On a damp and dreary Saturday afternoon in Melrose Park, the clouds actually parted for Immaculate Conception's football team.
Breaking a three-game losing streak, the Knights became playoff eligible by rolling to a 55-13 win over Walther Lutheran. With a Week 9 win over Chicago Christian, the Knights (5-3, 3-3) can clinch a playoff berth and complete a four-game sweep of their Suburban Christian Gold opponents.
"I think (the last three weeks) brought us closer together as a team," said Knights junior Clark Brinkman. "The adversity brought all the players together, all the coaches together. We know what we have to do to carry on. We really stepped up today and executed well."
Saturday's effort stood in complete contrast to Immaculate Conception's prior three weeks against state-ranked teams. The Knights fell to Marian Central Catholic (8-0), top-ranked in Class 5A, Montini (6-2), No. 4 in 5A, and Aurora Christian (7-1), No. 1 in Class 3A, leading up to the Walther Lutheran (2-6, 2-4) game.
With the grass surface already a bit torn up by the sophomore game, both sides primary focused on running the ball. Despite 5 fumbles, two turned over to the Broncos, Immaculate Conception still plowed for 426 rushing yards on 40 carries.
The nearly 11 yards a carry came mainly between the tackles as the Knights' dominant offensive line simply overpowered Walther Lutheran.
"Especially this week we decided it was time for the line to step up," said Knights left guard Adalberto Suarez. "The double-teams were good, the single blocks were good, and we were getting up to second level."
Randy Leslie, Danny D'Angelo, Genard Bell, and quarterbacks Demetrius Carr and Brinkman each scored rushing touchdowns, while Jack Copher ripped the ball from a defender on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Carr.
Brinkman finished a 28-point second quarter with a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown that sent the Knights to halftime with a 35-0 lead. Two fourth-quarter touchdowns by Walther Lutheran, including a 97-yard kick return by Najee Toomer, sliced into a 55-0 deficit.
"This does make us feel better," Suarez said. "This was a good week for us to come back strong by putting up a good number of points and not giving up too many on defense. It gives us some of that pride back that we might have lost the last three weeks. But we also know there's a lot of room for improvement."
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