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Why Simeon needs the teachers strike to end sooner than the rest of the Public League

The Wolverines need labor peace by Tuesday to have a chance to play in the state playoffs. But players continue to practice despite walkout.

Simeon’s Jacquez Woodland (1) scores on a 20-yard run against Taft.
Simeon’s Jacquez Woodland (1) scores on a 20-yard run against Taft.
Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

The clock is ticking a little faster for Simeon, the best football team in the Public League, than it is for the rest of the city.

The Wolverines need the teachers strike to end on or before Tuesday to have a chance to play in the state playoffs. The rest of the Public League can play in the state playoffs if the strike ends on Oct. 29. Unlike the other teams, Simeon has only played seven games this season. To be eligible for the Illinois High School Association state playoffs a team must have played eight games.

That’s the reason Chicago Public Schools moved the Week 8 games to earlier this week, to allow football teams to become playoff eligible with eight games. However Simeon didn’t play a Week 2 game due to a scheduling snafu. The Wolverines were supposed to play an out-of-state opponent, but the game fell through.

“I didn’t think too much about it back then,” Simeon quarterback Jacquez Woodland said. “But now in this situation where we need eight games and it is crunch time I’m wondering what happened and why we didn’t schedule another game that week.”

Simeon will have to play its eighth game before the IHSA sets the playoff field on Oct. 26. The Wolverines could play the afternoon of Oct. 26 and become eligible. However for that to happen the strike would have to end on Oct. 22 because the IHSA has a policy that football teams must hold three practices before playing a game.

For now the Wolverines are forced to sit and wait.

“We hope and pray ... they figure this thing out by Monday or Tuesday,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said after the Wolverines beat Taft on Wednesday. “We are preparing for the state playoffs. Nothing changes, adversity is going to happen and we’re just going to keep working.”

Culbreath, a union member, said CPS officials have said certified coaches who are not Chicago Teachers Union members can work with athletes during the strike. The Wolverines players also plan to work out on their own.

“We will get together today or tomorrow,” Woodland said. “We have a few coaches that aren’t union members.”

That isn’t the case for a lot of teams though. Taft quarterback Dexter Stigall IV said that his team is completely on its own when it comes to practicing.

“We’ve been trying to get together, but everyday lives, people have things to do,” Stigall said. “Definitely over the next few days we will have a practice. We might go to a local grammar school, see what works and is close to everybody.”

Taft’s Dexter Stigall IV.
Taft’s Dexter Stigall IV.
Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

Stigall says he understands why the union is striking but he questions the timing.

“For this strike to take away what we want to do, it hurts,” Stigall said. “We’ve been working all summer, all year for a chance to play in the playoffs.”

Playoff update

Ten Public League teams have clinched a state playoff berth by winning six games: Ag. Science, Amundsen, Carver, Dunbar, Harlan, Kenwood, Mather, Orr, Payton, Phillips.

Five-win teams can qualify for the playoffs if they have enough playoff points (total number of wins by opponents). According to Joliet Herald-News Sports Editor Steve Soucie, the state’s premier bracketologist, Lincoln Park, Taft and Curie likely have enough playoff points to qualify.

That leaves five-win teams Clark, Hyde Park, Marine, Morgan Park and Sullivan waiting to see if they get in without playing a Week 9 game if the strike continues past Tuesday.

Contributing: Mike Clark