Looking to move on after a disappointing performance in Week 1 against Wilmington, Evergreen Park sophomore QB Devin Turner had a rough start in Week 2 against Leo.
On the first play from scrimmage, a fumble was called on a Turner run although he appeared to hit the ground well before the ball came out. Leo promptly scored an aerial TD on its first play.
However, Turner didn’t let that one play define this game.
Throwing for 3 TD and rushing for another, Turner went on to lead host Evergreen Park (EP) to a 28-20 nonconference victory on Sept. 6 over Leo.
“You’ve got to shake it off. We still had a whole game to play,” Turner said. “You get right back in there, keep your head and play hard.”
Shut out at Wilmington in Week 1, Turner struggled, throwing for just 76 yards and 3 interceptions. However, he turned things around against Leo, finishing 9 for 17 passing for 110 yards and 3 TD and rushing for 63 yards and a TD.
Turner connected with senior Sean Wilkinson for 2 TD (17 and 30 yards) and junior Matt Walsh (7 yards) on the TD passes.
“I had to step up as a leader,” Turner said. “I had to be more productive on the offensive side of the ball and get the offense in the game. I needed to be the QB, the field general and help my guys score some points.”
Tied at 14 in the third quarter, the Mustangs appeared to stall deep in Leo territory. But on fourth and 19 at the Lions’ 30-yard line, Turner stepped up in the pocket under pressure and delivered a beautiful pass to Wilkinson on the right sideline.
Wilkinson went up to reel in the pass, toe-tapping his feet for the score as EP went up 21-14 on Nolan Bruce’s PAT with 9:06 remaining in the third.
“We were able to read their corners. They were in man, and we knew the wheel route would be open,” Wilkinson said. “It was a beautiful play for Devin to step up in the pocket. I trusted the throw, and Devin trusted me to get it.”
Wilkinson finished with 4 catches for 63 yards. He added an interception on defense to close the first half.
Sophomore running back James Williams had 102 rushing yards on 17 carries.
With an abundance of sophomores seeing significant playing time, EP Coach Jerry Verde said his young Mustangs are a work in progress.
“Devin’s confidence built as the game went on. We’ll have a lot of that this year with all the sophomores we have on the field,” Verde said. “There are growing pains, but what you can’t teach is resilience. This group showed that resilience tonight.”
Junior David Smith added an interception on defense for EP. Verde also credited Wilkinson, Williams, Mike Torres and Dylan Kulovitz for their strong play defensively. Javon Bynum delivered a timely sack late in the fourth quarter.
Derrick Chobot, Bynum, Sean Johnson and Chris Gatewood anchored the defensive line that bottled up Leo’s ground game. The Lions were held to 68 rushing yards on 25 carries.
EP (1-1) will host Oak Lawn (0-2) in Week 3.
For the Lions, sophomore QB James E’Akels finished 14 for 24 for 185 yards, 2 TD and 2 interceptions. He connected with Tobias Sample on a 34-yard strike and Rayion Davidson on a 30-yard score.
Leo (1-1) was undone by 14 penalties.
“Penalties get you every time,” said Leo Coach Michael Holmes. “We didn’t make some plays, and the penalties killed us. That’s youth; young guys get excited and lose their focus.”
Leo will travel to St. Patrick next week for its league opener, and Holmes said the Lions learned some things against the Mustangs.
“Games like this make us better playing in an intense game,” Holmes said. “You never want to lose, but you’d rather figure things out early. The Catholic League will be a grind, but I think we’ll be up for it.”