Standout sophomore Jamon Gooden leads Phoenix past Marine

Jamon Gooden accounted for four touchdowns in the Firebirds’ key Illini Second City victory.

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Phoenix’s Jamon Gooden (2) runs the ball against Marine.

Phoenix’s Jamon Gooden (2) runs the ball against Marine.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Phoenix wide receiver Lavelle Parker said his team went out on Thursday and played with a special passion, knowing it could be the last game of the season.

“We just came out with that last game of the season intensity,” Parker said. “If [the Chicago Teachers Union] go on strike this could have be it for us. No more football games.”

The Firebirds knocked off host Marine 32-6. Parker caught a 52-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Jamon Gooden, who is a burgeoning star.

“We game-planned for [Gooden] but he is pretty special,” Bulldogs coach John Cano said. “He just makes plays. We knew what they were running and we still couldn’t stop it. The only guy comparable to him is Amundsen’s Elisha Morris and [Gooden] is more gifted actually. His skill set is nothing like I’ve seen in my couple years here. We couldn’t stop him.”

Gooden is 6-4, 190-pounds, he started last year as a freshman for the Phoenix (3-4, 3-0). He showed off his speed with 10 carries for 178 yards and three touchdowns. He threw the 52-yard TD pass to Parker and was 5-for-8 passing for 125 yards.

“It’s been a rocky season but we are coming back together,” Gooden said. “I was on fire.”

Marine’s only touchdown came on a 23-yard pass from Irwin Ruidias to Orlando Lopez in the second quarter. That cut the Firebirds’ lead to 8-6 but Gooden scored the next three touchdowns.

“I’m glad we came together and played as unit,” Phoenix coach Charles Powell said. “That was the difference. We know them, it is a rivalry game. We were in the same building together for the longest time.”

The Bulldogs (4-3, 2-1 Illini Second City) still have a shot at qualifying for the state playoffs.

“We will bounce back,” Cano said. “Our boys work hard. I don’t think we will get into the playoffs with five wins based on our playoff points. So we need to win these next two games.”

“The boys know the situation, that the strike could end the season prematurely. It’s definitely on our minds, especially since it would effect us so much. But I also do preach to them that there is nothing they can do about it. Only worry about things that you can control.”

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