Timon Watkins guides Simeon past Naperville Central, into 8A semis

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Simeon did not panic after falling behind by seven to defending Class 8A state champion Naperville Central early in the second half of Saturday’s quarterfinal in Naperville.

Senior quarterback Timon Watkins and the Wolverines responded by scoring 28 unanswered points in a 34-20 quarterfinal victory over the Redhawks.

Simeon (11-1) earned its first trip to the state semifinals with the win.

Watkins jump started the Wolverines’ rally after connecting with receiver Jordan Reid on third-and-24 for a 30-yard pass down to Naperville Central’s 7-yard line. Watkins ran in a score on the next play to tie the game at 13-13.

Dion Earls, Jr. had an eight-yard touchdown run on the Wolverines next drive for a 20-13 lead.

With momentum still up for grabs early in the fourth quarter, Simeon caught a break on a fumbled punt snap to Matt Fleming after the Redhawks were flagged for a facemask.

On the replay of the down, Fleming fumbled the punt snap again but picked it up and scrambled before finding a wide open Trayonne Ware for a 25-yard catch and a first down.

Watkins finished off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 27-13.

‘‘It’s a good feeling, coming in and facing the defending champs,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath. ‘‘We knew they’d be tough.’’

Watkins finished 13-for-19 for 117 yards and carried the ball 17 times for 58 yards and two touchdowns. Earls, Jr. had 18 carries for 71 yards and two touchdowns for the Wolverines.

Quarterback Conor Joyce completed 15 of 21 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns, while senior running back Kevin Clifford ran for 41 yards on 18 carries and hauled in a 51-yard touchdown catch for Naperville Central (9-3).

‘‘The turnovers killed us,’’ Naperville Central head coach Mike Stine said. “We had three and they didn’t have any. They’re an athletic team and were able to turn some busted plays into something.”

‘‘The team that makes the most mistakes will go home the loser most of the time and today that was us,’’ Naperville Central linebacker Bobby McMillan said, ‘‘Maybe we got a little complacent in the second half. We had to play 48 minutes.’’

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