Carl McNickles is the heart and soul of Back of the Yards’ young football program. This season the senior is putting up spectacular numbers running the ball. He’s the focus of every defense.
The Bobcats used that to full advantage on the key play in their 24-20 win against visiting North Lawndale on Thursday.
McNickles received a handoff from quarterback Emilio Rivera. The entire Phoenix defense expected him to continue running the ball, but instead he flipped it to junior Keshawn Brown on a reverse.
Brown went 36 yards for a touchdown to give Back of the Yards (5-1) the lead for good with 5:47 to play.
“Everybody expects him to get the ball and I just come right around and get it,” Brown said. “At first I didn’t think I was going to score but I got a good block and then I burst to the outside and I was good. I knew I was fast enough to beat all of them.”
Bobcats coach Sheamus Murphy said it was Rivera that provided the big block.
“[Rivera] blocked the big outside linebacker and that let [Brown] loose,” Murphy said. “Keshawn is a gamer and he got the big play for us.”
McNickles had 19 carries for 141 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown run. He’s a four-year starter at running back and defensive back. That’s all four years the Bobcats have had a football program.
“He was here back when we were still learning how to put our pads on,” Murphy said. “Carl is our senior leader. He’s focused, he’s determined. He’s a hell of an athlete, hell of a player. He’s the leader offensively and defensively. He’s having a monster year.”
Rivera was 7-for-13 passing for 62 yards with one interception.
Junior Horace Murff was also a force on the ground for Back of the Yards with 14 carries for 94 yards. Murff had a 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and Rivera a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
North Lawndale (2-4) led 12-0 at the half and then retook the lead with 8:40 to play on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Marquise Earskines to Jalen Thorpe.
Earskines and Thorpe are part of the group of basketball players that joined the football program last year. That influx of athletes has made the Phoenix a dangerous opponent, despite the school’s lack of a football tradition.
“North Lawndale scheduled some good opponents early on and that has prepared them,” Murphy said. “They are a lot better than their record for sure.”
Earskines was 10-for-22 passing for 103 yards with two interceptions and one touchdown. He connected with five different receivers.
The Bobcats’ defensive line, led by Nicholas Aguina and Jonathan Resendiz, really dominated the second half of the game. North Lawndale wasn’t able to run the ball and Earskines was flushed out of the pocket regularly.
“It was pretty difficult out there,” Resendiz said. “I just started thinking about the team and all the family members that are supporting us and I couldn’t let them down.”