JOLIET – Joliet Central coach Brett Boyter will not forget the uniform number of Lockport defensive tackle Ryan Kelley anytime soon.
“That No. 93 – in the first half, he was just killing us,” Boyter said Saturday afternoon after the Porters opened the SouthWest Suburban Blue portion of the schedule with a 41-0 victory over the Steelmen. “Up front, that’s where games are won, and they were better there on most plays.”
Playing only the first half, Kelley recorded four sacks, forced a fumble that teammate Ryan Perry recovered, was in two other tackles for loss and combined with linebacker Brandon Wilson to stuff Malek Harden on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to help preserve the shutout.
And, yes, he did demonstrate why defensive linemen generally do not handle the ball. He dropped a potential interception with nothing but green turf ahead. The almost-pick came compliments of the vicious rush of linebacker Gabe Lammers, who chipped in two sacks and was in on a tackle for loss.
“I dropped one last week, too,” Kelley lamented.
Kelley said he played nose tackle the last two weeks. “This week I moved over,” he said. “They were pulling their guards, and I was jumping in behind them. That helped me get into the backfield.”
Earlier, Lockport (1-2, 1-0) suffered two tight losses, both of which the Porters feel should have been victories. Winless Central (0-3, 0-1), meanwhile, has the dubious honor of traveling to Homewood-Flossmoor to meet the state’s top-ranked team Friday.
“It doesn’t get any easier next week,” Boyter said. “That will be a heck of a challenge. But our guys will look forward to preparing for them. I know we will have a great week of practice.”
Despite what the score showed, Boyter felt the Steelmen did some things better than they have been.
“Lockport dominated the line of scrimmage for most of the game,” he said. “But I liked some things we did. The way we were playing was better. Had we gotten touchdowns those couple times we missed by a couple inches, that might have changed the complexion a little.”
Lockport’s goal-line stand occurred in the second quarter. Central’s Kamren Smith, who caught nine passes for 117 yards and was in on more than a handful of tackles, returned a kickoff 45 yards to the Porters’ 44. The Steelmen were facing fourth-and-10 at the 31 when quarterback Zach Wisneski (18 of 39 for 223 yards) hit Allen Smith deep over the middle for 29 yards, setting up first-and-goal at the 2.
But two incompletions and two running plays that netted 1 yard ended the threat.
Then in the second half, Wisneski and Kamren Smith collaborated on a 43-yard pass for a first down at the Lockport 15. But on fourth down from the 13, Wisneski barely over-led Camaron Harvey in the end zone as the ball glanced off his fingertips.
“I wish it wasn’t Week 3, but it is good to get a win,” Lockport coach Dan Starkey said. “Our line is coming along on both sides of the ball. It was nice to see the shutout. I’m proud of the way we stuffed the run.”
Central netted minus-37 rushing yards as Wisneski, for all the sacks he took, was at a net of minus-64. The Porters’ defensive front of ends Pat Kozyra and Josh Baker and tackles Kelley and Andrew Castaneda (who had a sack), along with linebackers Lammers, Wilson and Mo Atiq, was that dominant.
On the other side of the ball, the only negative for Lockport was losing Roman Starkey, who started in the offensive line, to a knee injury early on. Kozyra filled in for him, and the rest of the unit – George Kringas, Matt Chmielewski, Quinn Polaski and Ethan Maurella – also enjoyed a big day.
Matt Skobel turned nine rushes into 109 yards and three touchdowns. Deiondre Taylor rushed for 78 and a touchdown in seven carries and caught three passes for 32. Ben Davis completed 11 of 18 passes for 125 yards. Sheldon Snapp ran for a score and Davis threw a TD pass to Patrick Cooper.
Lockport finished with 276 rushing yards and 401 total.
“We want to stop the run and run the ball ourselves,” Starkey said. “We were able to do that.”