Preps Talk

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

Two 2020 Top Chicagoland names make college choices

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Two 2020 Top Chicagoland names make college choices

Two top names from the Chicagoland Class of 2020 have given verbal commitments so far today.

Chicago Curie senior to be three star ranked offensive tackle Kevo Wesley (6-foot-5, 265 pounds) gave Vanderbilt his verbal commitment this evening while on his official visit this weekend. Wesley, who is holding 29 scholarship offers this summer recently narrowed down his list of favorite schools to both Boston College and Vanderbilt and made official visits to both schools.

Wesley, who didn't play any organized football until his sophomore season under Condors head coach Arthur Ray Jr., saw his transition from football novice to pledging to Vanderbilt and playing in the Southeastern Conference pay off today.

"Kevo just always had a tremendous level of focus," according to Curie head coach Arthur Ray Jr.. "He was a basketball kid who wanted to get better and worked hard. He never missed a workout or a training season  and he would always put in extra work. He always had the academic side taken care and Vanderbilt plays in the SEC plus they offer a great education and it's a great fit."

Wheaton Warrenville South senior K Jack Olsen (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) added a full scholarship offer from Michigan State a few weeks ago and tonight gave the Spartans his verbal commitment while on his official visit. Olsen, ranked as one of the top place kickers in the nation according to Chris Sailer Kicking pointed towards the overall fit for him at Michigan State as a main factor in his decision.

"I have visited Michigan State multiple times and I've always loved it there," Olsen said. "I have always wanted to play in the Big Ten growing up. I've looked into everything that Michigan State has to offer including taking an academics tour. I wanted to make sure I loved the schools for everything and not just the football side."

 

76 Days to Kickoff: Eisenhower

76 Days to Kickoff: Eisenhower

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Eisenhower

Head coach: Sheamus Murphy

Assistant coaches: Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera, ST Coordinator Billy Viero, assistant Darren Bryant, assistant Charles Edwards, assistant Jesse Gonzalez, assistant Ryan Gorney, assistant Will Johnson, assistant Marty McNamara, assistant Tim McNamara, assistant Anthony Munoz, assistant TJ Murphy,  assistant Jeremy Rodrigues, assistant Dan Russell, assistant Terrence Streater and assistant Ron Zychowski

How they fared in 2018: 4-5 (2-4 South Suburban Red Conference). Eisenhower failed to qualify for the IHSA football playoff field. 

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 @ Oak Forest

Sept. 6 vs St. Laurence

Sept. 13 vs Argo

Sept. 20 @ Reavis

Sept. 27 vs Shepard

Oct. 4 @ T.F. North

Oct. 11 @ Evergreen Park

Oct. 18 @ Oak Lawn

Oct. 25 vs Richards

Biggest storyline: It centers on new head coach Sheamus Murphy. Can he get the Cardinals back on the winning track?

Names to watch this season: QB Daniel McLaurin (Sr.), RB/LB Cristian Tellez (Sr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Cardinals will need to replace 15 graduated starter from last season. 

EDGY's Early Take: The Cardinals’ now-former head coach Travis Moore decided to head to the college level. He became the defensive line coach at NIU. New head coach Sheamus Murphy, who built the Back of the Yards program from scratch, takes over and brings a ton of energy and excitement to the Island starting in 2019.