by Todd Thomas
Uptown’s Uplift High School football team is on an unprecedented run in school history, as they attempt to cap off an undefeated season with their first state playoff victory this Saturday vs. Hales Franciscan at Lane Tech Stadium (2601 W. Addison St.).
Uplift’s Titans team won all nine of its games this season and did it in impressive fashion by outscoring their opponents 294 to 14 overall. Scoring nearly 300 points and averaging over 32 points per contest set a high bar, but it was the defensive effort that head coach Mike Alboyd was most proud of.
“Defense is always more critical,” Alboyd said. “As long as a team doesn’t score, all you have to do is kick a field goal to win. Having a shut-down defense is always best. You can score 50 points on offense, but your opponent can score 51.”
This is the second season that Uplift has won the Chicago Public League Second City conference. In 2013 they went 8-1, but were not selected for the state playoffs because of the three-way-tie rule. Narrowly missing the playoffs last season provided the team with the motivation to play so well in 2014.
“We thought we were going to the playoffs last year and didn’t,” said sophomore quarterback Antonio Walton. “It really hurt our seniors and got us down too. But we worked hard over the summer and made a commitment that we were going to win every game and play our hardest against every team no matter what their record was.”
After winning the bulk of its games by such a wide margin, overconfidence and complacency could have affected their performance. But the mission to make the playoffs and earn respect for the school kept the fire alive for the Titans, said senior fullback and linebacker Makaveli Roberts: “We never underestimate anybody. Our record has given us some recognition, but we’re still a small school, so people still do look down on us – we have a point to prove in the state playoffs.”
“We’re a small school and people don’t want to see us win,” added junior Devonta Jackson, who led the team in touchdowns and yards from scrimmage and provided a reel of spectacular highlights over the season. “Other schools don’t want us to shine so, we have to work harder for respect …nothing is given to you, (and) you have to earn it.”
Nine years into his tenure as Uplift’s head coach, Alboyd said interest in playing football for the Titans has grown, but he still has only 25 players on the roster because many potential players can’t meet the expectations in the classroom.
“A lot of kids want to participate, but our standards are kind of high. They fall by the wayside because of the standards, and books are the number one standard. In order to be a part of this, you have to be very dedicated on and off the field,” Alboyd said.
For more information on Uplift Titans playoff games, click on this link.