Noah Malone

Morgan Park High School senior linebacker Noah Malone (5) and a host of Mustangs bottle up a Simeon running back during a fourth-quarter play. (Review photo)

Despite a valiant fourth-down stand and a big-time rushing touchdown late in the game, Morgan Park (MPHS) came up a bit short against rival Simeon in the Chicago Public League championship.

However, the Mustangs still enjoyed plenty of positives this season, especially considering where the team was just a year ago.

Playing at Gately Stadium on Nov. 22, MPHS lost to Simeon 30-16 in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

“Definitely positives, the next year of Morgan Park football should be great,” said senior Noah Malone. “We came in and set the standard. We went 3-6 last year and turned it around this year going 7-5. The future is bright. The young guys understand.”

MPHS (7-5) last won a Chicago Public League title in 2007 and last won a Prep Bowl championship in 2005. Simeon advanced to play host St. Laurence on Nov. 29 in the 2019 Prep Bowl.

The Mustangs had an up-and-down campaign, including a 2-3 start to the year. The team’s playoff hopes were almost derailed by the Chicago Teachers Union strike, but MPHS earned a playoff bid.

The Mustangs missed the state playoffs in 2018, snapping a streak of 18 straight playoff trips.

“These guys bought in and worked hard,” Malone said. “We worked our butts off, and everyone understood what we were supposed to do. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but I’m happy for the next class of Morgan Park football.”

Opening the fourth quarter, MPHS forced a turnover on downs when the defense held off a Simeon run on fourth-and-one from the Wolverines’ 20-yard line.

The Mustangs scored on the first play of the next drive, senior Deshun Britten bouncing his way off the defense for a 20-yard TD run to bring MPHS within a score at 22-16.

“I wasn’t surprised Simeon went for it,” Malone said. “They were getting that push against us, but as a team, we took a stand. It couldn’t happen anymore. We rallied together and put everything out on the field to make that play. It didn’t work for them.”

Needing another stop late, MPHS couldn’t slow up Simeon as the Wolverines marched 59 yards for a score on a drive that ate up almost 7 minutes.

The Mustangs couldn’t answer and turned the ball over on downs.

Senior Napoleon Williams had a rushing TD in the second quarter. The MPHS defense also delivered a safety late in the first half.

A Morgan Park touchdown was called back in the second quarter because of an offensive facemask penalty.

However, Malone offered no excuses for the tough loss but embraced the lessons.

“Always work harder,” Malone said. “No one cares if you’re sad or sulking. It’s all on you to keep pushing forward no matter the adversity. Just push forward and persevere.”

To reach the CPS title game, MPHS rebounded with wins over Perspectives and Taft after losing to East St. Louis in the Class 6A state playoffs.