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Bartlett hit South Elgin with the type of one-two punch most high school defenses Kant-Ever stop.
Senior tight end Chris Kantzavelos (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) caught 2 touchdowns passes, and 198-pound workhorse Aaron Everson rushed 38 times for 262 yards and 2 touchdowns and threw for another score to lead Bartlett to a 27-7 victory over their District U-46 rival in an Upstate Eight Valley clash at Millennium Field Friday night.
The victory not only guaranteed Bartlett (6-2, 4-1) its third straight playoff berth and 12th in 13 seasons, it gave the Hawks the opportunity to compete for a share of their seventh title in the Upstate Eight Conference. Bartlett travels next Friday to Neuqua Valley (8-0, 5-0). A Bartlett victory could result in a three-way tie for the UEC Valley crown with Neuqua and Waubonsie Valley (7-1, 4-1).
"They're a tough team," Bartlett coach Tom Meaney said of state-ranked Neuqua Valley. "That's going to be very difficult, but we're going to try to do our best. We could beat them if they make some mistakes and we make something happen. Stranger things have happened."
There was nothing strange about Bartlett's offense against South Elgin. Once again, Everson was the focal point. The senior tailback's 262 yards elevated his season total to 1,729, breaking the single-season school record held by Kent Martin, who rushed for 1,634 yards in 11 games in 2005. It was a milestone Everson had aimed for since August.
"It's awesome," Everson said. "It's just hard work, you know, every week throughout the week.
Bartlett's new record holder credited the holes opened by his linemen and tight ends: George Danek, Brian Prohaska, Alex Piedra, Kantzavelos, Nick Mazzei, Phil Bagley and Mitch Reid. "It's all my offensive line," Everson said. "It's all them. I can't do it without them."
The loss officially eliminated South Elgin (3-5, 2-4) from playoff contention for the second straight season, though the Storm started the game strong. South Elgin marched 65 yards on its opening drive, fueled by 4 passes over the middle from quarterback Robert Cuda, who finished it off with a 12-yard touchdown run.
"We've got some kids that play hard," South Elgin coach Dale Schabert said. "They're not big enough or that talented to just dominate, so we've got to make the most of all our opportunities."
However, Bartlett made an adjustment to South Elgin's attack by adding a linebacker and subtracting a down lineman, among other changes. The Storm completed just 8 more passes the rest of the game.
Bartlett evened the score in the second quarter, thanks to a mammoth drive and some trickery. The Hawks moved 80 yards on a 15-play, nearly eight-minute drive that bridged the first and second quarters. Everson made a reception for another first down, then he took a pitch and set up to throw with a furious pass rush closing in on him. He spotted Kantzavelos all alone for a 16-yard scoring strike.
"I saw those guys charging at me and I couldn't even see Chris Kantzavelos yet," said Everson. "I finally saw him and I just threw it up there for him. I practiced that a lot, so I'm happy it worked."
Kantzavelos scored again to give the Hawks a 13-7 lead with 24 seconds left in the first half. Quarterback Kyle Garcia spotted him on a slant and the strong tight end carried a defender the final 5 yards into the end zone. The extra point was blocked.
"It's a lot of fun," Kantzavelos, a defensive end committed to Central Michigan, said of playing offense. "I enjoy every second of it, getting to mix it up on offense and still play defense. I have a blast doing it."
In the third quarter, Everson ran 32 yards to the South Elgin 2-yard line and high stepped into the zone on the next play. Steve Hrbacek's extra point made 20-7.
Everson finished the scoring by breaking free for his longest run of the night, a 58-yarder up the left sideline that swelled Bartlett's lead to 27-7 with 1:26 left in the game.