FRANKFORT – A smothering defense and an efficient offense both were on display for Lincoln-Way East in its Class 7A playoff opener Friday against Jacobs.
The Griffins limited the Golden Eagles to no rushing yards and just 142 total yards while forcing four turnovers. They also collected five touchdowns on offense to help them roll to a 40-6 victory.
“They made a big play early that got us down, but our kids didn’t flinch and I’m proud of how our guys responded to take the lead,” East coach Rob Zvonar said. “It was kind of a methodical thing, but it was effective and it was what we needed to do.
“It’s always good when a defense responds to some adversity, and I thought that the offense was excellent by scoring five touchdowns. If we can get that kind of effort and keep improving, hopefully, we can keep playing football. We know that next week will be a heck of a football game, but we think we’re where we need to be going into a tremendous battle.”
With the victory, the Griffins (8-2) move on to the second-round game at Libertyville (10-0), which captured a 56-24 win over Downers Grove North on Friday.
Jacobs (7-3) gained no yards on 22 carries with nine of its attempts resulting in negative yardage. Ben Christensen was in on three sacks while Sean Maloney, Kyle Werniak, Jayison McCorkle and Peyton Nigro all picked off passes for the Griffins (8-2).
“Defensively, I think all three phases played well,” Christensen said. “Our D-line stepped up, our linebackers were rerouting guys and our DBs were in the right spot. When you have all three things going for you, good plays are going to happen. On the D-line, we want to let the other team know, ‘We’re going to bring pressure at you.’ If you’re going to try to beat us by throwing it, you’re going to have to make some good throws against our pressure.
“I think our defense is good already, but we’re really close to getting there. And our offense is starting to get there, and I think that we’re really starting to mesh as a team.”
Jacobs covered 65 yards on its second series to grab the early lead. The drive was capped when Christopher Katrenick (20 of 32 passing, 142 yards) tossed a 39-yard strike down the left side to Kyle Copeland to make it 6-0 with 7:30 left in the first quarter.
But East responded with a 13-play, 87-yard drive to move in front for good. Brandon Bauer (18 of 29 passing, 190 yards) tossed a 19-yard scoring pass to Brody Bolsoni (nine carries, 43 yards) to give the hosts a 7-6 lead with 3:29 remaining in the opening quarter.
“We knew what our game plan was and stuck to it and executed very well,” Bauer said. “I was very proud of everyone. The line and running backs played great, and our wide receivers were making plays. The sky is the limit for us. We’ve showed a lot of spurts on offense, and our defense is playing great and getting stops left and right.”
In the second quarter, the Griffins scored three times to take a 26-6 halftime lead. Nigel Muhammad ran in from 10 yards out, Bolsoni scored on a 12-yard run and Liam Morrissey (14 carries, 50 yards) added a 6-yard touchdown run as East capitalized on an interception and a bad snap on a punt.
The Griffins completed the scoring in the third quarter with a 5-yard run by Bauer and a 45-yard pick-six by McCorckle. Hunter Smith also hauled in seven passes for 81 yards.
“We studied him [Katrenick] a lot and really keyed in on him,” McCorkle said. “Our defense is really good so we try to key down on the flag carriers of the other team and do what we can to stop them.
“Life is easy with our D-line. We have a lot of two-year starters there and that’s what carries us and helps us get the picks. Our defense has so much experience, and our chemistry is amazing. We’ve been together for years and that’s what gives us the edge.”