Marquise Lightfoot, Kenwood’s Miami-bound edge rusher, was injured in the first quarter of the first game of the season.
The Broncos lost that game to Lincoln-Way East and then lost to St. Rita in Week 2. Very quickly, their preseason ranking was gone and all the hype around the team disappeared.
Lightfoot returned on Saturday in Kenwood’s 40-21 victory against Taft at Lane Stadium.
The 6-5, 220-pound senior is one of the top 100 players in the country. And he isn’t just a prospect. He’s a dominant high school player.
The plan was for Lightfoot to play one half and get some game action before the Broncos’ showdown against Morgan Park on Saturday. That’s the biggest Public League game of the season.
But Taft kept the game too close. The Eagles trailed 21-14 at halftime.
“We were struggling a little bit against Taft’s power running game,” Kenwood coach Sinque Turner said. “They did a real good job executing it. But Marquise’s presence just gave us a spark overall defensively in the second half.”
Every time Taft quarterback Logan Roman turned around, Lightfoot was bearing down on him. The sophomore showed some potential but ended up throwing four interceptions. He was 5-for-15 for 76 yards with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Jayden Harris.
“[Roman] was slippery,” Lightfoot said. “I had a lot of missed opportunities. I’m still trying to get my feet wet. I’ll get better as the season goes on.”
Junior Demaje Williams had two interceptions. Aariz Taylor had one and Jacob Bickham returned his interception 40 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter for the Broncos.
“It was an amazing lift to get Lightfoot back,” Williams said. “He’s an anchor. We are just so improved with him out there.”
Kenwood’s other major college recruit, wide receiver I’Marion Stewart, had two catches. The Michigan recruit made a devastating impact with both short passes. He turned the first into a 60-yard TD and the second into a 79-yard TD.
“He’s everything that is advertised,” Turner said. “It’s been a little hard to get the ball to him in the past. We have so many guys we are trying to find a balance where everyone can eat. I’Marion took advantage of his opportunities today.”
Junior Brian Searcy had two rushing touchdowns in the second half to help seal the win for Kenwood (4-2, 4-0 Red). Quarterback NaCari McFarland was 7-for-11 for 187 yards and two touchdowns.
Taft (3-3, 3-1) entered on a three-game winning streak. The Eagles’ defense did a solid job aside from allowing three big plays. Roman flashed potential. The sophomore has been starting at quarterback all season.
“He’s done real well for us so far but at the end of the day this is his sixth start,” Taft coach Zach Elder said. “We are down some guys with grades and injuries, etc. So we were trying to slow it down as much as possible.”
Junior Jaiden Padilla had 18 carries for 70 yards and a TD. Junior Stephen Carrera added 15 carries for 73 yards and a TD for the Eagles.
“We were able to get the run established and found something that worked,” Elder said. “But they are good. They have guys. Lightfoot being back was obviously big.”