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Sullivan’s defense sparkles again, shuts out Schurz

The Tigers have allowed only one opponent to score more than eight points all season. The stout defense continued in a 21-0 shutout of Schurz on Thursday at Lane Stadium. 

Sullivan’s  Gile Niyomutabazi (13) attempts an interception in the first half against Schurz receiver Tyrice Larry (11).
Sullivan’s Gile Niyomutabazi (13) attempts an interception in the first half against Schurz receiver Tyrice Larry (11).
Quinn Harris/For the Sun-Times

Sullivan took its knocks in the spring season, winning only one of four games. But everything has turned around in the fall.

The Tigers have allowed only one opponent to score more than eight points all season. The stout defense continued in a 21-0 shutout of Schurz on Thursday at Lane Stadium.

“The spring was a development year, especially with all the COVID going on,” Sullivan coach Calvin Clark said. “These guys attacked the weight room after the season, and they just believe in each other and believe in the culture. Now we are seeing the product of that on the field.”

It was the second shutout of the season for Sullivan (6-1, 3-1 Illini Windy City). The Tigers lost to Mather 7-6 last week.

“Our defense has been balling all year,” Clark said. “We believe in simple blocking and tackling.”

Sophomore quarterback Chris Askew provided the offensive fireworks. He had eight carries for 33 yards, including a short touchdown run for the first score of the game.

Askew threw only two passes, but both went for touchdowns. The first was a 70-yard strike to fellow sophomore Marceluis Barber, who was streaking all alone down the center of the field. Askew found him in perfect stride to make it 14-0.

Then Askew connected with junior Bayo Aina on a nine-yard pass in the last two minutes to seal the win.

“[Askew] has the heart of a lion,” Clark said. “He keeps growing up every week. I’m just proud of his development. The best is yet to come from him.”

Askew played defense as a freshman. This is his first year as a quarterback.

“I’m pretty comfortable running the ball,” Askew said. “I just have to keep working on my passing, and I’ll be straight. This team has a lot of heart and motivation, so that has helped.”

The Tigers’ running game wasn’t spectacular, but it was solid enough to get the job done. Kazeem Komolafe (58 yards), Keonta Franklin (31 yards) and David Henry (18 yards) all contributed.

Komolafe also plays linebacker.

“The last few games, our offensive line has been shaky, but I’m proud of the guys today. They did a good job stepping up,” Komolafe said.

Sullivan also has a rare weapon in Public League football: an excellent kicker.

Senior Gile Niyomutabazi is all over the field for the Tigers. He’s an excellent athlete who plays punter, kicker, safety and some offense.

Niyomutabazi made all three extra points, pinned the Bulldogs back with long punts and grabbed an interception in the fourth quarter.

“This is my first year playing football,” Niyomutabazi said. “I just want to keep pushing and make my family proud. My first game, I was scared of getting hit. But I kept working hard and listened to my coaches.”

Clark, who has been the head coach at Sullivan for seven years, spotted Niyomutabazi on the soccer field.

“We have an excellent soccer team at Sullivan, and maybe don’t tell them, but we stole a couple of players that were good with kicking,” Clark said.

Next up for the Tigers is a massive game against undefeated Amundsen, the leaders of the conference.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Clark said. “This junior and sophomore class came in not knowing anything about football, and they believed in the coaching, and the coaches worked their butts off developing these guys.”