Basketball players fuel North Lawndale’s football resurgence

North Lawndale's David Forrest (10) runs for his second touchdown against Ag. Science. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

North Lawndale’s football program was on the brink of collapse this summer. It’s difficult for most Public League teams to find enough players in August, school hasn’t even started yet. Things are even worse following a winless season.

“It was looking shaky,” North Lawndale coach Dedric DeWalt said. “I had five or six guys on the team. We were on verge of closing the program. Then I met with the basketball coaches and they got behind us. The basketball players are popular, so when they showed up a lot of other kids that should have been playing all along came out.”

Thursday at Gately the basketball players proved they are more than just recruiters, leading the Phoenix to a 30-8 victory against Ag. Science.

David Forrest, a standout basketball player, caught two touchdown passes. The first was for 34 yards, the second for 50. Most of those yards came after the catch.

“I don’t like being tackled,” Forrest said. “So I just run.”

Junior quarterback Marquise Earskines is also a basketball player. He finished 5-for-9 for 129 yards with two touchdown passes.

“I missed football,” Earskines said. “I played when I was little and then I stopped. They had a bad season last year and we knew if we played we could make things better. Now everybody at school is behind the team, they all support it.”

Rayion Williams led North Lawndale’s running game with five carries for 87 yards including a 17-yard touchdown.

“[Earskines, Williams and Forrest] are the difference between this year and last year,” DeWalt said. “They were playing basketball when they should have been out here on the football field with me. North Lawndale has a lot of talent in the school, it is just a matter of getting them to come out and play and that is happening now so we have a chance to build up the program.”

Ag. Science was shut out by Evergreen Park in Week 1 but started the game strong. The Cyclones (0-2) needed just eight plays to score on their game-opening drive and led 8-0 after a two-yard run by quarterback Elijah Jones.

“We were very low on energy to start the game,” DeWalt said. “I could tell in warmups. As they saw what was going on we made adjustments. It is all about belief with these guys. Once they start to believe they can do it.”

Jones finished with six rushes for 35 yards. Ag Science senior running back Jelani Montgomery is a load. The big, stocky back led the Cyclones with 97 yards on 12 carries. Ag. Science wasn’t able to get anything going in the passing game.

The Phoenix (2-0) played in the rugged Illini Red Bird conference last season and finished 0-9. Things should go better this season. They have the basketball players and dropped down to the Chicago Big Shoulders conference.

“Last year we had sophomores and freshmen playing against Simeon and Curie,” DeWalt said. “We didn’t play with excitement last year because a lot of our kids were defeated getting off the bus. The basketball guys give us an infusion of talent. The mentality this year is a lot different. We have momentum and excitement.”

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