Phoenix runs through Orr, takes control of conference race

Phoenix running back Jose Alarcon picks up yardage against Orr. Allen Cunningham / For the Sun-Times.

Charles Powell has coached the Phoenix football team since the school opened in 2004. It’s hard to imagine all the trials and tribulations he’s been through building the program. Saturday at Orr he faced a unique one.

One of his players asked to leave in the third quarter to go to work. The Firebirds started the game with 22 players.

“I said go to work and don’t come back,” Powell said. “Here we are undefeated in the conference and he’s worried about making his money. We’re in a game, we may need you. It has to mean something to him.”

It’s a good thing for the Phoenix that running back Jose Alarcon didn’t need to go to work. The junior was the entire offensive show for the Firebirds. He had 20 carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns to lead Phoenix to a 21-6 win against the Spartans.

“Alarcon knows about grit,” Powell said.

All of Alarcon’s runs were right up the gut. Orr (4-2, 3-1 Chicago Second City) knew what was coming but couldn’t do anything to stop it. Phoenix didn’t complete a pass in the game and only attempted two.

“It’s hard taking all that punishment, but harder at first,” Alarcon said. “When I get into my rhythm I get more comfortable. Our goal is to get the defense tired. Then we won’t have to work as hard and the yardage will come.”

Alarcon busted through for a 45-yard touchdown run on the Firebirds’ second play of the game. He scored on a two-yard run with 7:06 to play in the game.

Orr quarterback James Mason was an eye-opening talent. The junior had 22 carries for 160 yards.

“I went over there to shake his hand,” Powell said. “That guy can play, he’s an athlete. I kept yelling to contain the quarterback but he was shaking everybody. He’s like a greased pig. You have to corral him like you catch a chicken. You go up at him you aren’t going to get him. His feet are too quick. He’s gone and ready to dodge the next guy.”

Mason also displayed a big arm, throwing a 70-yard pass in the first quarter to Glendon Goss.

Mason was driving the Spartans down to try and tie the score in the final two minutes, but Phoenix’s Terrance Craft intercepted his pass and returned it 80 yards for the win-sealing touchdown.

“I knew he liked to scramble a lot and then throw so I was making sure those receivers were covered just in case,” Craft said. “When I saw it go up I knew I had it. I thought I could do it when I saw the two big guys heading to block for me on the side. I really needed that. Then I knew I had the sideline by myself. The coaches always tell me that no one should catch me, so I used my wheels.”
Craft has scored in every game but the first of the season, a loss at Marmion.

“Craft also plays basketball,” Powell said. “He has the ACT score, has the right GPA. This is his first year ever playing football.”

The win puts Phoenix (5-1, 4-0) all alone in first place in the conference.

“We knew we had to win, this was the one,” Craft said. “There was a big weight on our shoulders today.”

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