Photo by Jeff Vorva
St. Laurence defensive back Jimmy Burnette is all smiles on the sideline after hauling down an interception late in a 31-28 win over Richards.
St. Laurence defensive back Jimmy Burnette laughed and said “a little bit’’ when a reporter asked if he would compare himself to Kyle Schwarber.
Schwarber is the Cubs slugger who hits Babe Ruthian-like home runs but spent almost all of 2016 on the shelf injured until he was activated for the World Series, much to the delight of his teammates.
Burnette had nine interceptions as a junior in 2015 and missed most of this season when he suffered a grade 2 right knee sprain in the second half of a 63-49 loss to Class 3A power Immaculate Conception in Week 2 and played a little in a 16-9 loss to St. Ignatius to close the regular season.
But he was back starting on Saturday and back to his old tricks as he had a huge interception in the final the final four minutes in the fourth quarter of a game that saw the lead ping-pong back and forth and the Vikings hung on for a 31-28 upset win over Richards Saturday in the first round of the Illinois High School Association playoffs in Oak Lawn. The Vikings (7-3) host defending Class 6A state champion Crete-Monee at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“I started therapy six days after I got injured,” Burnette said. “I didn’t think I would have this big of an impact on the game. I imagined it was going to be an emotional impact where I would pick everyone up. I tried to do that for the team even when I was injured.
“They told me I could be back in six-to-eight weeks and I tried to be optimistic. So did the trainers, the coaches and my parents. They were all supportive.’’
“That interception really helped us,” said running back Fayezon Smart, who missed four weeks with injury issues of his own and scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown with 4:58 left. “We both said we were going to make some big plays in this game.’’
Smart finished with 77 yards on 21 carries while quarterback Romello Washington ran for 55 yards and a touchdown and threw for 227 yards and two TDs, including a 53-yard scoring completion to Alex Saunders.
Richards was led by sophomore Derek Flowers, who had 108 yards and three touchdowns while quarterback Jake Moran threw for 145 yards for the Bulldogs (7-3).
Since finishing second in the state Class 6A in 2013, the Bulldogs have almost made season ending heartbreaking losses on their own field an art form.
They lost 19-13 to Lemont in the quarterfinals in 2014 and 17-10 in overtime to Lincoln-Way North in the second round and now this three-point loss in the first round. A 47-yard field goal attempt by Andrew Calderon to tie the game fell short with 24 seconds left.
“This hurts,” said senior receiver Nathan Gimza. “This is worse than the other two because it’s my last game.’
“I feel sick to my stomach for my seniors,” Richards coach Tony Sheehan said. “They played their heart and soul out for four years and this is a bad way to go out.’’