DeKALB – Gary Bennett certainly wasn't 100 percent during the Illinois Chaos' 52-18 win over the St. Louis Spirits – the running back said he was at about 40 percent health while battling the flu, a strained hamstring and an injured ankle.
But the running back weaved his way through the St. Louis defense throughout the night, racking up 99 yards and two touchdowns to give the Chaos their first win in the Great Midwest Football League since the team moved to DeKalb this season.
“I was trying to do my best with what I can, and it turned out okay,” Bennett said. “I'll be 100 percent next week, so there will be a lot more to see.”
With a roster made up predominantly of rookies, the Chaos had a difficult time in the early going of the season, losing their first two league games.
But the Chaos (1-2) made quick work of the Spirits on Thursday, another winless team who brought a small group to DeKalb High School.
“We finally brought it together,” Chaos coach Lloyd Hatcher said. “We really started working together as a team. … It's been two preseason games and two regular season games, so four games to get them in sync, and it clicked finally.”
Bennett burst through the St. Louis defense on the first drive of the game for a 51-yard run, which set up a 1-yard touchdown run.
After safety Anthony Jefferson picked off the first of four Chaos interceptions, quarterback Deshunn Berry ran for a 1-yard touchdown to give the Chaos a 12-0 lead. After the Spirits answered, receiver Clyde Pointer caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Berry.
Bennett ran for another touchdown to give Illinois a 26-12 lead at the half. In the second half, quarterback Will Lewis tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Wade Overton, Jefferson returned a punt for a touchdown, while Jordan Lanum and Anthony Baker ran for touchdowns.
“It was more like our team came together and actually wanted to win,” Lewis said. “We always want to win, but we just had little stumbles we had to get over. Everybody knows their assignments and where they need to be. Everybody works hard in practice to get the repetition.”
After a frustrating start to the season, the Chaos are beginning to come together. They'll head to southern Illinois to play the Illinois Justice next weekend before hosting the Missouri Cyclones the following week.
While most other teams in the league have plenty of veterans, the Chaos have few. But Hatcher has seen plenty of growth in just a few weeks.
“A lot of these guys played in high school, but never realized what it's like to play at a higher level,” Hatcher said. “For a lot of these guys who never played college, they're getting a taste of it now. … These guys are really starting to learn what it takes.”