CCL/ESCC notes: Wilson-Hamilton connection kept St. Laurence offense rolling against Brother Rice

While St. Laurence has struggled to a 1-3 start this season, quarterback Darius Wilson had a signature performance Friday in a loss against Brother Rice.

The numbers were impressive: 196 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns, along with 310 passing yards and three passing touchdowns.

St. Laurence coach Adam Nissen called Wilson “a warrior” after the game.

He’s a solid all-around athlete, too. Wilson just finished off a basketball season that earned him Class 3A All-State honors from the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association.

Wilson is committed to play football at Army. He chose Army over several Division I FCS offers. Although St. Laurence uses the option out of the shotgun formation more frequently, there are a lot of similarities between the Vikings offense and Army’s triple-option offense under coach Jeff Monken.

“I feel like they have a good brotherhood and their offense is pretty similar to ours,” Wilson said. “I feel like I’ll be a good fit within that team.”

The way he played last week, Wilson will fit with just about any team. Brother Rice put in its second-string offense with a 31-point lead in the second half, but Wilson and St. Laurence kept scoring. Wilson scored a seven-yard touchdown in the waning minutes to pull within one possession, 52-44, but the Vikings couldn’t corral an on-side kick.

The comeback attempt was made possible in large part because of Wilson’s connection with senior receiver Jalen Hamilton. As freshmen, Wilson and Hamilton both came to St. Laurence as quarterbacks.

“He was pretty athletic so they moved him outside,” Wilson said. “He’s like a brother to me. We go work out all the time. We’ve got a connection. We’re always together outside of school.”

Hamilton caught 14 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown in Friday’s loss. He hauled in 11 receptions during the second-half comeback. Hamilton will play in college too at FCS-level Dayton.

“He kind of knows the entire offense and he’s just a special kid,” Nissen said of Hamilton. “He wants the ball at every point in the game, which is a blessing and a curse. But he’s definitely a playmaker on the outside for us.”

After his performance last week, Wilson was voted to the Friday Night Drive Team of the Week.

St. Joseph closes: St. Joseph High School in Westchester announced Tuesday that it will close permanently following the 2020-21 school year.

The school, best known for its basketball success under legendary coach Gene Pingatore, will close after 61 years. Principal David Hotek announced the closure in a letter addressed to alumni and friends.

“Amid the current COVID pandemic, with its severe impact on the finances of many families, and the serious fiscal burdens St. Joseph High School has experienced during the past several years, as well as our steadily declining school enrollment, the Board of Directors has reluctantly made the recommendation to the Christian Brothers to cease operation of St. Joseph High School at the conclusion of the current academic year,” Hotek wrote.

The school first opened in 1960. In athletics, it won IHSA boys basketball state championships during the 1998-99 and 2014-15 seasons. Pingatore compiled 1,035 wins before his death in 2019. He and his program were featured in the 1994 documentary “Hoop Dreams.” The program produced NBA legend Isiah Thomas, future NBA players Amal McCaskill and Evan Turner, as well as several college basketball stars.

The decision to close the school will have implications for the mega football conference that formed when the Chicago Catholic League and the East Suburban Catholic Conference merged in 2019.

Currently the conference – which operates in football only – has 24 teams split into six divisions of four teams. St. Joseph was in the Red division with the smallest schools in the conference: Marian Catholic, DePaul Prep and Leo. St. Joseph hasn’t played any football games this spring, according to the ESCC website.

At this point, it’s too early to know if the CCL/ESCC will look to fill its now vacant 24th spot. The conference reorganizes its divisions and schedules every two years, and is scheduled to do so prior to the fall 2021 season.

Schedule addition: With an open date in Week 5, Loyola has added a nonconference matchup against Phillips on Friday in Wilmette.

It creates a colossal matchup between two of the state’s top programs. The two teams last played in Week 1 of 2017. Phillips won that game with a goal-line stand on the final play at Gately Stadium in Chicago. That 2017 Phillips team went on to win the Class 5A state championship, while Loyola finished as Class 8A runner-up that year.

QB shuffle: Nazareth coach Tim Racki is making sure all his players have opportunities to see the field during this shortened season. That includes at the quarterback position.

Against Marist on Saturday, junior Aidan Pieper saw most of the playing time, but senior Cass Kinsella and junior Ben Michel also took snaps for the Roadrunners.

In a normal year, Nazareth would probably try to settle on one QB. But this isn’t a normal year and there’s no playoffs to build toward.

“We understand how it works,” Pieper said. “We want each other to succeed. Go out there, do our thing, especially in a year like this. Kass is a senior, Ben, all of us, we deserve reps in a year like this. I’m not bothered by it. I’m still getting my chances.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.