By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
Friday, Sept. 21, appeared to be an ordinary, average night of NIC-10 football with expected outcomes and little drama.
The night finished as a whirlwind, cross-town adventure that featured two upsets and a near upset that just slipped from the grasp of an underdog in an exciting night of football and technology.
The evening started off at Rockford Guilford High School, where the Rockford East E-Rabs hosted the Rockford Boylan Catholic Titans.
East had a tall order ahead of themselves, trying to keep up with an explosive Boylan team and end a winning streak that Boylan has pushed to 60 games.
East was game early, moving the ball on their first drive before throwing an interception. After blocking a punt for a safety, the E-Rabs found the score 7-2 as the first quarter was ending and they received the ball.
Boylan proved to be too much, despite appearing to go through the motions for much of the first half. DeMarcus Vines was one of the few Titans who appeared set to go, scoring three first-half touchdowns, eclipsing 100 yards in five carries and generally playing the game at a different speed as everyone on the field.
The defense did give up yards, but was aided by Zackary Matthews, who also came to play. He intercepted a pass, sacked the quarterback and flew all over the field to make plays for the Titans.
While this was all happening, an interesting night was unfolding via Twitter.
Scores rolled in quickly as Rockton Hononegah did what was expected in dispatching Rockford Jefferson 55-13. But across the conference, there were interesting developments occurring.
Out in Freeport, the Pretzels led Belvidere North early 6-0, as expected, but the lead didn’t grow, and that soon became a 7-6 Blue Thunder lead as halftime rolled around.
At Belvidere’s homecoming, points were being put up quickly, as expected, but not by the host Bucs. Rather, it was the visiting Guilford Vikings (who had struggled to a 2-2 record) that built a 28-7 halftime lead.
And as the Titans built their lead, so did their former, coach Dan Appino, who is now at Rockford Auburn. After falling behind 7-0 to Machesney Park Harlem, the upstart Knights rolled off 22 straight points to take a 22-7 halftime lead over the Huskies.
As the Boylan lead surged and the Harlem deficit grew, television and newspaper reporters alike, thanks to the use of Twitter, packed up and headed over to Auburn for an exciting second half.
Harlem answered, as many expected, but the Knights did not give up. After Harlem tied the game, Jacqarious Edwards raced down the field, nearly scoring an 80-yard touchdown before being dragged down from behind at the 6-yard line.
Auburn got it to the 1 before penalties and a fumbled snap stalled the drive. Harlem promptly marched down the field and took the lead with a touchdown.
But Auburn again drove deep into Harlem territory, getting inside the 20 before failing again to score. Another Harlem touchdown appeared to ice the game with 4 minutes left, but then Devone Manns raced down the field and brought the Knights back within a score.
Elsewhere, Belvidere North extended their lead to 14-6 over Freeport. The Pretzels, who started off 3-0 this season before losing to Boylan the previous week, were on the verge of dropping a critical game.
The Pretzels scored, but could not convert the 2-point conversion. The Blue Thunder were able to run out the clock and pick up their first win, 14-12.
Guilford continued to provide a beating to Belvidere on their homecoming. D.J. Mack scored on three touchdown passes by Nick Hyatte, and Justin Carroll ran and kicked the ball all over the field as the Vikings picked up a key 42-14 win over Belvidere, running the Vikings’ record to 3-2 while putting Belvidere in a tough spot at 2-3.
The Titans were putting the finishing touches on their win over East, only scoring twice in the second half on their way to an easy, but sluggish, 41-9 win over the E-Rabs.
Back at Auburn, the Knights’ defense did all it could. Harlem had not lost to anyone besides Boylan or Hononegah in quite a few years, but found themselves in several tough third-and-short situations on their final drive trying to ice the game.
But Kevin Witcik bailed the Huskies out, grinding out first down after first down, part of a 194-yard rushing night and well more than 200 yards of offense. He also went over 2,000 career rushing yards on the night.
After the game, Harlem players and coaches looked like they knew they won a game they shouldn’t have. They were outgained by Auburn and had more turnovers. But they had a player in Witcik whom no one has stopped all year.
The Knights were dejected, knowing they let one get away. But while coach Appino and his team have no interest in moral victories, it is the type of loss that could be a turning point for a program that entered the season with a 36-game losing streak but now sits 2-3.
More importantly, it was a victory for local football in the area. The type of showing that leads many to believe the normal, expected results from the last several years just may not be so easy to figure out anymore.
From the Sept. 26-Oct. 2, 2012, issue