South Elgin avenges Bartlett loss, finishes perfect season
South Elgin junior quarterback Ben Karpowicz wanted to add a different ending this season.
Karpowicz had last season's three-point loss to Bartlett seared into his memory throughout the long offseason.
After the coronavirus pandemic extended his offseason by several months, Karpowicz made sure to avoid a repeat of last season's performance.
In 2019, Bartlett scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to end South Elgin's undefeated season in the annual rivalry game.
"Last year I had two turnovers in that game," Karpowicz said. "I always felt I let some of the seniors down from last year that I was super close with as a sophomore, so in this game I wanted to come out here and get (the seniors) the win. It would've been terrible if it was on me again."
Karpowicz used any necessary method to avoid another loss to the Hawks on Friday night, running for 2 touchdowns and adding a touchdown pass to lift South Elgin to a 30-14 win at Millennium Field.
Before a big crowd, Karpowicz sparked the offense with his second-half running, scoring on a 1-yard leaping touchdown in the third and 12-yard run in the fourth. He tossed a 14-yard TD pass to lead the Storm (6-0) to an undefeated season, an Upstate Eight Conference title and end a two-game series losing skid to the Hawks.
Karpowicz, an Illinois State baseball recruit, steadied the Storm offense with several key runs to extend drives and a solid short-range passing game. He finished with 48 yards rushing and passed for 80 yards, with his 14-yard TD pass to sophomore wide receiver Mason Montgomery with 43.5 seconds left until halftime sparking the second-half surge. The Storm outscored the Hawks (5-1) 14-0 in the final two quarters.
"That was the drive that broke this game open," Karpowicz said of taking a 16-14 lead before halftime. "We were on the cusp of breaking it ... we were close. We needed to find that one play and formation that we could run the ball on it, and we found it on that drive and didn't let up and kept doing it. That was a big play by a sophomore on that touchdown."
Bartlett hurt itself with three second-half interceptions and ending two drives on downs, allowing Karpowicz to seize control of the game. Bartlett junior quarterback Jacob Scearce threw for 116 yards and a touchdown, with senior wide receiver Hayden Angell catching a 4-yard touchdown pass. Linebacker Bryce Kim had a fumble recovery that led to hook-and-ladder 23-yard run by James Knight in a wild first quarter to tie the game at 7-7.
But South Elgin's defense buckled down to end Bartlett's quest for a conference title.
"You can't be anything but proud of these young men and their character," Bartlett coach Matt Erlenbaugh said. "(Karpowicz) is a good player and we're going to see him again next year. He grew a lot from last year, being able to control the game and being able to hang onto the football."
South Elgin senior running back Davion Cherwin, somewhat fittingly, put his imprint all over the comeback victory. The Drake recruit had a key fourth-down tackle that led to a touchdown, intercepted a pass and scored on a 71-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. In total, he ran for 135 yards and collected 5 tackles.
"I saw an opening on the left and just outran everybody," Cherwin, a four-year starter, said of his touchdown. "I think that really pushed us from the momentum part of it to win this game. I'm just glad to help my team win. It feels amazing, to know I went out my senior year with a bang."