Phillips, Simeon, Curie, Raby and Solorio are among a handful of teams that have begun to change the perception of Public League football around the state.
If Week 1 is any indication, there may be another school earning some football respect. Kenwood pulled off the most surprising upset of Week 1. The Broncos knocked off Fenwick, a perennial state playoff qualifier.
The Broncos want to be known as the Public League’s “creeper team,” a program on the rise. But they know the win over Fenwick has put a target on their back in the Public League this season.
“It was a big victory,” said Kenwood cornerback Mark Aitken. “We knew they were going to be a hard team to beat. We don’t change our lineup based on who we are playing. We just lineup in formations that beats what the other team does best.”
The Broncos scored 20 unanswered points after falling behind early against the Friars. Aitken had two interceptions and a 60-yard kickoff return.
“When they passed, we played a lot of cover 1 and cover 3,” Aitken said. “We were big and tough up front. We really should’ve shut them out though.”
Kenwood, which plays in the Illini Prairie State, won just three games last season.
Coach Sinque Turner is the force behind the Broncos’ rebuilding effort. He took over last season after leading the reboot of Westinghouse’s program the previous four years.
Turner was an All-City standout at Simeon. He sees the victory over Fenwick as the first step in what he hopes will be a comeback season.
“Our kids have an attitude of ‘Why not us?,’” Turner said. “What do they have that we don’t have at Kenwood? We can compete on the same field as those guys. These kids are savvy. They know how to respond to adversity.”
Kenwood was young last season, but this is a senior-led group. Standouts include Aitken, quarterback Denzel Stephens, athlete Amari Brooks, and lineman Jackson Charlton-Perrin, a transfer from Mount Carmel. Many of them have Division 2 offers and interest from FBS schools.
Aitken, a Northern Illinois recruit, said that Turner had to win over the team in order to succeed. He says the team has their coach’s back now.
“At first, no one trusted or believed in him,” Aitken said “It was tough. We had a lot of seniors that weren’t buying in. It was a hard season. Through offseason training and 7-on-7 drills, we grew as a team. We know he has our best interests, so we play as hard for him as we would for us.”
Aitken and his teammates say they are ready for what the rest of the season may bring. The goal is to be mentioned alongside the Public League’s top football programs.
“We’re expecting everyone’s best game,” Aitken said. “I saw on Twitter that players and coaches from other teams were surprised we won. They will give their best effort every time, so we have to be prepared.”
The next test for the Broncos is on Friday. Kenwood faces Lincoln Park, another of the Public League’s upstart football programs, at 7:15 at Lane.
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