Breaking It Down: He was Backup Ben until a teammate went down with an injury. Now, he is Conference Champion Ben.
Ben Santiago rushed for 146 yards on 22 carries and scored three touchdowns in Oak Forest’s 28-20 football victory over Thornton Fractional South on Senior Night Friday in Lansing. Santiago scored on runs of 1, 4 and 19 yards as the Bengals (8-1, 5-1) gained a share of the South Suburban Blue Conference title.
T.F. South (7-2, 5-1) missed a chance to win the title outright. The Rebels trailed 14-0 at half and 21-6 in the third quarter before mounting a comeback bid. Joe Young scored on an 11-yard run and tacked on the two-point conversion to cut the T.F. South deficit to 28-20.
But Oak Forest’s Jeremy Kurtz picked off a fourth-down pass thrown by the Rebels’ Peyton Padjen and the Bengals ran out the clock and ran off with the school’s seventh conference football championship.
Patch’s MVP: Ben Santiago, 5-11, 180-pound, senior, running back, Oak Forest. Santiago rushed for 146 yards on 22 carries and scored three touchdowns. He became a starter after Matt Barry went down with an injury in Oak Forest’s 17-14 loss to Lemont.
Doing It On Defense: Oak Forest limited T.F. South to 6 yards total offense in the first half and no first downs. Alec Brown and Tom Livingston were credited with TFLs. Andrew McCann and Zach Westerhoff notched sacks.
Oak Forest Stat Pack: Ben Santiago (22 carries, 146 yards, 3 touchdowns), Nick Ciufia (9 carries, 95 yards; 2 catches, 6 yards, 1 TD); Tom Zale (12 carries, 25 yards; 3-of-4 passing 32 yards, 1 TD, Alec Brown (10 tackles), Corey Brent (9 tackles), Jimmy Rizzuti (9 tackles, 1 fumble recovery). Ryan Walton, a converted offensive lineman, played tight end and made his first catch of the season. It was good for 26 yards and a first down.
T.F. South Stat Pack: Saleem Sanford (28 carries, 116 yards, 1 TD), Peyton Padjen (6-of-16 passing, 78 yards, 1 TD), Drakkar Frazier (1 catch, 38 yards, 1 TD), Joe Young (3 carries, 17 yards, 1 TD)
Quotable I: “We only have, what is it the sixth or seventh time we’ve been conference champs?” Oak Forest running back Ben Santiago said. “So, it feels good to come out here and win it. I didn’t think I was going to come out and—the first run went for 25 yards. I didn’t suspect that. But the offensive line did a great job. And I was ready.”
Quotable II: “We worked hard all summer long,” Oak Forest linebacker Alec Brown said. “Everyone is in the weight room every day, practicing out there, really working hard. On defense, we had a goal in the beginning of the year, ‘Don’t let the other teams score 100 points on us.’ We were only two over that. I’m a little disappointed that we missed it by two points. But that’s still great—102 points for the whole season.”
Quotable III: “What an accomplishment,” Oak Forest coach Brian McDonough said. “We’ve had some really good teams. Only a few throughout the history of the school have won the conference, and these guys got it done.”
Team Records: Oak Forest finishes regular-season play at 8-1 and 5-1 in the South Suburban Blue. T.F. South finishes regular-season play at 7-2 and 5-1.
What’s Next: Both teams will play first-round IHSA playoff games on Oct. 26 or Oct. 27. Pairings will be announced on Saturday night. Oak Forest is projected as a Class 6A qualifier. T.F. South likely will fall in Class 7A.
Scores of Interest: Lemont 42, T.F. North 0; Crete-Monee 38, Rich East 7; Bremen 42, Oak Lawn 7; Richards 42, Eisenhower 0. For more scores, go to IHSA ScoreZone.