Photo by Jeff Vorva Fayezon Smart gives a nonchalant reaction after a first-half score. He later scored the winning TD in a 41-40 playoff stunner over Crete-Monee.
Photo by Jeff Vorva
Fayezon Smart gives a nonchalant reaction after a first-half score. He later scored the winning TD in a 41-40 playoff stunner over Crete-Monee.
When you grow up on the south edge of Bronzeville, near where the Dan Ryan clips the edge of Englewood, having just two catches in 10 games after transferring into St. Laurence from Leo does not constitute hard times.
Spending most of the first half watching while your teammates fall behind 27-14 to Crete-Monee in a Class 6A doesn’t quite reach that level, either.
But it does get your attention when your coach texts you in the middle of the week.
“He texted me out of the blue,” KeShawn Douglas said. “It was nighttime. I was like, ‘Oh my God, what could he possibly want?’”
Coach Harold Blackmon wanted Douglas to be ready, telling him, “You’re going to get an opportunity.”
The junior wide receiver got more than one, catching touchdown passes of 44, 28 and 32 yards in the second half as 12th-seeded St. Laurence stunned No. 4 Crete-Monee 41-40 Saturday in Burbank in a second-round Class 6A playoff contest. The Vikings (8-3 and the last area team still alive in the Illinois High School Association playoffs) will host top-seeded Lemont (11-0) a 42-10, second-round winner over Danville, in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“He’s fast and we saw on film they’d have a tough time with our outside receivers,” Blackmon said of Crete-Monee (8-3), which was the 6A runner-up a year ago. “Last week I told KeShawn, ‘Just keep working.’”
Douglas has known little else since transferring in January to St. Laurence.
“I had a rough start,” he said. “My grades, I come from a rough part of town … just a bunch of stuff. I made a whole (180-degree turn). I’m just glad I came to St. Laurence.”
Before he made the decision to transfer, Douglas called Fayezon Smart, a senior, the Vikings’ all-time leading rusher and, like Douglas, a graduate of the Hayes Park Blitz program.
“That’s my little brother,” Smart, who lives in Englewood not far from Douglas, said. “I told him it was going to be a big transition. He wasn’t going to be the only guy on the team. He wasn’t going to start.
“He got here and he changed around big time. We can’t let where we come from bring us down.”
Nor were the Vikings willing to let the Warriors do so. Though Crete-Monee dominated time of possession and outgained St. Laurence 513 yards to 387, the Vikings solved the Warriors when it mattered most.
Smart (21 carries, 159 yards) kept them in it early, dancing to a 63-yard score on the Vikings’ first offensive play after Crete-Monee drove 80 yards in 5:07 for a touchdown after the game’s opening kick. Smart evened things again with a one-yard score in the second quarter after Crete went ahead 14-7 on a 35-yard touchdown punt return by Kevin Pate, who also had 10 receptions for 184 yards and two scores — both of those coming in the second quarter as the Warriors took a 27-14 edge to intermission.
Over the next 17 minutes, Douglas and quarterback Romello Washington (14-of-23, 254 yards) traded touchdowns with the Warriors. But, with under three minutes left and nursing a 40-35 lead, Crete-Monee attempted just its second punt of the game.
The snap sailed over Pate’s head, and he was dropped for a 35-yard loss after tracking the ball down. Taking over at the 8-yard line and benefitting three snaps later from a pass interference call in the end zone, the Vikings took their first lead of the game when Smart bulled over from four yards out with 1:44 to play.
“We just don’t give up,” Smart said.
For the second week in a row, St. Laurence pulled out a win with a fourth-quarter comeback. Its first-round win came by a 31-28 count over Richards after trailing with less than five minutes to play.
“The Vikings don’t make it easy,” Blackmon said. “But we don’t quit. We don’t work like that, we don’t think like that.”
A win over Lemont would put the Vikings in the state semifinals for the second year in a row after they reached the 5A final four in 2015.
“That’s a great team, well-coached,” Blackmon said. “It’s not an easy road we’re on. But it’s not supposed to be.''