Maine South needed to lean on Mike Sajenko on Saturday.
The Hawks’ Northwestern-bound tight end, Chris Petrucci, was sidelined by a lacerated spleen. And they were facing one of the state’s premier quarterbacks in Marist’s Dontrell Jackson Jr.
But no worries, Sajenko delivered another memorable performance in a postseason that has featured a bunch of them.
The senior running back scored all five touchdowns for Maine South in a 35-33 win that sends the Hawks (12-1) to their 10th state final. Maine South, which is seeking its seventh state title, plays Lockport (12-1) at 7 p.m. Nov. 28 at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.
Sajenko has 14 touchdowns in the Hawks’ current playoff run, including a program-record six in the first-round romp past New Trier. He also had three in a comeback win over Plainfield North in the second round.
“Most of us on offense are seniors,” said Sajenko, who ran 19 times for 108 yards and caught eight passes for 90 yards. “We all know what’s going to happen if we don’t go out there and score.”
Especially against a playmaker like Jackson. The Coastal Carolina recruit completed 20 of 29 passes for 331 yards and two TDs. Ak’Tavion Agee had seven catches for 170 yards and a score.
With Petrucci out, the Hawks added a couple pass plays this week designed to get the ball to Sajenko in space. It paid off.
After he scored on runs of 46 and two yards in the first quarter, the 5-11, 197-pounder caught a 13-yard TD pass just before halftime. His second TD catch from Rowan Keefe (19 of 29, 259 yards) at 8:21 of the fourth quarter helped put Maine South back on top 28-27. His 16-yard TD run at 3:44 pushed the lead to 35-27.
“The kid’s got speed, he’s got power, he’s one of the toughest kids I know,” Maine South coach Dave Inserra said of Sajenko.
“He came up big. Some of his blocks, some of his finishes, even though he only got a yard or two, he’s running guys over and that just sparks us.”
The Hawks needed that last score because Jackson followed it with a 19-yard TD pass to Agee with 2:48 remaining. But the conversion pass was off target and Maine South ran out the clock.
Though Jackson had a big day passing, Maine South kept him from being a dual threat. Jackson’s only two credited carries resulted in a sack by Jimmy Brander and a kneeldown to end the first half. The RedHawks did have some success on the ground, though, as 5-4 sophomore Alonzo Manning II had 20 carries for 66 yards and Jaylen Johnson added 53 yards and two TDs on 10 carries.
“We were focusing on containing the run first,” said Maine South cornerback Tommy Locascio, who had an interception. “We knew he could bounce outside, we knew he had the ability to run. We were really focused on locking down on our man. ...
“He’s a pretty good quarterback. But quarterbacks can’t throw if the guys aren’t open.”