Clutch Hooker carries Cougars
Crane senior Elijah Hooker stepped up in every crucial moment of the Cougars’ 20-14 victory Thursday against Harper at Eckersall.
The win gives Crane back-toback Intra-City 1 conference titles. It wouldn’t have happened without Hooker’s uncanny ability to step up, at multiple positions, in the most important moments.
“I’ve been playing football my whole life,” Hooker said. “I can play linebacker, defensive line, quarterback, running back, anything. I’ve played it all.”
The Cougars (7-0, 6-0) trailed 1412 in the fourth quarter when Hooker brought down Harper’s running back in the end zone for a safety with 11:09 to play.
Then with 4:22 left, he blocked a punt. Crane got the ball at Harper’s 2-yard line, and Zay’len Hill punched it in for the go-ahead score.
Hooker is also Crane’s quarterback. He had 16 carries for 71 yards and two touchdowns, and his biggest offensive contribution might have come on the last possession of the game.
Hooker took six consecutive handoffs and gained yard after yard to secure two first downs, all while Harper’s defense clawed and scrapped and did everything possible to punch the ball loose.
“That is all about trusting your line,” Hooker said. “I just had to hold on and move forward.”
Intra-City teams aren’t eligible for the state playoffs. The conference title was on the line, so this was the biggest game of the season for both teams.
“This was all about our heart, dedication and hard work,” Crane’s Alexian Preciado said. “But probably most of all it is because of our coaches. They push us and make us work hard but also keep it positive.”
A big play from Preciado set up that final series for Crane. He hauled in an interception with 2:14 to play.
“I visualized the play, and I knew we had to get that last stop,” Preciado said. “I saw both of them going up for the ball. I thought he would catch it or it would pop loose. I knew I had to be there just in case he popped it up in the air, and sure enough he did, and I had to catch it.”
Hill had 10 carries for 68 yards for the Cougars.
“That [game-winning touchdown] felt so good,” Hill said. “This is my first year ever playing football. I play basketball, but [Crane coach Anthony Andrew] kept asking me to play football.”
Qasha Barr had a one-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the game for the Cardinals (6-1, 5-1).
Harper’s second score was the game’s most impressive play. Quarterback Leo Andrews connected with junior Travon Oneal on a 65yard touchdown pass.
Oneal had 10 carries for 35 yards. Barr ran 10 times for 37 yards.
Harper and Crane had games canceled by Chicago Public Schools in Week 7 because of safety concerns after the Jason Van Dyke verdict.
Teams eligible for the state playoffs played makeup games Monday, but teams from non-playoff-eligible conferences did not have their games rescheduled.
Hooker and his Crane teammates were thrilled to be back on the field.
“We can compete with a lot of good teams in Chicago,” Hooker said. “We are just down here [in the Intra-City] based on what happened in the past.”
According to a CPS spokesperson, the canceled games may be made up after Week 9, pending approval from the Illinois High School Association.
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Crane senior quarterback Elijah Hooker, who made several big plays, had 16 carries for 71 yards and two touchdowns Thursday against Harper.