Saturday, September 24, 2011
Lincoln-Way East wins to set up showdown
By Caleb Benoit
FRANKFORT -- Even without Illinois recruit J.J. Robertson, No. 3 Lincoln-Way East continued to roll.
Quarterback Blake Winkler threw four touchdowns passes, and the Griffins skated on Friday to a 31-7 home conference win over Sandburg.
The win sets up next week's much-anticipated south suburban matchup against two of the top teams in the state -- East and fellow unbeaten Bolingbrook.
"It's crazy," East wide receiver Justin Corbett said. "This Bolingbrook team is really good. We're going to go through the week, prepare, hold our heads up high and just go another week."
Robertson should be ready. The senior wide receiver left Friday's rainy homecoming game in the second quarter with a bruised knee and didn't return. East coach Rob Zvonar said he could have played in the second half, if needed.
He wasn't. Against one-on-one coverage for much of the first half, Robertson caught one touchdown pass and Corbett caught two. William Will added a 34-yard field goal to put the Griffins (5-0, 3-0 Southwest Suburban Blue) up 24-0 at halftime.
Winkler threw a fourth touchdown to Blake Anders and said there's still room for improvement.
"We have an explosive offense," said Winkler, whose team is averaging more than 40 points per game this season. "That wasn't even the best we could perform. We need to fix a lot of things up, and we'll come back for a big game next week."
Robertson still led the team in receiving despite spending the second half in a hooded sweatshirt. Josh Bottoms, one of the team's best offensive linemen, also left the game with a knee injury and spent the second half on crutches.
Wide receiver Jay Yancy was already missing with a sore shoulder, but the Griffins needed little help. Linebacker Adam O'Grady and linemen Kevin Bayer and Matt Solner led a hard-hitting defense that recovered four fumbles, sacked quarterback Anthony Adams three times and blocked a punt. Before Sandburg's final drive -- when backup quarterback Nate Stramaglia scored on an 18-yard run -- the Eagles were just 1 of 14 on third- and fourth-down conversion attempts.
"They're unbelievable," Winkler said. "I think they're one of the most underrated defenses in the state. No one gives them credit for all the great things that they do."
Sandburg (4-1, 2-1) saw it firsthand. The Eagles entered the game unbeaten, but failed punt attempts allowed East to start drives inside the 20-yard line.
Winkler took advantage. Now, his team will face its toughest test yet.
"Just another opponent on the schedule," he said. "We know it's going to be a big game -- 5-0 versus 5-0 -- and the things that have happened at Bolingbrook in the last few years haven't gone in our favor. But we're going to come back and have a great week of practice and play our game Friday."
Zvonar, meanwhile, left opponents with a scary thought.
"We have a long way to go," he said, "to be the best we can be."
Players of the game: Lincoln-Way East -- QB Blake Winkler (Sr.) 14 for 24 passing, 230 yards, 4 TDs; WR J.J. Robertson (Sr.) 4 receptions, 89 yards, TD; WR Justin Corbett (Jr.) 3 receptions, 25 yards, 2 TDs. Sandburg -- RB Mike Rago (Sr.) 12 carries, 83 yards.
Stat of the game: Lincoln-Way East's defense allowed just 49 total yards and two first downs in the first half.
It was over when: With Sandburg's offense struggling mightly, Blake Winkler threw his third touchdown of the first half to Justin Corbett less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Quote of the night: "We haven't had much success up there, so we throw that challenge out to our guys right now," Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar said about next week's game at Bolingbrook. "We talk a lot about, ‘What's the legacy of the 2011 team going to be?’ If they want to set themselves apart from other teams in recent history ... it's a challenge we need."