Disabato: Lincoln-Way North, Thornton a game for the ages
Pat Disabato email@example.com | (708) 802-8837 September 16, 2012 5:50PM
Lincoln-Way North’s Julian Hylton (21) gets past Thornton’s Jalen Banks (10) in the second quarter at Thornton, Saturday September, 15, 2012. | Ray Luna ~ For Sun-Times Media
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Updated: October 18, 2012 6:13AM
I thought I had witnessed just about everything during my 22 years covering high school football.
Then along comes a game like Saturday’s between Lincoln-Way North and Thornton.
If ESPN had a channel specifically for classic high school games, Saturday’s would have been overnighted and already televised.
Not even the most thrilling roller coaster could match the many twists and turns, ups and downs and sheer excitement of Saturday’s game in Harvey.
“It was a great high school football game,” Thornton’s Bill Mosel said.
Thornton led 14-7 after one quarter, capitalizing on a North turnover for one of its scores.
The Phoenix responded with 21 straight points to take a 28-14 lead. During its second scoring drive that tied the game at 14, the Phoenix converted three fourth downs.
How rare is that, you ask? It’s possible I won’t see another fourth down conversion the rest of the regular season, much less three in one drive.
At that point, North had all kinds of momentum. In fact, if it could have punched in one more score, Thornton might not have recovered.
We’ll never know because the Wildcats countered with 28 unanswered points, in a matter of 12:44, to grab a 42-28 lead with 9:28 remaining in the game.
At that point, I could have sworn I heard the fat lady singing, signaling the Phoenix’s demise.
My ears must have been deceiving me.
Because North responded with two touchdowns, the final one with 2:51 remaining to tie the game 42-42.
There would be no overtime, though, for the fans seeking even more thrills.
Thornton scored with 16.3 seconds remaining to claim a 49-42 win.
You’re probably thinking: So what, a high school game with a ton of points scored. What’s so unique about that?
There’s more to the story.
I’ve watched some incredible performances by some ridiculously talented local players on that very field through the years.
In fact, one of them, Tai Streets, was in attendance Saturday as a member of the Thornton coaching staff.
But I’ll tell you what. The individual performances by Thornton quarterback JoWahn Brown and North do-it-all Julian Hylton rank among the best in years.
Brown completed 24 of 34 passes for 279 yards and five touchdowns. The 6-foot-3 junior connected with Jason Towns and D’Andre Fuller each on two scores and hit D’Anthony Cross on the game-winning 39-yard toss. Cross deserves much of the credit, having shed at least three would-be tacklers on his way to the end zone. But Brown was on the money most of the day.
“Not in high school,” said Brown, when asked him if he’s ever passed for five TDs before. “We know we have a team when we’re down two touchdowns we can come back like we did today.”
Yet, Brown’s magnificence still doesn’t tell the entire story.
Because Hylton scored, count ’em, six touchdowns. Four of them rushing, another on a 40-yard pass from Ryan Arthur and a final on a 90-yard kick-off return.
The 6-foot-0, 180-pound junior piled up 176 yards on 19 carries.
“He’s been a bright spot all year,” North coach George Czart said. “We would like to play him everywhere, but you can only play one position.”
The fact that this all played out on a sun-soaked Saturday in Harvey is somewhat symbolic.
On Sept. 28, Friday Night Lights is coming to Thornton for the first time in more than 30 years when Lincoln-Way West comes to town.
I was skeptical about the move until I talked to Brown. Call me old-school, but I enjoy covering Saturday football at Thornton. Maybe it’s because Saturday football is near extinction.
There’s just something about the Wildcats purple and white uniforms against the backdrop of a clear blue sky and the school band performing.
Tradition, if you will.
Brown, however, can’t wait to experience Friday Night Lights on his home field.
“Finally,” he said. “I’ve been waiting to play a high school home game on a Friday night for years. Our fans have wanted it. I’m excited about it.”
How can you find fault with that? The kids are excited and should be given the opportunity to experience it, I guess.
There was one other thing I always looked forward to covering Thornton football games in Harvey: The school band’s rendition of the national anthem.
Part R&B, part soul, it played like a homage to Motown.
It was unique, it was cool.
On Saturday, the Wildcat band played it in a traditional way.
It might have been the only thing traditional about Saturday.