DECATUR — Eisenhower and Springfield Southeast played an even first quarter in the rain Saturday at Millikin's Lindsay Field in their Central State Eight meeting.
But in the second quarter, the rain stopped and Southeast's passing game came alive for three scores. The offensive burst put the game out of reach for the Panthers, who lost 47-8.
The first quarter featured Eisenhower's defense making some noise. Defensive back Teoreion Evans picked up a Spartans fumble on their opening drive and his brother Tor'Jon Evans intercepted Southeast quarterback Stuart Ross' pass a few moments later in the quarter.
But Eisenhower (0-3) let the ball slip through its fingers in the first half as well, fumbling a punt snap and coughing the ball up on a run. That second fumble set up the Spartans' first score, a 1-yard touchdown run by Brian Kirkman.
Following another Southeast (1-2) rushing touchdown from Josh Williams, the Ross-led passing game opened up and scored three times in quick succession before halftime.
Touchdown passes went to from Ross to Deon Fairlee, Isaiah Cooper and Fairlee a second time as time expired in the half. The Spartans were also 5-for-5 on 2-point conversions, putting them up 40-0 at the halfway point.
The change in the weather was a pleasant surprise for Southeast coach Matt Lauber.
"How lucky did we get with that? It was raining all night and all morning but we told them that the mindset was that rain or no rain we were going to throw the football and have some fun with it. When the rain let up it gave them some confidence," he said.
Ross said he was having fun in the second quarter.
"It was great. That was the best part of the game in the second quarter when the rain let up. My receivers were doing the right routes and they were getting open. My line was giving me enough time. Everyone was open, I just had to hit what I could," he said.
As the Panthers' offense struggled, freshman quarterback Brylan Phillips replaced Jordan Dennis in the second quarter. With the clock running continuously in the second half, Phillips found success through the air and connected on a 35-yard pass to Tre'Jon Evans to put the Panthers on the board in the fourth quarter.
Eisenhower coach Curtis Graham said he was cautiously optimistic about Phillips' play.
"(Southeast's) second string was out there and there wasn’t too much pressure, but I would have loved to see him against the first team. He’s a gutsy guy, he’s young and he’s still got to learn a lot but he is going to release the ball no matter who is in his face," he said.
A quarterback competition between Dennis and Phillips could be in place for Week 4 against Chatham Glenwood.
"All in all it is about trusting one another. If the quarterback doesn’t trust his blockers, he’s going to panic. Whoever develops the trust first, that’s who I’m going with," Graham said.
Southeast's defense bottled up Tor'Jon Evans and the Panthers' running game throughout.
"Those running backs for (Eisenhower) are talented and we were flying around and we talk about 11 hats to the football and I thought they did a great job with that," Lauber said. "Our defensive line, our linebackers, our defensive backs did one heck of a job and it was fun to see them run around with confidence."
Eisenhower is a team still in transition with a new coach getting to know his team and vice versa.
"We need to stay the course," Graham said. "We are all learning each other and we’ve just got to stick together and take some lumps because everything is new to everybody. I’m new to them, they are new to me. We are putting in a different culture and if we stay the course we will be fine."