Zach Anderson, Cortez Savage lead Payton past Kenwood in a wild one

Payton's Cortez Savage (35) runs past the defense. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
Payton's Cortez Savage (35) runs past the defense. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Payton senior Zach Anderson has been waiting for a tough, back and forth game all season. Friday at Gately his wish came true and the result came down to him.

Anderson’s extra point with a minute to play provided the winning margin in the biggest victory in Grizzlies history.

“My foot was shaking a little bit, I’m not going to lie,” Anderson said. “Especially after I missed the first one. Just a great moment.”

Kenwood drove down the field and had a couple chances to score at the end but Payton held on for a 43-42 win to clinch an undefeated regular season and the Illini Prairie State title.

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“[Kenwood] had a guy in the end zone with the ball in his hands at the end,” Payton coach George Klupchak said. “We were just very fortunate it popped out.”

Anderson doesn’t just kick for the Grizzlies (9-0, 5-0). He plays safety, running back and wide receiver. He had 18 carries for 84 yards and one touchdown and caught three passes for 27 yards and one touchdown.

“Week after week [Anderson] says he wants to be in a game where it is a battle,” Klupchak said. “He relishes this. He’d like a game like this every week. He’s given the rest of our team the mindset that this is what football is.”

Damien Goodman, Payton’s starting running back, is out for the season with an injury so junior Cortez Savage started for the first time.

He runs like a truck. Savage had 32 carries for 196 yards and four touchdowns.

“Everyone was looking at me to step up and I didn’t want to disappoint,” Savage said.

Savage’s eight-yard touchdown run with 1:00 left tied the score at 42.

“He came out and ran hard and made plays when there wasn’t anything there,” Klupchak said. “He’s incredibly resilient and a special young man. He’s definitely overcome a lot and he came out here and put on a show tonight. It was fun to watch.”

Payton quarterback Sage Shindler was 7-for-8 for 45 yards and one touchdown. The Grizzlies turned the ball over three times and gave up several big plays to Kenwood (8-1, 4-1) but in the end they overcame all the mistakes.

“There were a lot of ups and downs,” Anderson said. “This is the first game where we really had to grind it out and we responded amazingly. I’m so proud of everyone.”

Kenwood quarterback Denzel Stephens had six carries for 101 yards. He scored on a 22-yard run and a 65-yard run and threw a 67-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Jones to tie the game at 36 with 6:54 to play.

Kenwood senior Mark Aitken busted loose for a 60-yard touchdown with 4:55 to play that put the Broncos ahead 42-36.

“I would have liked us to stop the ball more,” Kenwood coach Sinque Turner said. “Payton has a great offense. We hard a hard time adjusting to the power stuff they were running.”

It was wild game with seven lead changes.

“Payton’s coaches did a tremendous job,” Turner said. “They played hard and our guys matched it. We wanted it real bad but we just came up short.”

Both teams have qualified for the state playoffs. Payton will likely be a No. 2 seed in Class 5A and host a first round game. Kenwood is a Class 6A team. The Broncos will also probably be seeded high enough to host a playoff game next weekend.

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