By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
Undefeated and closing in on their sixth-straight conference title, it can be tough to find motivation for your team. But good teams will create it.
Machesney Park Harlem only has one loss, to Rockford Boylan, and has done so mostly behind an explosive offense. Some even say they may be better offensively than Boylan.
“Our kids, we’re a little bit frustrated with all the attention Harlem has been getting on their offense,” Boylan Head Coach Dan Appino said. “Our offense really wanted to make a statement and play well, and they did tonight.”
The Titans’ offense, which struggled early in the year as they broke in a new offensive line, ran like a well-oiled machine Friday, Oct. 14, shrugging off strong winds, a bad field and the Belvidere defense on their way to a 42-7 win.
In a microcosm of their season, things started slowly for Boylan (8-0). The defense held the Belvidere Bucs (4-4), but it appeared Belvidere was going to stop Boylan on a fourth-and-9.
But the Bucs could not wrap up Peter Cimino, who broke three strong tackles and evaded five other defenders on his way to a first-down run. Demarcus Vines got the Titans to the 1, and Tyreis Thomas went in for the first of his two touchdowns to give Boylan the early lead.
Thomas did much of the rest of the damage. Using their no-huddle offense, the Titans quickly wore down the Belvidere defense, and Thomas gashed the Bucs, racking up 202 yards on the ground.
In all, the Titans racked up more than 300 yards on the ground, also getting 52 from quarterback Lamont Toney, to go along with 61 passing yards and a touchdown.
With the loss, Belvidere still needs one more win to become playoff eligible, with a game against cross-town rival Belvidere North on tap.
The Titans now finish with a share of the NIC-10 title, needing only a victory over winless Auburn to finish off the crown. Despite six in a row now, Appino said that was the goal for this team, and they worked hard to get there.
“It feels awesome,” he said. “The kids really worked hard, as they always do in the offseason. We started off a little shaky this year, and we had to grow a little bit, but we’re finishing at the right place.”
In other NIC-10 action:
• In the upset of the season, Freeport (4-4) kept their playoff hopes alive by topping Rockton Hononegah (5-3) by a final of 19-14. The Pretzels’ defense was tough in grounding the Indians’ run game and making a pair of second-half touchdowns hold up. Freeport has a tall order with Machesney Park Harlem to become playoff eligible, while Hononegah faces a feisty Rockford East team still needing a sixth win to guarantee a playoff spot.
• Belvidere North (3-5) saw their playoff hopes dashed by Josh Woodford and the Rockford Jefferson J-Hawks (3-5). Woodford scored all five Jefferson touchdowns and out-dueled Blue Thunder running back Austin Smaha 202-191 in yards. Both teams can play spoiler next week with Jefferson taking on Guilford and North taking on Belvidere.
• Rockford Guilford (4-4) played tough for a half, but Harlem (7-1) proved to be too much in a 42-27 win for the Huskies. Dontrel Chance ran for 194 yards and three touchdowns for Guilford, but 247 rushing yards from Harlem, to go along with 179 passing yards by Cody DiGiovanni, were the difference.
• Rockford Auburn (0-8) was close to ending their losing streak, but Rockford East proved too much for the Knights, with the E-Rabs holding on for a 28-20 victory. Sophomore quarterback Jacob Benson, playing for injured starter Andrew Lantz, threw two touchdowns to lead East. Devon Manns ran for 99 yards, and Quan Herron ran for 83 yards to lead Auburn.
From the Oct. 19-25, 2011, issue