High School: Blake Winkler

QB Winkler wins Illinois Player of Year

December, 1, 2011
Lincoln-Way East senior quarterback Blake Winkler was named the Gatorade Illinois Football Player of the Year on Thursday.

Winkler completed 131 of 213 passes for 2,369 yards with 30 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. He finished his career as Lincoln-Way East’s all-time leader in passing yards (4,297) and touchdowns (51) and had a 19-3 record in his two seasons as starter.

Winkler also has maintained a 4.11 weighted GPA, is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Honor Society, Pi Sigma Pi history honor society and Mu Alpha Theta mathematics society and volunteers at a local homeless shelter and his church.

“I have twin boys at home, and if they grow up to be like Blake Winkler, that would be fine by me,” Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar.

Former Wheaton Warrenville South quarterback Reilly O’Toole, who is now playing at Illinois, won the award last year.

Lincoln-Way East wins to set up showdown

September, 24, 2011
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.

Lincoln-Way EastSandburgThe 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."

Prep football: Five Week 4 thoughts

September, 19, 2011
Here are my five thoughts from the high school football weekend.

1. That’s some offense: I had my first chance to catch Lincoln-Way East up close on Friday. After watching the Griffins defeat Homewood-Flossmoor 38-21, I can say for certain that has to be one of the state’s premier offenses. Quarterback Blake Winkler has a big arm and knows the offense inside and out in his second year as a starter. Jason Robertson is among the state’s best wide receivers. He has speed and size and can make guys miss, as he showed on Friday. Plus, Lincoln-Way East has other capable receivers and a solid running game. It’s going to take a special defense to stop the Griffins.

2. Lenti’s legend: One of my favorite aspects of last week was being able to talk to Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti about his career. Lenti set the state record for coaching wins on Saturday, and he spoke earlier in the week with me about the record, his career and more. If you get a chance, check it out.

3. Time is flying by: I can’t believe it’s already Week 5 and we’re about to pass the halfway point of the regular season. After four weeks, I think we have an idea about some teams -- Maine South, Glenbard West, etc. -- but there are still plenty of teams, especially unranked ones, who we still need to feel out. I think teams like Antioch, Aurora Christian, Barrington, Brother Rice, Conant, Marian Central and Sandburg, among others, will be ones watch to in the coming weeks.

4. Player of the Year talk: It’s probably a little too early to talk about the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year, but what the heck. I think some of the early leading candidates have to be Downers Grove South running back Josh Williams, Glenbard West defensive lineman Tommy Schutt, Montini wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp, Joliet Catholic running back Ty Isaac, Loyola quarterback Malcolm Weaver, Lincoln-Way East quarterback Blake Winkler and Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti.

5. Improving coverage: We’re constantly talking at ESPNChicago.com about how to improve our preps coverage. We’d love to hear from you, too. If you have any general or specific story ideas, please email me at spowers@espnchicago.com. Also if you have any high school football questions, send those on, too. I’ll try to answer them in coming blogs.