Super 25 countdown: Simeon*** TAGS - Simeon High School, Curie High School, Football *** 09-23-10 Rockne Stadium, 1117 S. Central Ave., Chicago - Simeon's Robert Gregory rushes for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. - John J. Kim/Sun-Times
Updated: August 20, 2011 4:59PM
Last fall, Simeon coach Dante Culbreath showed his team a highlight film of a year that included an unbeaten regular season, a win over Mount Carmel at Soldier Field and the program’s deepest playoff run since 1992.
But senior linebacker Shaquille Joyner couldn’t get past the unhappy ending: a 17-14 loss to Lake Zurich in the Class 7A quarterfinals.
“It had me in tears,” Joyner said. “When we lost, it was a down moment for our team. ... It left a bitter taste in our mouth.”
It also left the Wolverines, ranked sixth in the Sun-Times’ preseason Super 25, hungry to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke and that a Public League team can win a state title. No city school has done that in the 37-year history of the IHSA playoffs, and only one — Robeson in 1982 — even made it to the title game.
Take that history and the fact that Simeon graduated five Division I recruits from that 11-1 team, and you might wonder if expectations have been lowered this fall. Not so much, according to Joyner.
“Most people think we lost it because of all of our kids who are gone,” he said. “We have the biggest ‘X’ on our back ever. Everybody’s coming for us. [But] we’re going to shock the world again.”
The Wolverines still are well-stocked with talent even after losing offensive lineman Chris Bryant (Michigan) among others. Back to run the offense is senior quarterback Robert Gregory, who passed for 28 touchdowns and ran for 15 more last season. The 6-3, 195-pounder’s numerous scholarship offers include ones from Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.
Though Bryant is gone, the Wolverines have another big-timer back on the offensive line in 6-6, 300-pounder Jordan Diamond. Among the 20-plus schools who have offered scholarships to Diamond are most of the Big Ten, Miami, Florida State and Tennessee. Like Gregory, he wants to improve by “getting faster and more explosive. You can’t get too fast.”
Though running back Horactio Banks and receivers Darius Scott and Demarius Reed are gone, there are some other potential playmakers to help Gregory shoulder the offensive load. Among them: senior back Thomas Burton, junior back Sharoid Roach and senior receiver Cywettnie Brown.
The Wolverines are more experienced on defense, where the returnees include Joyner and safety Thomas Burton, who is getting looks from several MAC schools. And keep an eye out for Jabaree Winston and Aaron Banks, converted basketball players who should contribute in the secondary, along with linebacker Reggie Spearman.
Whether the Wolverines can make another deep playoff run is not a question Culbreath wants to answer. “As a team we haven’t talked about expectations,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is get fundamentally sound and teach these young men good sound fundamental football.”
If that happens, Joyner and his teammates could be smiling instead of crying when this season’s done.