PARK FOREST | A week ago, No. 3 Crete-Monee had a 17-game winning streak snapped by an ugly score, falling to Benet Academy.
The refocused Warriors took out the frustration of that loss against Rich East on Saturday, crushing the Rockets 53-12 in a Southland Athletic Conference mismatch.
"It was a nice bounce-back," coach John Konecki said, even as he conceded getting bounced 30-6 to Benet might have its merits.
"Success is insidious," he said. "Our seniors, they'd never lost. You start to believe what people are telling you. You believe you're better than you really are.
"We're talented. But we have to put in the work."
The Warriors (4-1, 1-0) had it working from the very start against Rich East (0-5, 0-1). Deon Benton returned the opening kick 86 yards for a touchdown, and Crete never trailed.
After the Warriors went ahead 18-0 in the first quarter with the help of a 31-yard touchdown run by Trevon Smith (6 carries, 149 yards) and a 32-yard scoring pass to Anthony Townsend from Frank Douglas (12-for-16, 109 yards), Rich East fought back. A 36-yard fumble return by Marquise Phipps made it 18-6, and Marcel McDonald (18 carries, 94 yards) added a 48-yard touchdown run to make it 18-12 with a shade under six minutes left in the half.
That flourish acted as the Benet game in miniature, to hear Smith tell it.
"It woke us up," he said. "We'd kind of let down."
Elijah Douglas returned the kick after East's second touchdown 79 yards for a score. Offensive lineman Eric Parker, switching to fullback, ran for a two-point conversion to make it 26-12. After a three-and-out by the Rockets, the Warriors put together a five-play, 34-yard scoring drive, capped by Tommie Harris' 20-yard run and another conversion for Parker.
Crete added two quick scores in the third quarter — a 3-yard run by Harris set up by Smith's 74-yard jaunt, and a 33-yard Frank Douglas to Carlos baker pass — to start the running clock portion of the contest.
"That loss put our team where we needed to be," Smith said. "We needed that loss to bring us back together.
"Kids stayed focused (Saturday). You could tell by looking at their faces. (Against Benet), you could tell by body language. It just wasn't there."