FRANKFORT – Lincoln-Way North won the SouthWest Suburban Conference Red championship Friday with a 28-21 overtime win over Lincoln-Way West.
The Phoenix used a 38-yard hook-and-ladder play that started with a pass from quarterback Jake Arthur to Drew Slager.
Slager then lateraled to receiver Jaylin Branch, who took the ball down the sideline for a touchdown to cut the Warriors’ lead to 21-19 with 1:35 to play in the fourth quarter. Then Slager caught the game-tying two-point conversion pass.
North (9-0, 7-0) scored first in overtime when Arthur hit a diving Slager with a 10-yard touchdown pass. The Phoenix held the Warriors (7-2, 5-2) on defense to secure the win.
“It was a good game,” West coach Dave Ernst said. “They’re a great team. They have some big-play guys who made some plays there at the end. Offensively, we had a chance to run the clock out at the end, but we couldn’t get it done.”
The Warriors and Phoenix both qualify for the playoffs.
“We have to forget about this one and move on,” Ernst said. “Our goal was to get into the playoffs and make a run. We’ve been trying to get better every week. Hopefully, we start peaking at the right time.”
The score was tied at 7 at halftime, but West forced and recovered a North fumble at the Phoenix 14-yard line early in the third quarter. Senior running back Gabe Montalvo scored on an 11-yard run to make it 14-7 with 10:32 left in the quarter.
West took a 21-7 lead when quarterback Connor Lowman hit receiver Jake Mauney with a 19-yard touchdown pass with 4:35 to play in the third quarter.
The Phoenix began their comeback early in the fourth quarter when Arthur found Slager with a 7-yard scoring pass to cut the lead to 21-13 with 10:39 to play. Slager missed the extra point.
The teams traded possessions before West took over on offense on its 20 with 6:41 to play in the fourth quarter. West moved the ball on the ground with Montalvo to its 46 before punting the ball away. The Warriors took 4:11 off the clock on the drive.
North coach George Czart said the Phoenix, who are playing their last season of football because the school will close at the end of the school year, are used to overcoming deficits.
“It’s been our M.O. to be down in big games this year, but we stay positive and our coaches work on solving the problem,” Czart said. “Our kids are resilient. They don’t quit. They have a tough mettle about them.”
Czart, like Ernst, said his team will put this game behind them and get ready for the playoffs.
“We’re closing one book,” Czart said. “We opened the school, and we started 0-9. We’re closing the school, and we finish the regular season 9-0. Now we have to take it one game at a time. It’s a new game, and a new season.”
Montalvo finished with 120 yards on 32 carries for West while Lowman completed 10 of 21 passes for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Slager scored three touchdowns for North.