Downers Grove South clinches share of West Suburban Gold championship

With its 0-3 start to the season long forgotten, Downers Grove South got to celebrate a pair of noteworthy accomplishments Friday night.

Capturing their fifth win in a row with a 37-14 road victory over Morton, the Mustangs clinched a share of the program's first West Suburban Gold title since 2013 while punching their ticket to the postseason for a third straight year.

Deon Davis played a staring role for the visitors, rushing for 153 yards and a high school-high 4 touchdowns.

"This feels great and it's something we are all excited about," said Davis, who once scored 8 TDs in a youth game. "We kept our heads up after those first three games. We knew the rest of our games would be battles too.

"Everything I do, I do it for our seniors. They are the ones who lead our team."

Davis scored on runs of 4, 10 and 2 yards in the first half and added an 8-yard score late in the third quarter.

"Our O-line was just great," Davis said. "They've been doing better and better every year. Most of our guys, we have a lot of returners upfront and they worked their butts off in the off-season and during the summer. They were the heart of the offense tonight."

Quarterback Ryan Dawson tossed a 51-yard touchdown to Joey Portell and finished 4 of 7 for 105 yards. Jaden Palmer also kicked a 25-yard field goal as time expired to make the score 24-0 at halftime.

Mack O'Halloran ran for 45 yards on four carries while also leading a defensive unit that held the home Mustangs to two first downs in the first 24 minutes.

"When we came in as freshmen, we saw that 2013 was the last time we had won conference," O'Halloran said. "When we sat down as a freshman team, we knew we wanted to be the guys that would change that. It's great to share this with all of the guys and our coaches. It feels great."

O'Halloran said trust was the key to overcoming their slow start.

"It was about trusting each other and the process," the senior said, "and what the coaches were teaching us. And not giving up.

"This feels amazing, but we aren't done. We've been 5-4 going into the playoffs the last couple of years and we want to change that. We want a home playoff game in front of our fans, whether that is in Week 1 or Week 2. We want to make some noise in the playoffs."

Downers Grove South (5-3, 5-0) will secure the outright league title with a win over Leyden next week.

"These seniors deserve it," Downers Grove South coach Mark Molinari said. "We played a lot of sophomores during the COVID season so this is our third year with them. You kind of envision when they are seniors that you will have a good team. They are very well deserving, they are a hardworking group.

"We took some lumps in those first three games, but we still had some goals and one of those was to win conference. Another one is to win a playoff game, we haven't done that since 2011. We are excited to get an opportunity to do that."

Morton (3-5, 3-2) scored on the final play of the third quarter, getting a 9-yard TD run from Jeremiah Jones, who gained 56 yards on 9 attempts. QB Julian Hernandez later found Tyler Nichols for a 2-yard touchdown and finished 9 of 18 through the air for 130 yards. Leon Kelsick caught 5 passes for 52 yards.

The Mustangs, whose playoff hopes were dashed with losses to Riverside-Brookfield and Hinsdale South by a combined 17 points, wrap up the season against Willowbrook.

"This is a great group of kids," coach Bob Organ said. "We are looking to finish strong next week. We will keep fighting, that's what we do. These kids persevere, they don't quit. They are resilient.

"The bottom line tonight, physically we got beat. We talked all week, it was going to be a physical game. They just got us. They are a good football team, led by O'Halloran. He's a monster, he is fun to watch."

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