The high school football season came to a close last weekend when the Kenwood Broncos took on the St. Rita Mustangs in the 93rd annual Prep Bowl, hosted by the Chicago Public League at Lane Stadium Friday, Nov. 24.
The CPL was looking to retain the traveling trophy after Simeon held off Fenwck in a thrilling game last season, but it wasn’t to be as the Mustangs prevailed 21-7, taking down Kenwood for the second time this season.
The result may not have been what coach Sinque Turner and his staff were hoping for, but they were happy with how the Broncos responded after not being knocked out of the second round of the IHSA playoffs by eventual state runner-up Downers Grove North.
“The senior class we had, that’s a really good group of kids,” Turner said. “They didn’t want to go out that way, they wanted to go out there and salvage the season. Get whatever was available this season is what the goal was. Go out and win it.
“We just fell short to a good team. A couple things fall our way instead of their way in the first half and it’s a different game. BUt all the credit to St. Rita and their coaches. They’re a wonderful program and their coach did a wonderful job. But I’m super proud of our kids.”
The Mustangs, who defeated Kenwood in the second game of the regular season, started the game doing what they do best: running the ball.
A short punt after a three-and-out on Kenwood’s opening possession gave St. Rita the ball on the Broncos’ 41-yard line. Following an incomplete pass on first down, running back D.J. Stewart got his big day going with a 41-yard scamper to give the Catholic League champions a quick 7-0 lead.
Kenwood fumbled the ensuing kickoff, allowing St. Rita to take over at the Broncos’ 19-yard line. Four plays later, Stewart, who would go on to be named the MVP of the Prep Bowl, bullied his way through the line to the end zone for his second touchdown of the first quarter.
Following an interception on the next Kenwood possession, it would have been really easy for the Broncos to hang their heads. Two turnovers in three plays, two opponent touchdowns. That combination can wear on anybody.
Not this Kenwood team, however.
The Broncos defense stiffened after that, forcing two turnovers on downs and intercepting two passes on the Mustangs’ final four possessions of the first half.
“We just made some small adjustments,” the coach said. “We put them on short fields a couple of times and they were able to punch the ball in. But once we made our defensive adjustments, we spotted out their strengths and put more people at the point of attack and made some pretty good stops.”
And the Broncos had all the momentum going into the half as quarterback Kevari Thunderbird connected with Patrick Clacks III on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 8.1 seconds remaining in the half, to cut the Mustangs’ lead to 14-7 after two quarters.
The Broncos were able to stop the mustangs on the opening possession of the third quarter but an interception ruined a chance for the CPL champions to try to tie the game at 14.
Stewart finished off his impressive day by scoring his third touchdown of the day on a three-yard run early in the fourth quarter. The senior would finish with 125 yards rushing. Coincidentally, Stewart had his best two games of the year against Kenwood, as he rushed for 143 yards and four scores in the first matchup and 125 yards and three touchdowns in the Prep Bowl. He had only one other 100-yard rushing game all season.
While it was a bittersweet ending for the Broncos, Turner is happy with how his team came together as one.
“They mean the world to me,” Turner said of his seniors. “This group gave me my second city championship as a coach … Words can’t even describe how proud I am of those guys and how grateful I am to get a chance to coach those guys.”
Clacks III was named the Broncos’ MVP of the Prep Bowl.