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Simeon makes the most of its playoff appearance, shuts down Lakes

After two weeks full of drama and politics and very little practice, Simeon returned to the football field on Saturday at Gately Stadium.

Simeon’s George Gumbs (8) returns the ball and celebrates with Jacquez Woodland (1) after scoring a touchdown against Lakes.
Simeon’s George Gumbs (8) returns the ball and celebrates with Jacquez Woodland (1) after scoring a touchdown against Lakes.
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

After two weeks of drama and politics and very little practice, No. 13 Simeon returned to the football field Saturday at Gately Stadium. To everyone but their coach, the Wolverines looked no different.

“We were very rusty,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said. “We missed a whole lot of stuff. I told the kids we wouldn’t make any excuses, win or lose. We are honored to be in the playoffs, though, after the last few weeks.”

Simeon’s defense was stout. Running back Chau Smith and quarterback Jacquez Woodland took turns ripping off big plays to lead the Wolverines to a 34-3 victory against Lakes in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

“[Smith] is just a whole different breed,” Woodland said. “In practice, he does the same thing.”

Smith had 11 carries for 107 yards, including touchdown runs of 55 and 13 yards. He caught two passes for 40 yards.

“Chau Smith is probably the best athlete in the state of Illinois,” Culbreath said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot attended the game. Simeon players tried to meet with her last week at City Hall during the strike, but it didn’t happen.

“She shouted us out during her speech the other day,” Woodland said. “For her to come out, it was a very good thing for us.”

“We appreciate it,” Simeon senior Ronald Haggins said. “I’m glad she came to see us. We love her for that.”

Haggins had a sack and a fumble recovery. Woodland was 5-for-15 passing for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception and had 11 carries for 80 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown run.

“I just saw the safeties come down to the edge, so I took the inside, and I was gone after that,” Woodland said.

Lakes (6-4) was limited to eight yards passing and 58 yards rushing.

“We saw some things on film where they had success against teams,” Culbreath said. “And then we saw where they didn’t have success at all.”

Lakes led 3-0 after a field goal in the second quarter, but it was all Simeon (7-1) after that. The Wolverines will travel to Prairie Ridge in the second round.

“Prairie Ridge, everyone knows who they are and what they do,” Culbreath said. “They’ve had so many years of success. We have to go there and play probably one of the best teams in the state in 6A. It’s a big game for us.”

Phillips survives

Phillips beat Lincoln-Way West 30-24 on the last play of the game. Senior Ronald Pledger caught Antonio Brown’s 22-yard pass as time expired to win it for the Wildcats (8-1). It was a leaping grab at the back of the end zone.

“Man, I couldn’t go home like this my senior year, so I had to ice the game,” Pledger said.

The Warriors (5-5) tied it at 24 on a 54-yard run by senior Billy Dozier. The teams traded interceptions before Pledger’s heroics.

“Our best player went up and made a play on the last play of the game,” Phillips coach Troy McAllister said.