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MAYWOOD | The Pirates entered the fourth quarter of their season-opener at home versus Round Lake last Saturday in what has been unfamiliar territory the past few years—i.e., they were winning the game, rather than losing it.
Proviso East broke a 20-20 tie when senior quarterback Kurt Sturghill flipped a 3-yard touchdown pass to Kiante Tyler with 4:32 left in the third quarter, giving the Pirates a 26-20 lead. (That TD was set up by Deonn Bland’s 51 yard run.)
The Pirates milked three minutes off the clock on their opening drive of the fourth quarter, but Round Lake recovered an East fumble to stop that drive.
On their ensuing drive, the Panthers benefited from three costly Pirate penalties—one a late hit—and advanced to the 1-yard line where Brandon Kisiel ran it in for the second of his three TDs on the afternoon. Combined with the PAT kick, that gave the Panthers the lead for good, 27-26. Another Kisiel score late in the game sealed a 34-26 victory.
The Pirates’ losing streak has reached 27 games. Their last victory took place in the 2014 season-opener over Maine West. The Maine West win is the varsity club’s only triumph since 2011. (East went winless during both the 2012 and 2013 seasons.) Second-year Proviso East head coach DeWan White liked the Pirates’ effort despite the outcome.
“Today’s game was a good game for us program-wise,” he said. “Even despite the loss, the kids are coming together and we’re young so those kinds of things kind of rattled us a little bit with the penalties. But other than that, I think the effort was there. It’s just that at key moments execution hurt us.”
Sturghill, who put up some solid numbers—13 of 18, 129 yards—floated a nice pass to Kewon Johnson, who leaped up and grabbed a 40-yard touchdown pass for a 6-0 lead early in the contest.
Round Lake tied it with a TD of its own over 2 minute later, and went ahead 13-6 with 3:39 to go in the first quarter. However, the Pirates regained a 14-13 advantage after Lateak Hunt took a screen pass and went 20 yards for a touchdown. Hunt and Sturghill then connected for a conversion pass.
The Pirates forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and Timothy Banks, one of 25 juniors on the team, scooped up the loose ball and took it 28 yards into the endzone. East led 20-13 at quarter’s end. Round Lake’s workhorse running back, Anthony Tellez, who gained nearly 200 yards on 30 carries, knotted the score at 20 on a 6-yard run with 4:19 to play before halftime.
The Pirates ran into some misfortune on their next offensive series. What would have been a 58-yard Sturghill-to-Johnson go-ahead touchdown was called back after the officials ruled that Sturghill was over the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball. On that same series, what would have been a 53-yard TD pass to Titus Jude ended up being nullified by a penalty.
“The game was tied up maybe two or three times,” White said. “And in the past, we haven’t been doing that well offensively. We haven’t been scoring many points. I think last year we averaged in nine games 6.9 points per game or something like that.”
Individually, Bland finished with 81 yards rushing on 10 carries. Hunt had four catches for 66 yards, and Kewon Johnson caught three passes for 49.
“I think offensively our receivers and our running backs are very explosive and they’re fast,” White said. “Titus Jude is very electric. I think we’ll be a little bit more situational (in practice) and maybe make practice a little more tougher with different situations, and things of that scenario will play out that way.”
Lildara Johnson and James Hobson each had pass interceptions for the Pirates, who have the daunting task this Saturday of facing Glenbard West—the 2015 Class 7A state champions—at Duchon Field in Glen Ellyn, a venue in which few visiting teams have come out victorious. Defending Class 8A state champion Maine South, however, did post a victory over the Hilltoppers in the two teams’ season-opener last Saturday, 62-34.
“I’ve heard about it,” said White, referring to Glenbard West’s dominance at home. “They’re a powerhouse and we’re up for the challenge … I just want my kids to be very competitive and I think we’ll show that again.”