By Dominic Scianna
Entertaining would be an understated word when describing the Chicago Public League regular season football clash between Morgan Park and Kenwood on October 7. A better word would be dynamic, in terms of the stellar individual performances by both teams’ star players. In the end, the Mustangs (6-1) held off a late fourth-quarter charge from the Broncos (4-3) to prevail 28-26 before a boisterous crowd on hand for their Homecoming Game at Gately Stadium.
Morgan Park’s trio of Marcus Thaxton, Chris Durr, and Keshawn Lewis-Hunt were catalysts in the first half. Running back Hunt had a rushing TD to open the scoring, and quarterback Thaxton threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Durr (who had 10 catches for 135 yards on the day) in the first and second quarters.
“Last year they (Kenwood) sent us home in the IHSA state playoffs,” said Lewis-Hunt, who played for Bremen last season before transferring to Morgan Park. “So, it was great to get a win against them. It feels good.”
Durr and Thaxton hooked up for a 60-yard TD catch in the first quarter for a 14-6 lead, then the duo struck again with a 22-yard TD pass in the second quarter to take a 20-6 lead at the intermission.
“We’ve been doing it for the past three years,” said Thaxton about his radar-like connection with Durr. “I know I can trust him anytime to make the catch.”
The lone score by Kenwood in the first 24 minutes was an 82-yard kickoff return by senior I’Marion Stewart.
“I believe Stewart is one of the best players in the state. There’s a reason why he’s going to the University of Michigan on a full scholarship,” Kenwood coach Sinque Turner. said “He tried to put the team on his back and win it for us by himself but unfortunately we came up a little short.”
In the third quarter, Kenwood’s comeback would start when wide receiver Patrick Clacks III made a clutch over-the-shoulder TD catch from Broncos QB NaCari McFarland to close the deficit to 20-12. Lewis-Hunt would respond with his second TD of the game from three yards out to close the quarter with 20 seconds left and give the Mustangs a comfortable cushion at 28-12.
Enter Stewart to provide the drama in the fourth quarter living up to his lofty credentials. He delivered with two more sensational touchdown runs. The first was a 75-yard punt return to cut the Morgan Park lead to 28-18. A two-point conversion would close the gap to a one-possession game at 28-20 with 8:40 to play and set up a wild finish and furious Broncos comeback.
After back-and-forth empty possessions for both teams left the game in the balance, Stewart (who had 287 all-purpose yards on the day – 130 yards receiving and 157 yards on special teams) caught a short pass from McFarland and weaved his way through the Morgan Park defense for a 68-yard TD. The score stood at 28-26 with 3:34 remaining and the Kenwood fans were on their feet looking for the tying two-point conversion – but McFarland’s pass to the corner of the endzone was unsuccessful.
“We had big-time mistakes throughout the game that hurt us. You can’t make mistakes like that against a good team like Morgan Park,” Turner said.
The Mustangs now had the game in their hands and needed a key first-down conversion to seal the win. Thaxton fumbled a snap on fourth down near midfield with 2:24 left in the game, but he quickly scooped it up and found Durr for a sideline pass and six-yard gain to move the chains and seal the win.
“I’m just thinking about making a big play for us (in that situation),” Durr conceded. “And we did, and we were able to close out the game.”
Lewis-Hunt was asked what he was thinking as the offense prepared for the huge fourth-down play in the closing moments with the game on the line. “Get the ball to Chris,” said Lewis-Hunt with a laugh.
Both teams have two games remaining in the regular season. Morgan Park has six wins which assures it an IHSA bid to the postseason, while Kenwood needs to get a win or two to write their ticket to the state playoffs which begin the weekend of October 27-28.