At a solid 5-10 and 220 pounds, Hyde Park’s Quentin Harris looks like the linebacker and defensive end he used to be.
But when Harris showcases his strong and accurate arm the way he did on Saturday afternoon, he looks every bit the quarterback he is now.
The senior threw for 163 yards and one touchdown, and ran for another score as Hyde Park opened Illini Big Shoulders play with a 42-0 shutout of Lindblom at Eckersall.
Harris played quarterback with many of his current teammates at Parker Community Academy, but he spent most of his high school career on defense.
Then in the spring, the Thunderbirds found themselves without a quarterback.
“I saw [Harris] throwing the ball around in practice and then I was like, ‘Huh. Interesting,'” Hyde Park coach Keenan Phillips-Riley said. “We really didn’t have anyone else and he stepped up to the plate.”
Harris is notable not just for his ability to give his receivers a chance to catch every pass, but for his calm presence in the pocket.
“I’ve been through it,” he said. “I know how it goes.”
Harris’ passing, to receivers like 6-3 Omari Hankins (five catches, 106 yards) is one element of Hyde Park’s balanced offense. Another is a ground game featuring speedy freshman Marquis Harlan, who ran 12 times for 106 yards and three touchdowns.
“They expect, our running back, he’s a freshman so he can’t do that,” Harris said.
But the Thunderbirds (3-0, 1-0) have a diversified offense and a defense that held Lindbom (1-2, 0-1) to minus-25 yards of total offense.
It’s a combination that could help Hyde Park get back to the IHSA playoffs for the third straight season and boost their profile on the South Side, where Kenwood, Simeon, Morgan Park and Phillips get most of the attention.
“We’re the underdogs,” Harris said. “They’re going to find out about us.”
Just reaching the postseason won’t be enough this fall, though.
“What we want to do now, we want to win one [playoff game],” Phillips-Riley said. “We keep going out in the first round, so the goal is to at least win a first-round game.”
Hyde Park running back Marquis Harlan rushes for a touchdown in the first half.Quinn Harris/For the Sun-Times
That’s also a long-term goal for Lindblom, which last reached the IHSA playoffs in 2017. Right now, the Eagles are in building mode with just three seniors on a roster dominated by sophomores.
“Sometimes they play well, sometimes they look like sophomores,” Lindblom coach Tyrice Jackson said. “[Saturday] they looked like sophomores. [But] they’re going to be good.”
The goal is to get to Hyde Park’s level.
“They’re a great team, well-coached, really disciplined,” Jackson said. “They’re who we’re emulating. That’s what we want to be when we grow up.”