By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
The Rockton Hononegah Indians were trying to beat the Machesney Park Harlem Huskies Friday, Sept. 28, after losing twice to them in the previous season. Players have changed, but early on, it was hard to figure out what the difference-makers could be.
In the end, it was two players, Alex Martin and Chris Walker, who weren’t even in the Hononegah system a year ago that helped lead the Indians to a 28-18 victory over Harlem.
For Martin, the night didn’t start great. After a few good plays, Hononegah (5-1) was knocking on the door to strike first against Harlem.
On Martin’s first carry of the game, he fumbled and cost his team a chance to maybe come away with the first points of the game.
He made no other mistakes the rest of the game. The junior transfer from Missouri ran for 125 yards and four touchdowns, scoring in each quarter.
“We had to come out real hard and fast and punch them in the mouth and knock them on their heels,” Martin said.
Martin was the lead of a killer rushing attack that saw Hononegah rack up 240 yards of rushing. Marrick Protz ran for 45 yards, Jake Wilson ran for 50 yards, and Joey Welsh ran for 20.
“We were hitting the holes hard and getting our people in there,” Martin said of the rushing attack.
With Hononegah clinging to a 3-point lead late in the fourth quarter and trying to run out the clock, Martin sealed the game on a second-down run with a 52-yard touchdown.
“It was big,” Hononegah coach Tim Sughroue said. “He’s capable of making a big play at any time, and that was huge.”
The Martin run was set up by Walker, a senior transfer from Wisconsin who was playing in his first game.
Walker was all over the field the entire game and made the play of the game to stop Harlem’s last real chance.
Only 2 yards from a first down to extend a drive, the Huskies (4-2) gave the ball to Kevin Witcik. Walker shot through the offensive line and stood Witcik up behind the line of scrimmage to keep Harlem from a first down and help preserve the Indians’ 3-point lead.
“Our defensive line made the hole for me, I read the offensive line, and I stopped him,” Walker said.
It was part of an overall impressive effort by the Hononegah defense in shutting down the Huskies’ offense. They held the NIC-10’s leading rusher, Witcik, to only 86 yards on 24 carries, while also forcing quarterback Justin Van Wambeke into two late interceptions.
The win gave Hononegah enough wins to be playoff eligible. A sixth win will guarantee themselves a spot.
Despite the impressive performance, Sughroue said his team still has a ways to go before they are ready to enter the playoffs.
“We have to get better,” he said. “I still don’t think we’ve had our best game.”
Around the NIC-10:
• It took a goal-line stand, but Rockford Auburn (3-3) stopped Rockford Guilford (3-3) at the goal line and held on to a 19-14 victory. Quon Herron scored two touchdowns to help the Knights inch closer to a playoff spot.
• In another tight game, Freeport (3-3) got three touchdowns from Steve McShane, but Troy Vandenbroek scored from 1 yard out with just more than a minute left in the game to cap a comeback and lead Belvidere (3-3) to a 27-26 victory.
• Belvidere North (2-4) got a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jace Bankord to Luke Bankord to cap an 11-point comeback and hold on to a 23-21 win over Rockford East (1-5). Jace Bankord threw for 172 yards. Austin Young caught seven passes for 109 yards for the E-Rabs.
• Rockford Boylan Catholic (6-0) guaranteed themselves a spot in the playoffs after Demarcus Vines ran for 139 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-6 win over Rockford Jefferson (0-6).
From the Oct. 3-9, 2012, issue