CHICAGO | Facing third down and 39 yards to go in Friday night's Class 8A playoff game against Bloom Township, Simeon seemed unlikely to convert.
The Wolverines, as it turned out, did more than that. Quarterback Elcee Burke hit running back Sharoid Roach with a swing pass on the fourth- quarter play. Roach shook off a would-be tackler and raced 53 yards for a touchdown that lifted the favored Wolverines to a 13-10 victory at Gately Stadium.
With the win, Simeon (8-1) plays today's Mount Carmel-Brother Rice winner next Friday. For the Blazing Trojans, the heartbreaking loss closed out a 6-4 campaign that included the program's first trip to the football playoffs since Bloom High School and Bloom Trail High School merged their athletic programs in 1995.
"This is a heartbreaking loss," Blazing Trojan coach Tony Palombi said. "We were right there. First opening fumble we had, they get six. Take that away, and we win this game."
The Wolverines recovered a Blazing Trojan fumble of the opening kickoff and proceeded to march 31 yards in three plays, with a 10-yard touchdown run by Jordan Jackson to give the Wolverines a 6-0 edge.
The momentum shifted in the Blazing Trojans' favor after that, however. Eufemio Fonseca III missed the first of his three first-half field goal attempts off the team's second possession of the game -- a 48-yard try -- but came back and capped a 15-play drive engineered by sophomore quarterback Jordan Benavides with a 33-yard field goal to cut the Wolverines' lead to 7-3 midway through the second quarter.
A muffed punt late in the second quarter by the Wolverines was pounced on in the end zone by Nick Carlson to give the Blazing Trojans a 10-6 lead, which they maintained until the fourth.
A blocked punt by Wolverine Elijah Muhammad gave Simeon the ball on the Blazing Trojans 24 early in the fourth quarter. A pair of incomplete passes and a penalty, however, pushed the Wolverines into the long third-down situation that they managed to convert into the winning points of the game.
"We always say we are a team, and today we lost as a team," Palombi said. "Every aspect of the game made a mistake at one point or another. So the game wasn't the fault of the offense or the defense. It was a team effort, and they just beat us in the end when it counted."