NORMAL — Helping his Normal West High School team overcome three lost fumbles, a couple of scoreless drives and a halftime deficit, senior C.J. Davis had a concise explanation for his effort Saturday.
“Just giving my all, that’s it,” said Davis, whose "all" consisted of 22 carries for 160 yards and four touchdowns that powered the No. 8-ranked and No. 5-seeded Wildcats to a 43-30 victory over Blue Island Eisenhower in a Class 6A first-round playoff game at West.
“We were just trying to come out here and do our thing for the seniors. I’m a senior, so I’m really proud of ourselves. We’re just going to keep playing.”
West improved to 8-2 and advanced to a second round road game against New Lenox Providence, a 31-12 upset winner over Oak Lawn Richards on Friday. Eisenhower finished its season 6-4 after a third straight loss.
“Eisenhower’s a tough team. They have a great running back and they’re really good up front, so we had our hands full,” said West coach Darren Hess, whose team piled up 367 rushing yards behind seven different ball carriers. “We just had to match their energy and I thought we did that the second half. I’m proud of our kids’ effort.”
Junior Adriel Fussell added 93 yards on 11 carries for the Wildcats, while sophomore quarterback Carson Camp completed 10 of 14 passes for 171 yards, including a 32-yard TD to sophomore tight end Cole Hernandez.
Star senior running back Tim Baity provided the bulk of the Cardinals’ offense with 27 carries for 113 yards and one score. Hilel Anjorin had a pair of TD runs out of a wildcat formation and quarterback Scotty Gardner Jr. also scored on a 1-yard sneak.
“He’s the heart and soul of our team, the epitome of what we call a fighting Cardinal,” Eisenhower coach Travis Moore said of Baity, who entered with 1,300 rushing yards. “He’s what you want in a football player, and he’s also a great student and a great leader. Unfortunately, this ride came to an end.”
West wound up ahead in the turnover margin by intercepting Gardner’s last four passes, with Armani Forrest claiming the first two and running the second back 35 yards for a score that made it 36-17 early in the fourth. Nate Farris’ pick of a fourth-down heave with six minutes left deflated the Cardinals and Tre Matthews snared a desperation pass in the final seconds.
“Basically we just read the keys and did our jobs to win the game,” said Farris.
West lost its first fumble on the second play from scrimmage, but the defense forced the Cardinals to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Luis Torres. The Wildcats took their first lead on a 7-yard Davis run early in the second quarter and Camp’s toss to a wide open Hernandez over the middle made it 14-3.
But a big kick return put Eisenhower in good position and Baity’s 12-yard run cut the gap to 14-9 after the Wildcats blocked the PAT kick. West’s second turnover set up a 4-yard Anjorin run and his conversion run gave the Cardinals a 17-14 lead at the break, despite West holding a 254-109 advantage in total offense.
Davis and the Wildcats kicked into gear after halftime. His 2-yard score capped an 11-play drive to start the third and he added a 1-yard dive to finish a seven-play drive aided by three personal foul penalties on the Cardinals.
After Forrest’s pick six, Myshaun Guest ran the kickoff back to the West 10 to set up Gardner’s 2-yard sneak that made it 36-23. The third West fumble set up Anjorin’s 12-yard scamper that pulled the Cardinals within a touchdown.
But after Farris’ interception, Davis erased any doubt with nine straight runs totaling 49 yards, with the last being a 1-yard TD plunge with 30 seconds on the clock.
“I have a lot of heart and I’m just going to go out there and give 110 percent every time I get the ball,” he said.