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For Hillcrest, football losing streak ends

Updated: November 18, 2012 6:46AM



When Hillcrest was upset by Wheaton Academy 20-19 in overtime in a 2009 Class 5A first-round playoff game, coach Ernie Sutton never could have imagined the journey ahead for his program.

Hillcrest, which finished 8-2 that season, would not experience the joys of victory again until Friday, when it defeated T.F. North 32-27, bringing to an end nearly three full seasons of losses.

“It was just a big, big relief,” Sutton said. “There were games this year, believe it or not, where I thought we could have won. But we shot ourselves in the foot and I thought the kids were developing a mind-set where they were getting used to losing. I feel like tons of pressure has been lifted off our shoulders and back.”

The Hawks lost 26 straight games. It was a stunning reversal of fortune, considering Sutton had guided the program to nine playoff appearances in the previous 11 seasons, with a few conference titles thrown in for good measure.

“I never thought I’d see anything like this,” Sutton said of the losing streak. “I used to read about teams losing 20 games in a row and I’d say to myself, ‘Wow. I feel bad for those guys.’ But once you start losing, kids lose confidence and start quitting.”

Sutton conceded quitting was something that crossed his own mind a time or two.

“But I just couldn’t do it,” he said. “It goes against everything I preach to the kids. Most of the kids stuck it out and kept coming to practice.”

Kids such as seniors Devonta Archer, London Covington and Lukeman Sulaiman remained committed to the program despite the lack of success.

Quarterback Anthony Sheko, a sophomore, led the Hawks against T.F. North, completing 11-of-24 passes for 270 yards. He also rushed for 92 yards and three touchdowns.

Junior Devonte Brewer recorded five catches for 122 yards, and also had eight tackles on defense.

“The kids are happy and excited,” Sutton said. “We’re looking forward to playing Tinley Park. We hope to get a win and carry that momentum into the offseason. I want to get this thing back to where I know it can be — back to the playoffs.”



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