Football: Jaylin Branch sparkles as Lincoln-Way North blanks LaSalle-Peru
By Randy Whalen For Sun-Times Media August 30, 2014 12:14AM
Updated: August 31, 2014 2:13AM
Jaylin Branch no longer is under wraps.
Branch, who was termed “the human joystick” by the home PA announcer, scored three touchdowns Friday night as Lincoln-Way North ran past LaSalle-Peru 49-0 in the season opener in Frankfort.
Jimmy Vallos added two touchdowns and Ryan Arthur threw for two as the Phoenix rolled to a 36-0 halftime lead.
The talk throughout was about Branch. The junior running back, who transferred from Mount Carmel after not playing football there in 2013, scored on runs of 59 and 29 yards. The latter was of the highlight-reel variety, in which Branch shock off a would-be tackle from around his waist, broke free of a leg tackle and juked another defender.
He also had some nifty moves on his 47-yard TD, on a screen pass, to put the Phoenix up 36-0 with 1:43 left in the first half. Branch had five carries for 123 yards and didn’t play in the second half.
“I’ve been keeping him under wraps,” North coach George Czart said. “We knew over the summer how special he was. With our offensive line being all returnees, we think we can do some things.”
Branch enjoyed the atmosphere of his first varsity game, breaking free for a 31-yard run the first time he touched the ball.
“I’m glad to be here. It felt great,” Branch said. “It’s been two years since I played. I give credit to the O-line and the whole team. They make me better and I make them better.
“To score on my third touch (59-yard run in the first quarter) was unreal. I just have to do what I do. Play hard, play smart, and play my game.”
Arthur was 7-of-12 for 163 yards with an interception. He added a 36-yard TD pass to Drew Slager in the second quarter. Vallos (6 carries, 163 yards) scored on an 8-yard run in the second quarter and a 77-yard burst on the first play of the third quarter. Vallos left the game after suffering a toe injury on a 70-yard run later in the third quarter. Jamir Hunt rounded out the scoring on an 8-yard touchdown run midway though the fourth quarter.
The Phoenix defense never allowed LaSalle-Peru past midfield. Kevin Beaman and Dan Brown were in on a safety in the final minute of the first quarter to make it 9-0.
“I couldn’t wait to get out here,” Brown said. “It felt great and as long as we are able to cover the gaps (on defense) we should have a lot of shutouts.”