FLOSSMOOR – Trailing 7-3 with four minutes left in the first half of Friday’s Southwest Suburban Blue showdown with No. 1 Homewood-Flossmoor, Lincoln-Way East had a first down at the Vikings’ 22-yard line.
Running back Liam Morrissey (11 carries 73 yards) had just had a 9-yard blast for a first down. On the next play, disaster struck the Griffins. Quarterback Brandon Bauer (13 carries, 71 yards) was separated from the ball on a bone-crunching hit. The
Vikings’ Justin Small scooped up Bauer’s fumble and raced 65 yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead.
H-F’s ensuing kickoff was a pop up that the Griffins failed to catch, and H-F got the ball at the 33. A minute later, Vikings running back Devonte Harley-Hampton (18 carries, 136 yards, two touchdowns), scored from 2 yards out for a 21-3 halftime lead, and H-F went on to a 28-3 victory.
“Against a great team like Homewood-Flossmoor, we could not afford to make the mistakes we made and get out of here with a victory,” Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar said. “The ball is the most important part of a football game. When one fails to protect the ball, one loses the game. That’s what happened tonight.”
H-F (7-0, 5-0) took the opening kickoff and scored with 10:30 left in the first quarter on a 21-yard strike from Bryce Gray (12 of 18 passing for 224 yards) to Kendric Pryor (five catches,133 yards). The Griffins answered with a 37-yard field goal by Nick Jenig with 5:43 left in first quarter.
The second half featured the East defense. Led by defensive linemen Ben Christensen and Dan Cooper, free safety Jayison McCorkle and linebacker Pat Carr, the Griffins shut down the explosive Vikings’ offense. With 4:59 in the third quarter, Christensen and the Griffins’ defense stuffed Deante Harley-Hampton (12 carries, 29 yards) for a 4-yard loss on a fourth-and-goal, from the 1-foot line.
“We really played poorly on both sides of the ball,” Christensen said. “We made too many mistakes.”
With 10 minutes left, McCorkle, who had a fumble recovery in the first half, blocked a field goal attempt. Carr scooped up the ball and raced 56 yards to the Vikings’ 21-yard line. But again, disaster struck. Bauer (11 for 16 passing, 82 yards) hit Logan Winkler at the 18, but Winkler was hit hard and fumbled to snuff out the final East threat.
“This was a tough loss. One play turned the game around,” McCorkle said. “One breakdown and just too many mistakes.”
With 7:03 left, Devonte Harley-Hampton concluded the scoring with a 73-yard run.
“This was a really tough loss,” Cooper said. “H-F is just so good that you can stop them all night and then one play and they’re gone.”
H-F shares the SouthWest Suburban Blue penthouse with Sandburg. The two will meet Friday in Orland Park.
For Lincoln-Way East (5-2, 4-1) rebounding Saturday at Joliet Central is the plan.
“Offensively we moved the ball but just couldn’t finish our drives,” Zvonar said. “I was really proud of the job we did in slowing down the H-F ground game. Ben (Christensen), Dan (Cooper) and Pat (Carr) had fine games. Jayison McCorkle gave everything he could and was all over the field.”