NEW LENOX – Homecoming proved to be a coming home, of sorts, for the Lincoln-Way Central offense Friday night during a Southwest Suburban Red matchup against Thornwood.
The end result was the most prolific offensive showing the Knights have had all season. Quarterback Austin Strilko completed 17 of 23 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score in the Knights’ 52-12 victory.
Lincoln-Way Central (2-3, 1-2) had been shut out its past two games and came into the game with 40 points on the season. It led 45-6 after three quarters and totaled 449 yards for the game.
“We were coming off two weeks not scoring, so obviously, this is a big turnaround,” Lincoln-Way Central senior receiver Nolan Hayes said.
“We had a very off week last week and we challenged our kids this week,” Central coach Jeremy Cordell said. “How are we going to respond? We had a great week of practice and we told them to have fun with your buddies. The results showed.”
Central did not punt and forced four Thornwood turnovers, all in the first half. The Knights led 21-6 after a quarter and 37-6 at the half.
“Coach challenged us to get a running clock in the second half, so that was the goal,” Hayes said. “We did it. Obviously, we wanted to win our homecoming game. It’s nice to be on this end of the score.”
John Ramos (five catches, 115 yards) and Hayes (eight catches, 128 yards), who also threw for a touchdown in the first half, each had more than 100 yards receiving and a touchdown in the first half.
“We have a lot of guys who can do some things with the football,” Cordell said. “As long as we put our kids in positions to succeed, we’ll do some good things.”
Dan Eber (2-yard run) and Nico Muto (4-yard run) each ran for scores. Blake Evans returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown.
“I saw a 100-percent difference between this past week and the week before,” Cordell said of weekday practices. “Kids play tight and overthink things. We told them to play free, have fun and respond to the challenge.”
Thornwood, the league’s worst defensive team, fell to 1-4, 0-3. Next for Central is a date Friday at Thornridge.
“We have four more conference games and we have to win all of them,” Hayes said. “We got ourselves in a hole, but we’re going to bounce back and, hopefully, make the playoffs.”
“We are going to celebrate this, get back to it and try to go 1-0 against Thornridge next week,” Cordell said.