Kenwood Academy punched their ticket to the Chicago Prep Bowl with a resounding 25-7 bashing of the Simeon Career Academy Wolverines Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium in Roscoe Village.
“Our guys really played tough, both teams played very tough” said Kenwood Coach Sinque Turner afterward.
“We worked really hard on the Xs and Os all week long,” he said. “It feels really good to get some revenge. They beat us 38-26 in the last regular season game. We wanted to get them back.”
Behind a shifty running game, the red-clad Broncos dominated their opponents immediately after receiving the noon kickoff.
Their offense reeled off a seven-minute possession punctuated by a nifty over the middle pass from Lou Henson to Omarion Lewis followed quickly by an interference call on Korey Flowers.
But Henson was sacked on first down at the Simeon 33 and the drive sputtered to an end.
Simeon’s Wolverines wasted no time getting the attention of Kenwood‘s defense as Lachard Reasnover blasted 44 yards off tackle to the Bronco 28.
Aided by a facemask call, the drive advanced to the 13-yard line before an offsides penalty and a sack by Marquise Lightfoot and K’vion Thunderbird ended the threat.
The Broncos’ talented combination of quarterback Davonte Johnson and wide receiver Jalil Martin engineered a two-play, 71-yard scoring drive that bridged the first and second quarters.
Martin took the ball into the end zone on a stunning 35-yard reception: He tore up the middle of the Wolverines’ defense, located the ball over his right shoulder, adjusted in mid-stride and caught the ball just as it cleared his left shoulder for a 6-0 lead.
Quarterback Henson had rolled to his right and hit Martin streaking from right to left across the middle on the 36-yard gainer that ended the first quarter.
Simeon’s offense immediately showed signs of life with a 19-yard completion from Flowers to a sliding Malik Elzy near midfield. But the middle of the Bronco defense roared to life and quickly ended the threat.
Turner said he had changed his strategy from the last time his team faced Simeon, 8147 S. Vincennes Ave., on Oct. 16.
“What I did switch up, though, we did have to eliminate Elzy from the game," Turner said. "He's a phenomenal football player. He had his way with us last game. He had three touchdowns by himself last game, so the thing that we did differently this game was we actually doubled that kid."
After an exchange of punts, the Broncos had a golden opportunity when Jamontae Harris and Mario Grayer forced and recovered a fumble by Andre Crews at their opponents’ 44.
But Kenwood‘s passing game suddenly went cold, a series of incomplete passes ending the possession.
Then the game took a turn for the weird.
Simeon’s first pass attempt was intercepted by Kahlil Tate. His 32-yard runback for a score was instantly negated by a personal foul on a teammate.
On the next play, Henson’s pass was intercepted in return.
Simeon’s seven-play drive to end the half was ended, appropriately enough, by yet another interception.
Simeon reached into a playbook from the 1950s as their first possession of the second half bogged down at their own 38-yard line.
After lining up to punt, the Wolverines quickly shifted into a formation known as “the Lonesome Polecat”: the center hiking the ball and the quarterback line up at one side of the field, as most of their teammates line up as far away from them as they can. The center thus becomes an eligible receiver.
The Broncos’ fierce rush overwhelmed Cameron Ashley before he could get off a pass, giving Kenwood the ball only 33 yards from paydirt.
This opportunity was not wasted. A 15-yard gainer by Davonte Johnson and another Henson to Martin pass to the 5 set up Johnson’s scoring plunge and a successful point after touchdown kick by Maurice Vance.
Simeon’s next possession appeared headed for a 1-2-3-punt sequence.
But Simeon Coach Dante Culbreath wasn’t quite done with the Lonesome Polecat. A quick play out of the oddball formation rewarded him with a 9-yard gain and a first down at midfield.
David Aldridge, a quick and shifty replacement quarterback, then took over the Wolverine offense. He revitalized it, scored four plays later, getting all but six yards of the 49-yard drive by himself.
A successful point after kick with just 13 seconds left in the third quarter made the score 13-7, and left the previously boisterous Bronco crowd visibly uneasy.
The Broncos started off their next possession by going in the wrong direction, fueled by a 2-yard loss and an illegal procedure penalty.
Another Henson to Martin pass completion for 18 yards moved Kenwood to midfield at the end of the third quarter.
The second play of the final period ended the Kenwood crowd’s uneasiness as quickly as it had begun.
A quick, accurate pitch to Bjourn Mayes helped him burst free over left tackle and leave the pursuing pack behind. The blazing dash ended 49 yards later for a safe 19-7 Kenwood lead.
The desperate Simeon squad couldn’t get anything working in their effort to cut into the Bronco lead. Their next two possessions ended in turnovers. Tate’s 15-yard interception return to Simeon’s 20 yard line setting up Henson’s quarterback sneak for the final score as the final seconds ticked off.
“All week long, they've been going over those blocking schemes, and they've been executing those schemes for our scout team,” Turner said. “Our scout team did a wonderful job giving those guys a real good look all week long. They came out and executed the game. Those guys put their paws on Simeon, and they were moving, and creating gaps for our running backs.”
“They did a really, really good job,” he said. "I'm proud of those guys."
An ebullient Principal Karen Calloway said it was the first Public League championship the Broncos had taken home in her two decades at the school.
In fact, it is Kenwood's first-ever Public League championship and only their second appearance in the final. (They lost to Simeon in 2016.) The last time an area school won the title was in 1925, when Hyde Park High School beat Lakeview 17-11.
"This day we've been waiting on for a very long time. Our students deserve it. Our Hyde Park community deserves it. Kenwood is the best school. We are the best with CPS, and we are excited to be here today," she said. "This is a historic day for us on Blackstone."
The Broncos will face the Notre Dame College Prep Dons from northwestern suburban Niles on Friday at the Prep Bowl at Gately Stadium, 810 E. 103rd St.