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Chicago Sun Times
Chicago Sun-Times
21 Oct 2023
https://chicago.suntimes.com/authors/mike-clark


NextImg:Illinois recruit Tysean Griffin returns as Morgan Park beats Simeon in the Battle of Vincennes

Morgan Park senior Tysean Griffin is the rare player who can impact a game just by stepping on the field.

Griffin, who has been a starter for the Mustangs since the pandemic spring season in 2021, is a playmaker on offense, defense and special teams.

An Illinois commit, he’s been slowed by injury this season and missed four games. But he was back Saturday afternoon for the South Side rivalry game against Simeon at Gately Stadium and made his presence felt. 

Griffin played defensive back and had a ball thrown in his direction just once during Morgan Park’s 16-8 win. A fellow defensive back, Jahmere Washington, sealed the victory with a red-zone interception in the final minute as Morgan Park (8-1, 7-0) ran the table in the Public League Red.

“To be back playing again, it feels good,” Griffin said. “During this time [out] I was encouraging my teammates. Watching my teammates win, I felt like I was part of the win.”

Still, he added, “it was hard not playing. ... But I always put trust in my team, I believe in my team. I knew my team would get the job done so there’s no worries about me not playing.”

Still, there’s no doubt about the physical and emotional boost the Mustangs get by having their Power Five recruit back on the field.

“That’s huge,” Morgan Park coach Chris James said. “It’s his day as a senior. He’s been playing varsity since he was a freshman. It seems like everybody in the Public League knows that kid. He’s out there, he’s a threat. 

“We just want him to get back acclimated. ... Why not put him out there against Simeon, our rival?”

James wasn’t surprised to see Washington make the game-deciding interception.

“He’s made a lot of plays,” James said. “Just happy to see him fulfilling his potential. He’s another big-time player we have as a junior.”

On the offensive side, No. 10 Morgan Park did just enough to win against a Simeon defense that has two Power Five linemen in Chris Burgess and Mikeshun Beeler.

Morgan Park’s Terrence Gurley ran 13 times for 67 yards, including a six-yard TD midway through the second quarter. Keshawn Lewis-Hunt ran 11 yards for a touchdown that broke an 8-8 tie with 2:50 left in the third quarter.

Mustangs quarterback Marcus Thaxton was 7-for-16 passing for 92 yards with an interception. Wyoming-bound receiver Chris Durr had five catches for 77 yards.

Simeon (5-4, 5-2) had a four-yard TD pass from Kaleb Sims to Ameer Morrow in the first quarter. Sims finished 6-for-11 for 71 yards with a TD and an interception.

With Morgan Park’s skill players on offense, Simeon interim coach Derrick Hunter Sr. said, “I knew we had our hands full. But our kids really came out and played well.”

Hunter took over the program after longtime coach Dante Culbreath stepped away over the summer.

“We had a rocky start from the beginning of the season when we lost our head coach,” Hunter said. “The kids had to rally around each other and the coaching staff and come together as one. From where we started to where we’re at, we’re a very different team now.”