Even with collision, Deon Davis leads late heroics for Downers Grove South against Willowbrook

Downers Grove South’s William Potter, right, passes the ball to teammate Deon Davis (27) during the game Friday Sep. 15, 2023, as they took on Willowbrook in Downers Grove.

DOWNERS GROVE – Downers Grove South senior running back Deon Davis started off the Sept. 15 game against Willowbrook with a highlight-reel run.

Davis broke loose for a 56-yard scamper on the second play of the game, electrifying the big home crowd.

Everything pointed toward a night to remember for Davis in a 28-21 win.

“When I had that big run, I was thinking this is going to be my day,” Davis said. “I was thinking ahead of the game. Our coaches talk to us a lot about visualizing our game. I was doing that, then I had that big run, so I knew this was going to be a game play by play but wasn’t looking too far ahead.”

Late in the second quarter, things turned the other way for Davis. He ran into teammate Chris Williams on a busted play, causing Davis to tumble to the ground. Davis, a strong and physical player who weighs 207 pounds, laid on the turf for several seconds.

“That’s my boy, Chris Williams, and it actually hurt,” Davis said, laughing. “In that moment, I didn’t think about myself. I knew I couldn’t give up for my team and I had to battle for them. Our coaches talk about not pushing ourselves so to avoid hurting ourselves forever. My teammates encouraged me to take my time to get back [in the game]. I have a deep love for my teammates. I wanted to play hard for them. I thought about them.”

Davis eventually would become a factor in the game, scoring on a pair of 1-yard runs, including the game-winner late in the fourth quarter.

Davis had 10 carries for 79 yards in the first half and finished with 16 attempts for 89 yards and two second-half touchdowns. He scored the winning TD with 1:22 left.

“I’ve worked hard in the offseason, put on about 30 pounds to get ready for this season,” Davis said. “I believe in the work we put in. I was screaming for the ball [at the end]. It felt great to score.”

Willowbrook almost tied the game, marching down the field on a 10-play drive directed by Arthur Palicki. The dual-threat quarterback played stellar with 21 carries for 69 yards and a 1-yard TD run. He threw for 176 yards with a TD pass and interception. Palicki’s last four passes were incomplete to end the scoring threat at Downers Grove South’s 19-yard line with two seconds left in regulation.

Both teams had costly turnovers and made critical mistakes on special teams, leading to a game full of momentum swings.

The Warriors (2-2, 1-1 West Suburban Gold) tied the game at 21-21 on Palicki’s 14-yard TD pass to junior wide receiver Charlie Siegler with 7:53 remaining in the fourth quarter.

“It came down to some spots of execution late where Downers Grove South had some big third downs they picked up to beat us,” Willowbrook coach Nick Hildreth said. “We showed a sense of urgency late but not early on. We didn’t consistently move the chains to have things to go back to that we were confident in.”

The Mustangs (1-3, 1-0) erased a 14-13 deficit in the third quarter thanks to some big defensive plays and the gutsy play of first-year starting quarterback Will Potter, who passed for 110 yards and ran for 35. Potter had a 17-yard TD run in the second quarter.

His late fourth-quarter bootleg pass – thrown across his body – helped extend the winning drive that ended with the TD by Davis.

“Our offense hasn’t been very good, but we got a little bit healthier this week and we got our guys back,” Downers Grove South coach Mark Molinari said. “Deon ran really hard, so did Kayden Smith. We had a few guys go two ways. We put all hands on deck. This was a big win for us.”