Payton beats Clark in emotional conference game

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Payton’s Zach Anderson (87) of Payton runs up the field. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Payton beat Clark 33-14 to pick up a key Illini Prairie State victory on Thursday at Lane. But the result was not foremost on anyone’s mind when the game finished.

Clark senior Fatrell Johnson was seriously injured on the second half kickoff. He left in an ambulance after thirty minutes. Some of his teammates were crying on the sideline and Clark coach Kevin Simmons asked his players to look away as Johnson was lifted into the ambulance.

“It’s hard to play after that,” Payton senior Zach Anderson said. “My prayers are with that young man. It’s hard to get back in the mindset. It really makes you realize how lucky you are and not to take anything for granted. You never know when your last play is going to be.”

“In anything you do in life there are risks,” Payton coach George Klupchak said. “There are risks in football and driving and everything we do. My thoughts and prayers are with that young man and his family.”

Anderson had eight carries for 41 yards and two receptions for nine yards. He scored on a three-yard and a 15-yard run in the second quarter. Clark struck first, on a seven-yard touchdown run from Jacquan Jones.

“We were down Week 1 and our guys responded really well that week and they responded well today,” Klupchak said. “I’m proud of the way they played. We knew this was going to be a physical football game. We played them for the conference title last year.”

The Grizzlies (4-0, 1-0) stopped Clark (3-1, 0-1) on a crucial fourth and goal with five minutes left to play. Then junior Cortez Savage ripped off an 80-yard touchdown run to give Payton a 33-8 lead and seal the win.

“We have a lot of injuries and a lot of guys really stepped up and played a fundamentally sound game,” Anderson said. “They did an amazing job.”

Payton quarterback Sage Shindler was 6-for-9 passing for 82 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Damien Goodman had 10 carries for 91 yards and caught a 65-yard touchdown pass.

“The past few games I’ve done a little bit better but this was a tough team so I think my performance proportionally was pretty good,” Goodman said. “We knew they were going to come out strong and we’d have to bounce back.”

Clark running back Artez Kilgore, a junior, had 14 carries for 61 yards. Quarterback Trayvon Sanders was 6-for-13 passing for 70 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He rushed for 74 yards.

“[Clark] runs the ball well, we knew that coming in,” Klupchak said. “[Kilgore and Sanders] are great ball players. They showed it on that first drive. Our kids showed a lot of resilience.”

Payton is used to performing well in its conference and advancing to the state playoffs. The Grizzlies have higher goals this season.

“The next step is winning a state playoff game,” Klupchak said. “We’ve been there, we’ve been close and put points up on people. It just hasn’t gone our way.”

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