There were no big yardage totals or pretty offensive plays to rave about in Mather’s 15-14 victory Thursday against Hyde Park at Winnemac.
It was a game of defense and penalties that was decided by the sheer will of sophomore Jacob Scott and the Rangers’ offensive line and defense.
The Thunderbirds (4-1) entered the game undefeated, sitting on top of the Illini Big Shoulders conference. They received votes in the Associated Press’ Class 4A state poll this week, technically making them the 13th-ranked Class 4A team in the state.
But none of those numbers mattered in the final push. Mather’s offense had not done much through three quarters, but it managed to drive down to just inches short of the goal line with 2:27 left, trailing 14-7.
On fourth-and-goal, the teams collided. Rangers quarterback Zeke Irving attempted to punch the ball in. Seven of his teammates collided with nine Hyde Park players, and the battle was on. Mather won, as Irving stayed on his feet and made it into the end zone.
That made it 14-13. The Rangers (4-1) had easily made the extra point on their touchdown in the third quarter, a three-yard run by sophomore Jacob Scott. This time, they went for two and the victory out of necessity: Their only long snapper was now out with an injury.
Wow. Fourth and one with the game on the line. Mather’s entire offense moves the pile and punches it in for a TD.— Michael O'Brien (@michaelsobrien) September 23, 2021
Then they went for two and got it! Rangers have state-ranked Hyde Park on the ropes, leading 15-14 with 2:27 left pic.twitter.com/RERu5ZhkR8
Scott crashed into the line and craftily snuck his way through Hyde Park’s size advantage to give Mather the lead and the eventual victory.
‘‘I was scared that if I didn’t score, I would let my team down,’’ Scott said. ‘‘It was challenging. They are pretty big. I had good blocking, thanks to my offensive line. I didn’t give up, and they didn’t give up. We kept fighting.’’
Scott had 25 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. Irving was 6-for-9 passing for 62 yards.
Junior Terence Young had an interception and a key knockdown for the Rangers. Senior John Ho came through with an interception on the Thunderbirds’ final drive to seal the victory.
‘‘I locked it down,’’ Young said. ‘‘They ran trips, which was real bold, and they didn’t get anything with it.’’
Hyde Park quarterback Quentin Harris was 8-for-18 for 136 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Running back Jaylin Ramseur had 17 carries for 69 yards.
‘‘We came out flat,’’ Thunderbirds coach Keenan Phillips-Riley said. ‘‘I think we probably underestimated our opponent.’’
There were only four officials and no trainer at the game. Several Mather players left with injuries, and Hyde Park asked for a trainer in the first half.
‘‘Last week we just had three refs,’’ Rangers coach Yanko Jordanof said. ‘‘I grew up in CPS, and we didn’t have trainers. Rub some dirt in it, put some ice on it. Next man up.’’