Preps Talk

Griffins learn something new about themselves in first setback of the year

Griffins learn something new about themselves in first setback of the year

The Lincoln-Way East Griffins returned to Frankfort to play a home game after a pair of long road trips to begin their 2016 season. And after 416 combined miles on the road, taking them to two states and a pair of college campuses, the Griffins learned right in their back yard that the journey to Champaign will be a long one.

The standings will show a first tally in the loss column for the Griffins, who came up just short in their 35-30 loss to rival Homewood-Flossmoor last Friday. But squaring off against a fellow top-5 opponent in the state so early in the year was bound to have its positives, regardless of outcome. And while the Griffins would have liked to earn a victory, they were able to learn things – good and bad – about themselves in the close-knit affair.

“Whether we had been a point ahead or five points behind (at the end), you find out a lot about yourself when you play one of the best teams in the state,” Rob Zvonar said. “That’s the kind of game you want early to get a measuring stick of where you’re at, and it’ll definitely serve us well down the road.”

The goods were evident Friday night. The Griffins offense scored on each of their first three possessions, including two touchdown receptions by wide receiver Jeremy Nelson. The senior, who has dealt with myriad injuries since his sophomore year, continued his red-hot start to the season and finished with nine receptions for 136 yards. The 14-0 start was the first time the Vikings had trailed by multiple scores since the 2014 8A state title game.

It was a mixed night for the defense, which seven days earlier pitched their first shutout against Belleville West. The Vikings’ high-powered offense went scoreless in the third quarter, and the Griffins defense held their ground in the game’s final minutes to give the offense one last chance to win the game trailing by five.

The mistakes were just as clear, too. Losing a 14-0 lead at home, throwing an interception 22 yards from the end zone in the game’s final minute, a blocked punt and a missed field goal all culminated in the Griffins’ first loss of the year.

But if the Griffins needed to learn those lessons, they’re glad to have done it in early September instead of November. One of the top conferences in the state makes wins hard to come by, but also gets teams ready for the postseason. Friday night was certainly a playoff atmosphere, as was the opponent.

“It’s nice to play a caliber team like this early in the season so we know what we’re looking for in playoffs,” offensive lineman Sam Diehl said. “They’re a hard, physical team. So we’ll be expecting that in the playoffs.”

The Griffins may have also learned a valuable lesson about leadership. It was a noted point of interest in Zvonar’s discussions with the team during practice week. On Wednesday the head coach took a dozen or so seniors and a handful of juniors aside and discussed the importance of speaking up in situations that arose, both on and off the field. Leading by example isn’t always enough, he told his leaders.

“We just want to earn the respect of our teammates and we’ve got to make sure they’re all on the same page,” senior quarterback Jake Arthur said. “We’ve got to stay focused, (to) take ownership of this team. Everything revolves around each other, so we’ve got to make sure we’re on the same page.”

It’s a learning-on-the-go development for the Griffins, who have done an admirable job merging two schools, programs and starters together while dealing with state-title aspirations. That includes leadership, which in a program as prestigious as Lincoln-Way East is earned, not given. Zvonar has made it a point to rotate different captains each week, but he let it known to his leaders that he’s expecting more as the season progresses.

And that’s why last Friday’s loss stung, but didn’t sear. The Griffins have improvements to make, and time to do it.

“There’s no doubt we got an early taste of what playoff football can be like,” Zvonar said. “This will serve us well down the road. If we’re not winning, at least we’re learning.”

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball


Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

High School Lites is down to the final week of the regular season in local high school hoops as the Class 3A and 4A schools finish up conference play. The boys basketball playoffs have also started as the Class 1A and Class 2A regional championships will be played on Friday night.

The girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals will also be featured. You can catch all of those games on NBC Sports Chicago on Friday beginning at 11 a.m. with the 1A semifinals. High School Lites will air Friday night at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago

East Aurora at No. 11 West Aurora, 7:00 p.m. -- These two rivals meet for the 225th time. The Blackhawks (20-4, 9-0) won the first matchup by 22 points as they try to finish the season on a 12-game winning streak. 

