O’Brien: Simeon’s four-game winning streak on hold as strike looms

SHARE O’Brien: Simeon’s four-game winning streak on hold as strike looms
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Tammy Lester has spent the past three seasons in the stands at football stadiums all over the city, cheering on her son, Simeon lineman Meckah Lester. She’s heartbroken that the Wolverines 53-0 win over Dunbar on Friday at Gately may be the last time she’ll get to see him play.

“As moms, we spent three years in the stands waiting for that senior season and now he’s not going to get to finish that,” Tammy Lester said. “It’s really frustrating. We had a slow start to our season but now we are picking things up. We were going to pull it off and go into the state playoffs. Now we might not get that opportunity.”

The Wolverines played a challenging early season schedule and started out 0-3. That made a six-game winning streak pretty much a necessity to advance to the state playoffs. If the Chicago Teachers Union strikes next week and Simeon misses even one game, that could cost the Wolverines a spot in the state playoffs.

“I haven’t slept in a couple of days thinking about that,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said. “I hate to lie to my guys because I kind of told them you are 0-3 but you will win six games in a row and get into the state playoffs. We’ve done it before. And we can win some games in the playoffs.”

The players are allowed to get together and practice if the strike happens. But no coaches can be involved.

“They don’t have any plans for that as of yet,” said Anthony Williams Sr., the father of running back Anthony Williams, who scored on a nine-yard run in the second quarter. “But they are all on a group chat so I’m sure they can figure that out quickly. They did it over the summer, got practices together themselves.

Jayshon Jackson is Simeon’s star playmaker. He’s a quarterback and a wide receiver. The junior threw two touchdown passes and caught one against the Mightymen (2-5, 1-3 Illini Red Bird).

“Some people are taking [the possible strike] harder than others,” Jackson said.

Simeon (4-3, 4-0) has a very young team, so missing the rest of the season could also impact next year. Those talented underclassmen won’t get all the playing time they could have.

“It possibly could [effect next season too],” Culbreath said. “We have a young group that is really, really good. We will return pretty much everyone that is starting. They would have to be wiser in what they are doing in the offseason to make up for it.”

Jaton Jackson, the football coordinator for Chicago Public Schools, has been working on several different contingency plans for the strike. If the strike ends quickly and only one week of football is missed the plan is to play as many games as possible as quickly as possible. The Public League would utilize all possible fields and games could start as early as 6 a.m.

“It’s upsetting,” Lester said. “There’s just nothing we can do. It’s just been and up and down season, like a really bad rollercoaster.”

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