Highlights of the Chicago Football Classic

Clark Atlanta won the war, but Central State and Rich Central won the battle

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Photos by Derick Triplett

Crusader staff report

When the rain cleared, the battle began. When the sun went down, Central State University went with it in style while Clark Atlanta took home some hardware of its own.

The 19th Annual Chicago Football Classic wrapped up another exciting year with a close game between two HBCU schools vying for bragging rights in Chicago’s Soldier Field September 10. In the end, Clark Atlanta’s Panthers won the game 20-14, while Central State capture the Battle of the HBCU’s Bands. Meanwhile the South Shore Drill Team and wowed the crowds after being forced out of this year’s Bud Billiken Parade.

The football game capped a weekend of festivities that saw Rich Central High captured a third consecutive Battle of the High School Bands title with a new drum major. Once again the school dazzled the judges with a fresh set of routines while paying tribute to some of the biggest names in music, including those who have died this year. They included Prince, Maurice White from Earth Wind and Fire, along with Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Tupak Shakur, whose fans are marking the 20th Anniversary of his death this year.

This year’s competition had only half as many high school band participants. Organizers said bad weather throughout the week of the competition made it difficult for participants to practice and forced them to withdraw from the annual contest, which unlike last year, was held on the Great Lawn just east of Soldier Field.

In all there were five bands in the high school battle of the bands com- petition this year. In addition to Rich Central, they included, Proviso West, Thornton Town-ship, Rich South and Proviso East High School.

The competition heated up as Thornton Township display dazzling showmanship in its opening number, but Thornton was no match for Rich Central. The far South Side school in Olympia Fields put on a show-stopping presentation that included choreographed splits and dance routines that drew loud cheers from spectators.

CSU totaled 453 yards of total offense compared to CAU’s 348 but costly turnovers and errors in execution kept the Marauders from scoring throughout the afternoon. The Marauders turned the ball over three times and were 0 for 4 in fourth down conversion attempts.

The first score of the game came from CAU after the Marauders failed on their first fourth down attempt of the day. The Panthers capitalized with a 43 yard drive over six plays. Jaha McCray finished the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. After a failed extra point attempt, CAU led 6-0 at the 11:11 mark of the opening quarter.

CSU’s quarterback Lavon Meeks ran in for a touchdown to give the school its only lead of the afternoon, 7-6.

The Panthers cashed in again on great field position late in the second quarter. Beginning the drive at the CSU 40 yard line, CAU went 40 yards on four plays capped by a Johnathon McCrary scramble into the end zone.

Down 13-6 with 1:19 remaining, the Marauders struck quick when Meeks hit Marquis Wells on a 74-yard touchdown pass and catch to tie the game, 13-13.

Clark Atlanta’s Matthew Daniels capped a drive with a 4-yard run to put his team up, 20-13, with 1:56 remaining in the third quarter.

CSU crossed midfield four times in the final 15 minutes but each drive failed to produce any points. With 1:32 remaining, Meeks led the Marauders down to CAU’s 35- yard line with seven seconds left. With limited time remaining, Meeks threw into heavy coverage and was intercepted by Jacob Mitchell as time expired.

Photos by Derick Triplett

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