Jacobs at Dundee-Crown, 7:00 p.m. -- Fox Valley rivals match up as Jacobs tries to go unbeaten in the conference. The Eagles (23-3, 15-0) has been playing very well as they've won 20 of 21 games heading into this one -- including an earlier win against Dundee-Crown. The Chargers (14-11, 10-4) has won seven consecutive games since dropping to the Golden Eagles as they're second in the Fox Valley heading into this one. 

Yorkville at DeKalb, 7:00 p.m. -- The top two teams in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East play in this one. DeKalb (16-11, 11-1) has already clinched a share of the conference title as the team's only league loss has come against Yorkville. The Foxes (17-8, 10-2) knocked off DeKalb at their place on Feb. 3 as they try to win again to get a piece of the division title. 

T.F. North at Lemont, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the better teams in the South Suburban Blue battle on the eve of the playoffs. Lemont (17-8, 9-3) has picked up three straight wins entering this one. T.F. North (11-9, 9-3) is trying to build some momentum after recent close losses to Hillcrest and T.F. South.

Carmel at No. 10 Benet, 7:30 p.m. -- The ESCC closes out its season with this one. Benet (22-4, 7-1) is coming off a nice road win at Marian Catholic earlier this week. Carmel (17-10, 4-4) knocked off Joliet Catholic during the week as they've been a dangerous team in the ESCC. 

Class 2A Boys Basketball Regional Championships

Leo vs. Marshall, 6 p.m. -- The Lions are the favorites but the Commandos are the host of this regional title game. Leo (20-5, 8-0) has a 13-game winning streak as they won the Catholic League White. Marshall (8-17, 4-5) struggled in the win column but they were a competitive 4-5 in a very deep Public League Red-South. 

Uplift vs. Northridge, 7 p.m. -- This should be an interesting battle as Uplift is playing on the road at Northridge. Uplift (17-9, 6-3) has played an extremely competitive schedule that includes a recent close loss to No. 1 Simeon as Kansas commit Markese Jacobs and senior forward Toraze Dobbs are one of the best combinations in the Class 2A field. Northridge (22-5, 12-0) went unbeaten in the Independent School League this season as they're riding a 13-game winning streak.

Class 1A Boys Basketball Regional Championships 

Aurora Christian vs. Harvest Christian, 7 p.m. -- These two teams play for the third time this season in what should be an interesting regional title game. Aurora Christian (23-1, 10-0) is the host as they only lost to Winnebago this season. The Eagles beat Harvest Christian twice in a six-day span in December. Harvest Christian (18-8, 8-2) finished third in the Northeastern Athletic as they played the second game within two points. 

Class 1A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Okaw Valley vs. Stockton, 11 a.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Okaw Valley (29-5) is making its first state appearance after winning its first regional title in school history. Stockton (31-2) finished under .500 last season (13-15) and had an amazing turnaround that includes a current 15-game winning streak. 

Lebanon vs. Schlarman, 12:45 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- These two teams have combined for two losses this season as this should be a good one. Lebanon (31-1) just won its first sectional title in school history as they've now moved on to state. Schlarman (31-1) is led by junior Anaya Peoples, a Notre Dame commit and five-star prospect in the Class of 2019. 

Class 2A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Harlan vs. Eureka, 5:30 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two red-hot teams play in the first semifinal in Class 2A. Harlan (25-6) is riding a 12-game winning streak as this is its first appearance at state for girls basketball. Eureka (28-3) has a 19-game winning streak as they make their first state appearance since 1988.

Marshall vs. Teutopolis, 7:15 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two storied programs in the state match up in this one. Marshall (20-7) will be making its 21st state appearance as head coach Dorothy Gaters is one of the most storied coaches in Illinois. Teutopolis is making its 17th appearance at state as the Lady Shoes (28-6) seek their first title since 1995.