GURNEE — The new kid on the block owned the neighborhood on Friday night.
Junior running back Maurice Edwards transferred to Warren from Grayslake Central before the start of the school year. His transition to his new team was seamless, and he quickly became one of the best players in the North Suburban Conference.
But against Libertyville in the 2021 season finale in Gurnee, Edwards took this level of comfort in his new surroundings to a different level. He seemed right at home in the Warren offense, as if he had grown up there, as he rushed for one long touchdown after another in leading the Blue Devils to a 55-14 runaway victory over Libertyville.
The win gave Warren a perfect 6-0 season and allowed the Blue Devils to defend their 2019 North Suburban Conference championship.
Edwards finished with a career-best 298 yards and five touchdowns on just 14 carries. His touchdowns, which often entailed some kind of elusive move or breaking of a sure tackle, and then a burst of breakaway speed leaving defenders in the dust, went for 80 yards, 54 yards, 58 yards, 23 yards and 5 yards. He would have also scored a 71-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but it got called back for a penalty.
“I just came in for the last game of the season and I had to put on a show,” Edwards said. “I just did what I had to do.”
And, when it comes to breaking so many tackles, just how does Edwards do that?”
“I just have an instinct when I feel people on my legs,” said Edwards, also a track star who runs the 100 meters, the 200 meters and the relays and is planning on turning his attention to the Warren track team now that football is over. “I just move and jump and keep my legs moving and if they don’t get me down, I’m just going to keep going.”
Edwards has been relentless like that all season. He ran for more than 100 yards in all six of Warren’s games.
He says that the Warren weight room over the offseason was a huge part of his development.
“I was a lot smaller before I got here,” said Edwards, who checks in at 6-feet, 200 pounds. “But I got in the weight room and got bigger and tougher and stronger, and I’m able to play better, pretty much.
“It’s been real fun being a part of this team, winning games. That’s fun. And I’ve learned a lot here. I’ve learned a lot about toughness, a lot about being gritty.”
Edwards scored an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of the game.
Less than two minutes later, the Blue Devils got another long touchdown on a 71-yard touchdown on a punt return by Cassius Callahan.
Edwards then scored twice more to put Warren up 28-0 with 11:44 left in the second quarter.
Libertyville then scored two of the next three touchdowns on an 11-yard pass from quarterback Blake Ellingson to Connor Dickson and then on a 4-yard run by Tommy Latka.
Warren was up 34-14 at halftime. The 14 points scored by Libertyville in the first half is more points than Warren, which had registered shutouts in its previous three games, had given up in it five other games on the season (13).
“The rest of the conference put up 13 and we put up 14 in the first half and that was really good,” said Ellingson, who completed 11-of-23 passes for 202 yards. “But they’re a very good team and we couldn’t get anything in the second half.
“I had so many fun times with these guys, spent a lot of time together, and this is hard. It’s hard that I’ll never play with these guys again. I’ve been playing with them my whole life. That’s not a fun feeling, especially with the way this ended.”