By David Berry
As the Westinghouse Warriors football team celebrated its 22-8 homecoming victory over Michelle Clark Prep in the middle of the field last Saturday, Oct. 10, two players managed to slip away from jubilation.
They went to grab a Gatorade cooler, filled with cold water that was used to hydrate the players during the game, to empty its chilled contents on the head of Warriors coach Sinque Turner.
Westinghouse's win over Clark was significant in a number of ways. It clinched the Warriors' spot in the Illinois state playoffs for the second consecutive season. It also moves the team one game closer to clinching the Chicago Second City Conference championship. The fact that the win came on homecoming in front of so many students, teachers and alumni made it that much sweeter.
"The guys, they stayed with it and they stayed tough," Turner said when asked how his team was able to defeat Clark. "They executed the game plan. They filled the gaps and they set the edge. We put ourselves in a hole a couple of times. But ultimately, the guys did a great job."
This has been quite a turnaround for Turner, now in his third season as Westinghouse's head coach. In his first year, the Warriors went 1-8 as members of the Illini Land of Lincoln Conference (Illini is known as the top tier of Chicago Public League football and the Chicago is second).
In 2014, Westinghouse moved down to the Chicago Second City and finished in second place in the conference, winding up with a 7-3 record.
Everything seems to have built up to this season for Westinghouse, whose only loss came in the season opener to rival Westside school Al Raby, a team that is 5-2. The Warriors have a senior quarterback in Kyle Samojla, who passed and ran for a touchdown against Clark.
Surrounding Samojla are plenty of offensive playmakers. Senior running back Kylen Williams ran for over 100 yards and a score against Clark. Junior wide receiver/defensive back Devon Myles caught Samojla's touchdown pass for the first score of the game and also had an interception against Clark.
Despite jumping out to a 16-0 lead before halftime, Westinghouse had to hold on as Clark scored and had a few other opportunities to make the game closer before Williams' fourth quarter touchdown put the game out of reach in the Warriors' favor.
"Normally we start the game off kind of slow and then we pick up the pace," Williams said. "But today we came out hard and finished hard."
The team is relatively young, with eight seniors out of a reported 36 players on Westinghouse's roster on MaxPreps. That bodes well for the Warriors' future beyond this season, but the team is ready to end this regular season on a high note and make noise in the state playoffs.
Westinghouse's last two regular season games come against Orr and at Manley. Who they play in the playoffs is still a mystery, but they want a chance to improve on last year's showing — a 55-0 loss to suburban Sycamore in the first round of the playoffs.
"We made it this far last year," Turner said. "We made it to the first round of the state playoffs and we got eliminated. By us getting granted to bump up (from the Chicago to Illini division), it will give us that city playoff berth, too. So we got a lot to work for. State — that's all I've been preaching to these guys. State playoffs. Nobody wants to get eliminated in the first round. Have a good season like you're having and then it's done after one game."
No game's outcome is guaranteed, but Turner and his team feel confident about the end of the regular season. While Orr has a 5-2 record, they lost to Clark 30-0 earlier this season. It's all about Westinghouse taking care of its own business at this point.
As for Turner's Gatorade shower — that was all in love. Myles and the rest of the Warriors have nothing but admiration for their head coach.
"We just wanted to show appreciation for our coach," Myles said, explaining the water shower from the Gatorade cooler. "And let him know that we love what he's doing for us. We're trying to bump him up a conference, since we didn't win it last year."
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