NEW LENOX – The series between Lincoln-Way West and Sycamore has featured a lot of tight contests, and Friday’s season opener between the two was no different.
In a game that featured four lead changes in the final quarter, the Warriors hung on to capture a 35-31 nonconference victory over the Spartans.
Sycamore reached West’s 25-yard line on its final series, but a sack by Deven Reed and three straight incomplete passes ended its hopes with five seconds remaining.
“That’s a great team,” West coach Dave Ernst said of Sycamore. “It was two really good teams playing. There were some mistakes made, but for a Week 1 game, it was pretty well-played. Every time we play them, it’s a great game, and they’re a great program.
“We have a great group of young men. We had some adversity and had an inside backer go down, and a sophomore stepped in. Gabe Montalvo had to play some snaps on defense and he played great. Jake Mauney played unbelievably on special teams and made a big catch for us at the end and a couple of big catches on other drives.”
The Warriors (1-0) moved in front for good with 1:35 left when Connor Lowman (17 of 27 for 179 yards) tossed a 33-yard pass to Jake Mauney (seven catches, 64 yards). That series was set up after Ryan Robbins returned the kickoff to Sycamore’s 47-yard line.
“Every play that I was a part of didn’t start with me. It started with our front line on the kick returns, and on the touchdown when Connor made a perfect throw and I didn’t have to move or adjust to the ball and he was able to get time from our offensive line,” Mauney said. “Having a first game like this really builds the whole team’s confidence.”
After taking advantage of a muffed punt at the Warriors’ 23, Spartans quarterback Brett Bemis (25 carries for 166 yards, 15 of 30 for 197 yards) put his team up, 31-28, with 4:36 left after a 12-yard run, his third touchdown run of the game.
Bemis rushed in from 3 yards out on the initial play of the final quarter to put Sycamore (0-1) up, 24-21, but Lowman responded with a 3-yard scoring run with 8:27 left.
In the opening half, the Warriors got touchdown runs of 7 and 44 yards from Gabe Montalvo (19 carries for 139 yards) to take a 14-7 lead. The second score was set up by a 52-yard kick return by Mauney that gave his team the ball at Sycamore’s 45.
After a 55-yard kick return by Mauney that placed ball at the Spartans’ 43, West went ahead, 21-10, with 2:19 left in the half after Montalvo flipped to Mauney on a reverse before Lowman tossed a flea flicker to Dylan McHale (five catches, 74 yards) for a 43-yard score.
But Sycamore capitalized on two 15-yard penalties on the next series and responded with a 36-yard strike from Bemis to Nicholas Niemann (three catches, 81 yards) with 1:15 remaining to make it 21-17 at the break.
On defense, Jake Price had nine tackles, Danny Allen added eight stops and Trey Telez, Josh Bohne and Joe Velasquez made six tackles each.
“It was a well-played game,” Lowman said. “Give Sycamore all of the credit in the world since they have a great offense and their defense is tough. It was a battle between the offenses, but I thought that our defense did a good job. Their quarterback is really good.
“That last touchdown was awesome. Our offensive line did a great job and gave me all of the time in the world and our receivers ran amazing routes. We’ll look at what we need to fix. It was a hard-fought game, and it’s an amazing feeling to start the season like this.”