Powerful Maqael Henderson sparks Orr’s comeback victory against Hyde Park

Henderson ran for a touchdown, threw two touchdown passes and returned an interception for a score.

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Orr’s Maqael Henderson (9) runs the ball during the game against Hyde Park.

Orr’s Maqael Henderson (9) runs the ball during the game against Hyde Park.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Orr quarterback Maqael Henderson presents a major problem for opponents. The 6-1, 209-pound junior is a punishing runner, crushing the first few defenders on nearly every carry.

‘‘I’m kind of terrified by what I see when I kids are out there trying to stop him,’’ Spartans coach Earnest Williams said.

But there’s an uncommon spark to Henderson’s game. He isn’t just a bruiser. He’s always looking for the big pass play, ready to test the defense with a throw downfield.

Henderson did that occasionally in Orr’s 34-24 comeback victory Thursday against Hyde Park at Eckersall Stadium, but his most spectacular moment came on defense.

He plays linebacker and was in the right place to pick off a pass from Thunderbirds quarterback Kavonte Smith and return it 65 yards for a touchdown. That play came only two minutes after Henderson had thrown a 61-yard touchdown pass to William Thomas.

‘‘[Henderson] is a beast, and he’s just a junior,’’ Thomas said. ‘‘I love him to death. I’ve been playing basketball with him since I was little. Being on the field with him is a great experience. You hear it all game from the defense, how worried they are that No. 9 [Henderson] is getting the ball again.’’

Williams said Henderson hasn’t drawn much interest from colleges, but it’s early.

‘‘We haven’t talked about it yet,’’ Williams said. ‘‘We have footage, and he’s doing well in school. He got an invite to the Notre Dame quarterback camp. I’m trying to get him ready for that. It’s time for him to be seen.’’

Hyde Park (3-3) led 24-12 after a 20-yard touchdown run by Tobias Polk II with 1:12 left in the first half, but Henderson connected with Jamarion Collins on a 35-yard touchdown pass just before halftime to pull the Spartans to 24-20.

Orr (4-2) shut out the Thunderbirds in the second half and took control of the game on the ground. Diamante Paxton scored on a four-yard run early in the fourth quarter to put the Spartans ahead 26-24, and Henderson sealed the victory with an eight-yard touchdown run with 4:56 left.

‘‘We stepped up on defense in the second half,’’ said Henderson, who rushed 11 times for 85 yards and a touchdown and was 3-for-8 for 113 yards and two touchdowns passing. ‘‘We have a lot more to work on, though.’’

Polk provided Hyde Park with most of its offense. He had 14 carries for 77 yards and two touchdowns.

Thunderbirds defensive end Daniel Martin was impressive throughout the game. The 6-1, 175-pound senior had two sacks and a fumble recovery.

Williams is starting to build an impressive small-school football power on the West Side. Orr reached the second round of the Class 2A playoffs last season and now has its own football field on campus.

‘‘We have 13 starters back from that team, so that gave us a really good foundation,’’ Williams said. ‘‘The first two losses of the season, we were testing ourselves against the better schools in the Public League, Westinghouse and Hubbard. We probably won today because of what we learned in the loss to Hubbard.’’

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