By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
Machesney Park Harlem quarterback Cody DiGiovanni lifted a perfect pass over the defense, and Jordan Baxter was behind the coverage. Sixty-three yards and a touchdown found Harlem up 7-0 at Rockford Boylan Catholic Friday, Sept. 2.
Two Gustavo Rocha field goals and a Brandon Stout touchdown later, Harlem had built their lead to 20-0, and appeared to be unstoppable.
The Titans responded with a 24-yard touchdown by Lamont Toney on a fourth-and-6 to cut the gap to 20-7 with just under 3 minutes left in the half. But with the momentum Harlem had, it was more than enough time to extend the lead.
Then, the fumble happened. With DiGiovanni in shotgun formation, the ball was snapped off to a man in motion. Boylan recovered, and two plays later, Tyreis Thomas scored from 10 yards out to pull Boylan within 6.
One play seemingly changed the entire complexion of the game. The Titans scored touchdowns from 40, 61 and 81 yards out in the second half, routing Harlem after falling behind in a 41-27 victory.
“It was unfortunate that we couldn’t execute better down there,” Harlem coach Jim Morrow said of the fumble. “Every play that went against us was like a body blow to us.”
For the Titans, it was unchartered territory. This is not the first time Boylan (2-0) had to come back during their 50-game conference-winning streak, but it was the first time they were thoroughly dominated for almost an entire half.
“We were frustrated because we knew we were capable of playing better than that,” Boylan coach Dan Appino said. “I thought Harlem had a terrific game plan and really executed well. They overwhelmed us up front. We always try to establish the run early on, and they were committed to stopping it with seven guys in the box.”
Boylan tied the game on the first play of the second half. Toney found tight end Jon Fuller for a 61-yard score, but the Titans missed the extra point.
Two drives later, and after a holding penalty negated a big play, DeMarcus Vines scored on an 81-yard touchdown run that gave Boylan their first lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Baxter, who also caught five passes for 109 yards, went 92 yards to the end zone to immediately tie the game.
But a long kickoff led to a 40-yard pass from Toney to Jaxson Meister for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
In all, after jumping to a 20-0 lead, Harlem only managed 7 points the rest of the game. A lot was the result of a total team effort to apply more pressure by the Titans. But part was because of an adjustment that saw corner Adonis Brown shadow Baxter after he got off to a great start early.
“We just tried to switch up coverages so he didn’t know what route to run,” Brown said. “We knew that we had to buckle down and make some stops. We just got real motivated after halftime, and we came out and shut them down.”
Conditioning also played a major role in the outcome. As the game wore on, the Harlem (1-1) sideline looked like a mash unit with several players fighting cramps on a humid night. That kept Harlem from finding a rhythm in the second half, and led to some sloppy play.
“I don’t think we played as well as the game wore on,” Morrow said. “Boylan made some good adjustments, and we had some personnel problems here and there with cramping. We just never got into a real good flow.”
In other NIC-10 action:
• Hononegah (1-1) was down 10 points in the fourth quarter, but a late flurry saw the Indians come back to win over Belvidere North (1-1) by a final of 32-21. Carlos Hendrix ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns, as well as catching two passes for 69 yards and a touchdown to lead Hononegah. Austin Smaha ran for 212 yards and three touchdowns to lead the way for the Blue Thunder.
• Turnovers helped lead to Belvidere (2-0) finding themselves behind to Auburn 22-7. But three Troy Vandenbroek touchdown passes helped the Bucs recover, as they came back to top the Knights 46-22. Quan Herron ran for 123 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead Auburn (0-2).
• Cordre Rucker scored two touchdowns for Freeport (1-1) as the Pretzels shut out Jefferson (0-2) in the second half on their way to a 28-14 win.
From the Sept. 7-13, 2011, issue