DOWNERS GROVE – If the game of football can teach life lessons, then Le’Devin Smith and his Downers Grove South teammates learned an important one Friday night.
Don’t look too far ahead and take care of the task at hand.
With a key West Suburban Gold conference matchup with Hinsdale South looming, Smith and the Mustangs had their hands full with Proviso East in the first half before emerging with a 29-14 homecoming win.
“We just decided not to overlook our opponent. That was the biggest thing,” Smith said. “Knowing that we were supposed to come in and win, I think we kind of let up. But then we saw that they weren’t going to give up, so we had to do what we had to do.”
An Alec Arvanitakis 3-yard run and Javon Turner’s 41-yard catch on the final play of the first quarter staked the Mustangs (5-3 overall, 5-0 WSG) to a 14-0 lead, but the Pirates (0-8, 0-5) never went away. The visitors made it a 14-8 game early in the second quarter. After Smith sauntered untouched for a 24-yard score that made it 20-8, the Pirates cut it to 20-14 with a third quarter drive that trimmed nearly six minutes off the clock.
“We came out flat, but the defense made some big turnovers,” Turner said. “We’re going to have to learn from this one and step it up for next week.”
The Mustangs’ defense forced seven Proviso turnovers. Deandre Washington’s second interception eventually led to Max Soderlund’s 29-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. Turner had a goal line interception on the Pirates’ next drive. Rashaun Cowan caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Skach late in the game.
Dezrad Jenkins recovered two fumbles, Jacob Baker had a fumble recovery, and Caleb Konney forced a fumble that Mike Connolly recovered.
The win maintained South’s standing at the top of the WSG with rival Hinsdale South coming to town Friday night. The Hornets are fighting for their playoff lives and South expects to get their best effort.
“We’re taking it as a [conference] championship [game],” Smith said. “We know we’re undefeated in conference and they’re only one game away from us, so we’re going in focused for the last conference game and trying to make it into the playoffs.”
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win the conference,” head coach Mark Molinari said. “Right now we’re 5-0 in conference and we want to finish it off.”