the shoulder pads as time started ticking down on a bounce-back win. It didn't take long before they turned their attention to the second and third team. The Saints might have emerged in full health for next week's visit from Geneva, but that's only because hoarse voices don't appear on injury reports.
"We were just encouraging everyone still, having it be like we were out there," East senior fullback/linebacker Joe Hoscheit said. "They cheer us on. I give them all the credit in the world. They keep that sideline lively, and that's what we tried to do in the second half, too."
East (3-2, 2-0 UEC River) capitalized on turnovers and a slew of short fields to humble the Maroons (0-5, 0-3). The Saints led, 37-6, after one quarter despite gaining just 110 yards of offense.
Elgin yielded a safety to Andrew Szyman and allowed Anthony Sciarrino's 48-yard punt return touchdown in the opening period. The Maroons fumbled after the ensuing kickoff, and East connected on its second and final completed pass of the afternoon – a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Mitchell to Brannon Barry on a well-thrown fade.
"Coaches kept saying don't take Elgin lightly, and we wanted to set the tone early, so we're really happy with our offense. We scored the ball a lot," said Sciarrino, a safety/running back. "With our defense, we wanted to keep it going, not give them a lot of momentum, and I think our defense did real well forcing turnovers and everything."
Elgin lost five of its six fumbles, just one of a series of uneven numbers. A playoff team two seasons ago, the Maroons dressed 21 players and were without standout running back Jaylen Clemons and wide receiver Joe DeBrocke for separate school-related issues.
Saints coach Mike Fields lamented "I don't like scores like this," even with his team one week removed from a 34-0 home loss to UEC crossover foe Neuqua Valley. He counts Elgin counterpart Dave Bierman as a friend, and Bierman saw nothing that would sever that bond after the game.
In fact, it remarkably strengthened.
"They showed a tremendous amount of class, and Mike's a good guy," Bierman said. "I let our guys know that, too. That as bad as you feel about the score, the loss, that was a class act. You don't throw the ball. You're basically running two plays."
For East, that meant either sweeping or handing off inside, then making sure to seal blocks. Hoscheit scored on first-half runs of 4, 20 and 1 yard, outdoing junior running back Erik Anderson by one touchdown.
Sidelined in recent weeks with a shoulder injury, Anderson made the most of his five touches. He scored on a 25-yard screen pass from Mitchell with 2:06 to go in the opening quarter, and put East ahead, 50-6, on a 15-yard run 8:04 later.
The Saints aren't banking on things going so seamlessly against Geneva, especially with the 1-4 Vikings rallying to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. But emptying the bench against Elgin while staying injury-free was about the best East could do Saturday. Bring on the Vikings and an upbeat atmosphere on homecoming.
"It's a big rivalry, so we know that it's not going to be an easy game for us," Sciarrino said. "They're pretty good over there, and we've just got to stay focused and have a good week of practice."
On Saturday, the Saints' starters got plenty of reps as cheerleaders. It certainly was something they could get used to.
ST. CHARLES EAST 58, ELGIN 14
STC East 37 14 0 7 – 58
Elgin 6 0 8 0 – 14
S – Hoscheit 4 run (Frio kick), 9:57
S – Szyman safety, 9:06
S – Hoscheit 20 run (Frio kick), 7:42
E – Dunner 68 run (run failed), 6:47
S – Anderson 25 pass from Mitchell (Frio kick), 2:16
S – Sciarrino 48 punt return (Frio kick), 0:20
S – Barry 10 pass from Mitchell (Frio kick), 6:02
S – Hoscheit 1 run (Frio kick), 9:53
S – Anderson 15 run (Frio kick), 6:02
E – Dunner safety, 9:07
E – Dunigan 14 pass from Sitter (run failed), 4:49
S – Hopper 13 run (Frio kick), 10:27
RUSHING – St. Charles East: Hoscheit 5-40, Anderson 4-31, Locascio 14-29, Cameron 3-23, Mitchell 2-19, Hopper 1-13, Finn 1-6, Kearbey 3-6, Dupuis 2-(-3). Elgin: Dunner 11-106, Page 6-6, Narayan 1-2, Moore 1-(-8), Sitter 8-(-36).
PASSING – St. Charles East: Mitchell 2-3-35-2-0. Elgin: Sitter 9-19-90-1-1.
RECEIVING – St. Charles East: Anderson 1-25, Barry 1-10. Elgin: Moore 2-35, Dunigan 3-32, Smith 2-14, Poltersdorf 1-7, Dunner 1-2.