Football: St. Rita fends off Simeon surge
By Mike Clark firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @MikeClarkPreps August 31, 2014 10:30PM
Simeon's Jordan Reid (85) breaks up a pass to Saint Rita's Eric Walker (4)during the Preseason Kickoff Classic between Saint Rita and Simeon on Aug. 31, 2014. | Geoff Scheerer/Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 1, 2014 2:11AM
A few times Sunday night, it looked like St. Rita had things under control against Simeon.
But Mustangs senior Marty Bechina wasn’t taking anything for granted, which turned out to be a good idea.
St. Rita couldn’t breathe easy until quarterback C.J. Weydeman took a knee as the final four seconds ticked off in a 28-20 win in the finale of the High School Football Classic at Toyota Park.
“They fought. They really did,” Bechina said of the Wolverines. “We knew they weren’t done after we were only up eight (with 1:15 left). We knew they were going to come down and fight.
“They made some plays. We just happened to get a good stop at the end.”
That was Mike Tiernan’s interception of Timon Watkins’ conversion pass after Dion Earls Jr. scored his second touchdown of the fourth quarter with four seconds left. St. Rita recovered the ensuing squib kick, Weydeman kneeled down and that was that.
Before that, there were three touchdowns in the final 4:17, three first-half interceptions by Bechina and plenty of momentum shifts.
The Mustangs led 21-6 after Weydeman’s third touchdown pass of the night, a six-yarder to Xavier Allen with 1:51 left in the third.
Weydeman (6-of-21, 148 yards, interception) was sacked five times and was just 1-of-13 passing in the first half. But that completion was a 34-yarder for a score to Tyre Lee, and he was 5-of-8 with two scores in the last two quarters.
His 57-yard completion to Brandon Gaston set up a 16-yard TD pass to Gaston (3 catches, 105 yards) at 5:46 of the third.
“We have all the trust in the world in C.J.,” Bechina said. “First half, he got the jitters out. We talked to him at halftime. We knew he was going to come out and play, and he played well.”
As St. Rita coach Todd Kuska noted, Simeon’s defense played a high-stakes game.
“They gambled a lot and when they were successful, those were the sacks,” Kuska said. “When they weren’t successful, those were the big plays.”
“We gave up some long balls to No. 17 (Gaston),” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said. “Great kid, great athlete. He kind of picked on our (lack of) size a little bit, but we’re going to make some adjustments with that.”
Simeon couldn’t get much offense going the first three quarters. Its only touchdown in that span came when defensive lineman Tim Dickson picked off Weydeman and ran it back 35 yards for a score less than a minute before halftime.
But after falling behind 21-6, the Wolverines got their mojo back on offense thanks to a quicker pace.
“The first half, we (were) kind of in limbo,” Culbreath said. “Our receivers (were) not reading what we needed them to read. ... If we could have played the first half at the same tempo as the second half, it could have been a different outcome.”
Earls (15 carries, 75 yards) scooted through the right side for a 10-yard score at 11:45 of the fourth and Watkins ran in the conversion to make it 21-14.
Over the next few minutes, Simeon lost a fumble but blocked a St. Rita punt to get the momentum back. Watkins sneaked in from a yard out with 4:17 left, but the PAT kick failed, keeping St. Rita up 21-20.
The Wolverines then held on fourth-and-goal at the one, but Matt Mitchell picked off Watkins and ran it back eight yards for a score at 1:10 to make it 28-20.
The drama and the scoring weren’t over, but the Mustangs hung on.
“We’ve got to get better,” Kuska said. “Hats off to Simeon, that was a great football game.”