Simeon rallies from 16 down, beats WW South
Malik Elzy is one of the best players in the state, so the Simeon senior receiver's lack of touches for much of the first half Saturday was conspicuous.
That all changed with one play. The game changed with it.
Elzy, a Cincinnati recruit, turned a simple screen pass into a 33-yard gain on a play that he seemed to weave 100 yards along the sidelines with his team trailing Wheaton Warrenville South by two touchdowns midway through the second quarter.
It opened the floodgates for Simeon. Elzy dazzled with two spectacular touchdown catches, and Andre Crews delivered a breakout performance with 306 yards rushing on 21 carries and three touchdowns in Simeon's 41-23 win at Gately Stadium.
Simeon, trailing 23-7 when Elzy caught the screen pass -- his first touch of the day -- went on to score the game's last 34 points.
"When we need to turn it on," Elzy said, "we're not going to turn it off."
Elzy only had three catches Saturday. In that limited showcase, though, he showed why Elzy makes opponents' heart stop whenever he touches the ball.
In the final minutes of the first half, Elzy soared high over double coverage to snag a pass from Keshaun Parker and raced 49 yards for a TD, pulling Simeon within 23-20 at the half. Later, Elzy caught a deep ball from Parker and bullied three defenders into the end zone for a 42-yard TD for the game's final score.
"I don't really get involved in rankings and all that," Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said, "but this kid here, he might be the best I've ever seen on this team."
Crews was pretty good Saturday, too.
The senior has played a multitude of positions at Simeon from quarterback to receiver to defensive back. On Saturday, though, he exploded, scoring on runs of 33, 3 and 69 yards.
"I think he's the most underrated player in the state of Illinois," Culbreath said. "He's a bona fide running back, bona fide football player."
"Their running back just kept gashing us," WW South coach Sean Norris said. "We didn't play sound fundamental football wrapping that kid up, filling our gaps which I think over time wore on us."
Norris' Tigers got out strong, turning three Simeon turnovers into points in the first half.
WW South's Zach Choromokos pounced on a muffed punt midway through the first quarter, leading to Maison Haas' 27-yard field goal. In the second quarter, on successive Simeon possessions, Colin Moore recovered a Crews fumble and Jailani McGee picked off a Parker pass.
Both turned into touchdowns, sophomore Luca Carbonaro's 13-yard TD pass to Braylen Meredith and Jake Vozza's 7-yard TD run. The latter gave the Tigers a 23-7 lead with 5:26 left in the second quarter.
"First half we had turnovers, an interception, plays on special teams which gave us some momentum," Norris said. "We couldn't seem to manufacture those plays in the second half. The second half we got tired and we just couldn't stop them."
Indeed, Crews' 33-yard TD run capped off the drive started by Elzy's first catch. Crews' 3-yard TD run capped off an 11-play, 83-yard drive that gave Simeon the lead for good at 27-23 with 7:05 left in the third quarter.
"Started off a little rocky but we talked to each other in the locker room about our mistakes," Crews said. "Came out second half, made it happen."
Carbonaro came off the bench in the game's third series in relief of junior Luke Scherrman for a WW South quarterbacking situation in a state of flux.
The Tigers lost a senior QB over the last 10 days that was with them all summer, and brought Carbonaro up to varsity to compete with two other guys.
He provided an early spark Saturday, throwing TDs to Meredith of 17 and 13 yards on successive series. Carbonaro went the rest of the way, completing 9 of 13 passes for 96 yards.
"Luca really showed a lot of promise. It was a learning curve for him, coming up sophomore year," Norris said. "We were planning on playing him that third series, and then he made a lot of plays. Happy with how he handled himself. It's a great learning experience for him."
It doesn't get any easier for the Tigers from here, though. Next Friday they go on the road to Neuqua Valley, a team with 17 starters back from a Class 8A quarterfinalist.
"This is our chance to respond to adversity. We knew it would come up at some point," Norris said. "Neuqua is talented, experienced, and have confidence. We have to lick our wounds and get ready for them."