Simeon running back Chau Smith knew the route to victory in the Public League Super Bowl against Phillips went through his offensive line, so he did whatever he could to keep the group upbeat through the rainy weather and the No. 24 Wolverines’ multiple turnovers.
“I just made sure they were focused on the positive, not the negative,” Smith said. “You can’t stay focused on the mistakes. You have to keep your mind right.”
The Wolverines fumbled six times. But then one special moment arrived early in the fourth quarter.
Smith broke loose up the middle for a 77-yard run that provided the winning margin in the 14-6 victory over No. 9 Phillips.
“This means so much,” Smith said. “A lot of people doubted us, but my dogs up front come through in the clutch every time.”
Smith had eight carries for 106 yards. Quarterback Jacquez Woodland had 16 carries for 42 yards and was 2-for-9 passing for 48 yards. He connected with Corderro Williams on a 30-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
The big moment comes. Simeon’s Chau Smith with a 77-yard TD run. Wolverines lead Phillips 14-6 with 10:15 left. pic.twitter.com/7NxQtX6jbx— Michael O'Brien (@michaelsobrien) October 6, 2019
“[Simeon assistant coach] Dennis Butler and his defense, that has been the life of our team, the way he prepares those guys,” coach Dante Culbreath said. “They kept us in it.”
Phillips scored on a 14-yard run by Antonio Brown early in the second quarter. The Wildcats (5-1) were undone by turnovers in the second half.
Simeon’s Brandon Taylor grabbed an interception with 7:25 left, ending Phillips’ last real chance to tie the game.
“I baited the quarterback, then came up and made a play,” Taylor said. “It was a huge momentum shift.”
Brown had 10 carries for 56 yards and Tyler Clark had 15 carries for 45 yards for Phillips. The Wolverines are large and experienced on both lines, and it showed.
Another huge play. Simeon picks off a Phillips pass. No. 3 is not on the roster but may have helped seal the win.— Michael O'Brien (@michaelsobrien) October 6, 2019
Wolverines ahead 14-6 with 7:11 to play. pic.twitter.com/RUZpufRZzJ
“[Phillips] does a lot of the same things we do, so it’s easier when you see that every day in practice,” Culbreath said.
Simeon (4-1) lost at Baltimore St. Francis, one of the best teams in the country, in Week 1. The Wolverines didn’t have a game Week 2. The possibility of missing a game or two because of a potential Chicago Teachers Union strike made this game a must-win for state-playoff eligibility.
“It’s good that we have competition like this in the Public League, two teams that show the city we are worthy of the same notice that other teams get,” Culbreath said.
Phillips entered averaging nearly 40 points but could never get on a roll offensively. The Wildcats lost two fumbles to go along with the huge interception.
“You would think the turnovers would occur when it was pouring rain, but it seemed to all happen in the second half,” Phillips coach Troy McAllister said. “Both teams had to deal with it.”
The Wildcats will be heavy favorites in their last three regular-season games, but McAllister didn’t downplay the impact this loss will have on his team.
“This is the turning point,” McAllister said. “It is staring us in the face. Either we get behind each other and rally and try to make a run or let the individuals start pulling apart. As a group, we have to come together and figure out who wants it and who wants to be a part of this.”