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Deonte Eiland doesn’t look like the most athletic player around, but don’t let that fool you.
The Proviso West senior plays both ways at fullback and defensive lineman, doing whatever dirty work is necessary. On Friday night, the 5-10, 240-pound Eiland turned an ugly looking play into the defining moment of a less-than-pretty 41-27 West Suburban Silver victory over host Downers Grove North.
With the host Trojans driving for the tying score, Eiland intercepted a screen pass and shook off several tacklers en route to a 41-yard touchdown return with 54 seconds left in the third quarter.
It was the first interception and defensive touchdown in Eiland’s four-year varsity career and gave the Panthers (5-2, 2-2) a 27-13 lead.
“I seen the screen, I went out, caught it spinning, they tried to rip it [out] and I just ran,” Eiland said. “I just kept running. I wasn’t looking back.”
Eiland, who also rushed four times for 15 yards and caught a 21-yard pass, has scored several offensive touchdowns this year, but it is his defensive play that has been most important to Proviso West. He was the runner-up for the WSC Silver Defensive Lineman of the Year award last fall.
“That was a big-time play,” Proviso West coach Famous Hulbert said. “He made a helluva play. He’s a future D1 player. He stepped up big in the moment when we needed him the most.”
The importance of Eiland’s touchdown became apparent when Downers North’s Kyle Leto returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown. It was the second kickoff return touchdown of the game for the Trojans (5-2, 2-2).
“We thought [Eiland’s score] would have [put the game out of reach] but unfortunately we had some special teams breakdowns,” Hulbert said. “Our special teams errors allowed them to stay in the game, but to [the Trojans’] credit, they have been doing that all year. Their special teams are the reason why they were 5-1.”
Downers North had one more opportunity to tie the score but Carl Geanes intercepted a Dave Edwards pass at his own 38 and three plays later Proviso West quarterback Anthony Dorsey threaded the needle on a 45-yard touchdown pass to Robert Modiest to make it 34-20 with 7:45 left.
Dorsey completed 12 of 26 passes for 161 yards and three touchdowns, while Jamaal Payton rushed 11 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns, including a 16-yarder with 36 seconds remaining before Leto finished the scoring on a 51-yard run with 18 seconds to go.
“We’re winning ugly but we’re going to take it,” said Hulbert, whose team forced three turnovers in beating a 5-1 team for the first time in school history. “[Downers North] was a good team. They beat some good teams before us so we knew it was going to be a battle and we rose to the occasion.”