Sandwich makes winning return to varsity football, pulls away in the second half to beat Manteno

Simeion Harris rushes for 178 yards and two TDs in 34-14 win, program’s first since 2019

Sandwich Simeion Harris (1) carries the ball against Manteno during a football game at Sandwich High School on Saturday, Aug 26, 2023.

SANDWICH – It’s been a while, a long while for Sandwich varsity football fans.

After enduring the Covid pandemic with no victories, to last season when the program couldn’t field an upper level team, the Indians hadn’t won a varsity contest since October 18, 2019 when they beat Ottawa 44-25 on Senior Night.

That exasperating drought finally ended Saturday afternoon – in a big way. Sandwich piled up a whopping 430 yards of total offense, all on the ground without the aid of a pass, to subdue non-conference foe Manteno 34-14 on its home turf.

“I’m so proud of all the players, proud of the coaches, and proud of the community for sticking with us and believing in us throughout the last few tough years,” Sandwich veteran coach Kris Cassie said. “It truly feels amazing right now. This is Sandwich football as people remember it and we’re back and I couldn’t be happier with a great win to open a new season and an exciting vision for the future of this program.”

That vision starts with a relentless Wing-T running approach that saw junior wingback Simeion Harris lead the way with 18 carries, 178 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

“We put it all on the field today and we’ve showed it in practice that we’re all a family and want to show our fans and each other that Sandwich football is back on track,” Harris said. “It was a special win for sure today.”

Sandwich Parker Anderson (40) carries the ball against Manteno during a football game at Sandwich High School on Saturday, Aug 26, 2023.

Harris received some fine help from his backfield mates. Sophomore Nick Michalek carried 14 times for 119 yards, senior fullback Parker Anderson toted the rock 12 times for 68 yards and two scores while junior Diego Gomez rushed 16 times while racking up 63 yards as the Sandwich quad couldn’t be stopped by the Panthers.

“That’s what we do and our running attack was great today and we expect that,” Cassie said. “We need to clean some things up, though, because we had four turnovers that may have turned into more points if we hadn’t have made them. But I’ll take a 1-0 to start the season after so long without a varsity win.”

After an extended drive early in the first quarter the Indians coughed the ball up deep in Manteno territory.

The Panthers then embarked on a 10-play, 93-yard drive that culminated when quarterback Connor Harrod (16 passes, 203 yards, 2 TD) hit wideout Ashton Brazeau with a five-yard scoring strike at 1:07 to put the visitors ahead 7-0.

But Sandwich countered with its own long march that spanned 7:07 between the first and second periods.

The Indians controlled the ball for 15 plays and 69 yards as Harris rambled in from seven yards out at the 6:00 mark to tie the score 7-7 after junior Nate Hill’s point after kick was true.

“It was my first varsity touchdown and I thank my team for helping me get my first,” Harris said. “We still had a lot of work to do from there.”

Sandwich seemed poised to score again, but a second turnover thwarted that. The Panthers then moved onto the doorstep of their second touchdown after reaching the Indians’ 4-yard line with 1:10 to go in the half.

But senior lineman Harley Perry intercepted a batted ball at the line of scrimmage as the two teams would ride out the half deadlocked in a tie.

Sandwich Caleb Jones (14) tackles Manteno's Kyle McCullough (4) after the catch during a football game at Sandwich High School on Saturday, Aug 26, 2023.

After the break, Michalek took the first play of the third quarter and raced 57 yards around the right side for an apparent score. But a penalty brought the ball back to the 23-yard line. There, Harris would take a toss from sophomore quarterback Brady Behringer and roll 23 yards to the house at 11:39 to give Sandwich a quick 14-7 lead into the new half.

“I thought we scored, but after the penalty we got another chance and I wanted to take advantage of it,” Harris said. “The line blocked for me pretty good and I did what I needed to do to score.”

Manteno quickly matched the Indians when Harrod hit Porter Chandler with a 57-yard scoring strike at 10:48 to tie the game again at 14-14.

However on the ensuing Sandwich possession Harris reeled off a 57-yard run that put the Indians in great shape. Anderson capped off a monster 94-yard drive with a two-yard blast at 4:02 that put the home squad ahead 21-14 entering the final frame.

There, junior linebacker Caleb Jones picked off Harrod for a 24-yard interception return for a score that put Sandwich on top 27-14.

“I was covering my man and I saw that I had a shot for a pick six,” Jones said. “Then I ran as fast as I could to get to the end zone.”

Junior Cole Leeper added another interception of Harrod before Sandwich set off on a 15-play, 77-yard scoring drive that spanned 7:34 minutes to ice the proceedings.

Anderson concluded the days scoring busting home on a 15-yard touchdown scamper with 1:25 to go that put the Indians up by 20 and a return to glory after a very long wait.

“I can’t describe how I feel being a varsity player and winning a game on this field,” Anderson said. “Even since I can remember back to when I was five years old, I’ve based my life around this program. It’s had my full heart and I know we’re on the right path moving forward after this win.”