By: Dominic Scianna
The Morgan Park Mustangs have relied on a high-powered offense to race their way to an impressive record this season, but their defense saved the day last Saturday at Gately Stadium to pull out a 27-21 win over Sycamore High School in the second round of the IHSA State Football Playoffs.
The Mustangs erased an 18-7 halftime deficit by outscoring Sycamore 20-3 in the second half as the momentum took a big swing in the Mustangs favor after halftime.
Keyshawn Lewis-Hunt gave Morgan Park its first lead of the game late in the fourth quarter on a four-yard TD scamper to break a 21-21 tie and lead by six points. Sycamore drove down field for the tying score late in the game, but was stripped of the football at the Morgan Park 2-yard line as defender Tysean Griffin wrapped up the Sycamore player. Strong safety Aidan Grayer recovered the turnover in the end zone to seal the win for Morgan Park.
“I thought the runner was going to score then I saw Ty pop the ball out of his hands and I was there to fall on it (the fumble),” said Grayer. “We knew we could comeback and we kept believing in ourselves.”
Morgan Park head coach Chris James lauded his team’s tenacity in the comeback as quarterback Marcus Thaxton (12-of-14, 171 yards passing, one rushing TD, one passing TD), Lewis-Hunt (two rushing TDs), and Chris Durr’s 75-yard touchdown catch, all had huge performances in the victory.
“We have playmakers on both sides of the ball, and we were able to come up with big plays when we needed it in key moments of the game,” said James.
The Mustangs (10-1) move on to the quarterfinals of the IHSA Class 5A state playoffs, and a date with St. Francis (9-2) on their home field in Wheaton, at 12:30 p.m., November 11.
Morgan Park now stands as the only Chicago Public League team remaining in the IHSA state playoffs, as CPL league partner Dyett High School (9-2) had its historic football season – the best in school history – end in the second round at the hands of Sandwich High School (8-3) at Gately Stadium on November 4.
Dyett quarterback Lamonte Nimox and wide receiver Lavonte Sims connected on a TD strike for the team’s lone score in defeat, as the Eagles had no answer for the three-touchdown performance by Sycamore wide receiver Simeon Harris in a 54-6 loss.
Congratulations to Dyett coach Marques Reed and his team for a great season, and good luck to Morgan Park in the IHSA State Playoff quarterfinals this weekend.