How two prolific wide receivers are adding to Sacred Heart-Griffin's rich football history

Sacred Heart-Griffin's Jake Hamilton (4) pulls in a pass against Rochester's Ryan Robinson (3) and Rochester's Jack Teeter (6) in the first half at Rocket Booster Stadium in Rochester, Ill., Friday, September 10, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]
Bill Welt
State Journal-Register

Countless star receivers grace the football annals at Sacred Heart-Griffin. 

That includes current NFL players Malik Turner and Albert Okwuegbunam, two heralded SHG grads who crossed paths on Nov. 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.  

Turner’s Dallas Cowboys fell to Okwuegbunam’s Denver Broncos 30-16, but the former University of Illinois standout nabbed a pair of touchdowns in the loss. 

That clash of local titans was something to behold, especially if you’re a receiver at SHG.

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“We just always look up to those guys because they came from the same program, the same foundation here,” SHG junior wide receiver KeShon Singleton said. “I just look at it like, I could be those guys one of these days, so that’s what I keep in the back of my mind — just keep working like they did, play as hard as they did and try to mimic the legendary foundation that they left on this team.” 

Junior receiver Jake Hamilton added, “I think it shows just how good of an opportunity we have here at the school, that people from this school are able to go out and play professionally and do good at their job.” 


Sacred Heart-Griffin's KeShon Singleton (5) pulls in a pass against Glenwood in the first half at Glenwood High School in Chatham, Ill., Friday, October 22, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Singleton and Hamilton are more than upholding that legacy going into the Class 4A semifinals in which the No. 3-seeded Cyclones (11-1) revisit No. 1 Rochester (11-1) at 6 p.m. on Friday. 

Singleton has garnered 43 receptions for 589 yards and 12 TDs while Hamilton has 41 catches for 701 yards and eight TDs this season. Fellow junior Madixx Morris has also added 25 catches for 441 yards and six TDs. 

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That corps of receivers glistened in the previous showdown at Rocket Booster Stadium. Hamilton totaled 12 catches for 182 yards and one TD, while Singleton had nine catches for 109 yards and three TDs. 

Junior quarterback Ty Lott ultimately finished 32-of-46 for 416 yards and four TDs in the rollicking 45-41 loss in Week 3

“I give a lot of credit to Tyaire,” Hamilton said. “The balls were in perfect spots and the plays just went to where I was going. I just made the 50-50 balls and made the extra yards after the catch.” 

Singleton jumpstarted the first quarter with three touchdown catches, including with 19.6 seconds left in the frame to provide a 21-14 lead. 

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“That’s just what we preach in practice: tempo, tempo, tempo and use our speed,” Singleton said. “That’s just what we’re blessed to have all around our team and that’s just what we took advantage of.  

“We just used our speed and athleticism to make the plays that we needed to. Luckily, I was the guy they came to. They came to Jake a lot of times, too. He had a great game. It just showed what this team could do early in the season.” 

Singleton’s blistering start opened the field for Hamilton in the second half. He had a pair of deep catches in the fourth quarter to help the Cyclones rally ahead 41-38 with 4:14 remaining. 

“I think something that helped me out for that game was him scoring three touchdowns in a row,” Hamilton said, “so they were like, ‘Somebody should probably guard KeShon.’ It gave me much more opportunities.” 


Sacred Heart-Griffin's KeShon Singleton (5) pulls in a touchdown pass against Rochester in the first half at Rocket Booster Stadium in Rochester, Ill., Friday, September 10, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

They also make up a formidable secondary.  

Hamilton and junior teammate DeAndre Stewart have swiped three interceptions apiece while Singleton, junior J’Veon Bardwell and senior Salomon Dessalines each have two picks. 

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Hamilton said it was a new experience in the safety position last season. But regularly going after 50-50 balls as a receiver has allowed him to thrive defensively. 

“It was something very new to me, but with the COVID year, I kind of got a lot of time to adjust to it and learn the position. That was kind of a benefit from it,” Hamilton said of playing in the spring. 

Hamilton and Singleton also have 35 and 26 tackles, respectively. 

“I’ve always played corner, but I never really took the time to perfect the craft like I did with receiver,” Singleton said. “This year, I’ve really buckled down on being smart with my eyes and learning the other team’s go-to guys and knowing the little things. I’ve definitely broken down on being a better corner back.” 


Sacred Heart-Griffin's KeShon Singleton (5) is stopped just short of the goal line by Glenwood's Galashky Blaise (6) in the first half at Glenwood High School in Chatham, Ill., Friday, October 22, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

They are perhaps equally as potent on the basketball floor, and both credited their parents for pushing them to a higher level athletically. Hamilton’s dad, Bob, played for longtime coach Ken Leonard in his 1984 debut season at Griffin. 

Leonard described Hamilton and Singleton as tremendous athletes. 

“The great thing is they’re having a great season this year and what’s even better is we’re going to have them back next year,” Leonard said. 

Each has undertaken college visits for football over the last couple of months. Singleton, 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, said he recently went to Illinois, Northwestern and Miami (Ohio) while Hamilton, 6-3 and 195 pounds, has been to Illinois and Iowa. 

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Sacred Heart-Griffin's Jake Hamilton (4) intercepts a pass intended for Glenwood's Miles Stapleton (8) in the first half at Glenwood High School in Chatham, Ill., Friday, October 22, 2021. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

“It’s been a great experience,” Singleton said. “That’s what you get here. You get a chance to make something out of yourself here on the field and off the field. I just really appreciate it.” 

And they’re still polishing their game. 

“We’re also pretty young, too, and some of the guys are newer, so we’re always learning every day,” Hamilton said. “Our wide receiver coach, coach (Doug) Martin, he does a really good job helping us and getting us in the right spot and giving us the moves.” 

Leonard raved about this year’s unit across the board on offense, defense and special teams, and the future is bright with so many athletes like Hamilton and Singleton coming back next year. 

“I’ve said this before," Leonard said, "this is probably as good of an athletic group we’ve ever had – just athletes, no question." 

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