When the postseason door shuts on a Upstate River and district rivals like Elgin and Streamwood, both teams turn to pride which becomes such a major factor the last few weeks of the season.
But how Streamwood factored pride into the equation couldn't have been more symbolic on a run by fullback Vince Williams in the fourth quarter of Streamwood's 27-8 win at Memorial Field Friday night.
Williams, the 234-pound locomotive who could give the Elgin Metra a run for its money, had been kept on the defensive side by coach Cal Cummins since Week 3 due to some knee issues. His return to the backfield was trademarked by a 14-yard carry which looked like every Elgin defender hung on his back. When it looked like the Maroons contained him 5 yards in and again 5 yards later, Williams just kept pushing until finally the officials blew the whistle inside the Maroon 35.
"He weighs about 236, 237 and runs extremely well," Cummins said. "He's just a force. That play was just indicative of what he's capable of. It was hard to see some of his blocks but they were bone-crushing."
Williams finished with 47 yards on 4 carries, but his blocking and presence alone helped Streamwood (3-5, 2-3) amass 267 yards rushing and outgain Elgin 395-178, something the Maroons (1-7, 0-5) couldn't stop Friday, let alone this season.
"He's a devastating blocker and helped us open some holes," Cummins said. "He had a knee issue from basketball, he had some meniscus taken care of. We decided we were going to try him back on offense and it was a significant factor. He's just a horse. He hurts people."
Williams had similar runs throughout the night. His smashmouth football helped Lenard Brown rush for 2 scores and 128 yards on 26 carries.
"I just can't give up. If I want something I'm going to get it," the senior Williams said. "I was just driving for the yards, they were not blowing the whistle so I kept getting yards. Coach wanted me to get back into the backfield he just wanted us to pound it down their throats."
Streamwood called a running play 55 times, gaining 267 yards on the ground.
"They've struggled certainly against the run and that's why we had to establish it against them," Cummins said.
Streamwood's first series of the game, a 12-play 61-yard drive, was capped by Brown's 2-yard run. Not a passing play was called on the drive and although quarterback Tyler Hendershot was precisely effective completing 8 of 9 passes for 128 yards, he, Brown, Williams, Kyle Strong (14 carries, 62 yards) were hard to stop.
"The line gave good blocking and I saw the holes open up," Brown said."We're trying to win our last two games, go hard at the end of the season. A lot of the seniors they wanted to leave a legacy for the juniors, so they were going hard. "
Elgin did its best to stay with the Sabres. After Blake Holder's 31-yard touchdown reception that made it 14-0 Streamwood with 1:41 left in the first half, the Maroons showed their muster. After quarterback Ryan Sitter was intercepted on the first play of the subsequent drive by Holder, Hendershot was intercepted by Jordan Smith at the Maroon 26 with 48.7 seconds left.
Then Sitter engineered a drive that was fueled by a 39-yard pass to Johnny Higgins down the left sideline and a 10-yard pass deep into the end zone to Dontrell Gaddy that made it 14-6. A 2-point conversion pass to Joe DeBrocke made it 14-8 heading into the half. Elgin couldn't continue that momentum when Streamwood orchestrated a 10-play, 65-yard drive which sucked up the first 5:15 of the third quarter that resulted in a 7-yard run for Brown. Elgin's next drive hit a wall when Kushtrim Berisha sacked Sitter on fourth-and-5 at the Sabre 35. Streamwood added another score on a 13-yard pass play from Hendershot to Kushtrim Berisha with 10:35 left in the fourth quarter to make it 27-8.
"They want to win, they want to do the right things, we've just got to make the plays when we can, not turn the ball over and stop the run," Maroons coach Dave Bierman said. "I was proud of how the way our kids played and the way they handled themselves with composure tonight."
Sitter was 5-for-15 for 91 yards and 2 picks, while Gaddy hauled in 2 catches for 17 yards. Sitter led the Maroons in rushing with 29 yards and Jaylen Clemons added 28 yards on 8 carries.