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.”

Edgy Tim's Preps Power Rankings: Playoffs Edition

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NBC Sports Chicago

Edgy Tim's Preps Power Rankings: Playoffs Edition

Here are the latest @NBCSPreps Top 25 Power Rankings as teams embark on the first week of postseason play.

1. Lincoln-Way East 9-0 (1)
Last Week: Beat Bolingbrook, 31-0
This Week: vs St. Charles East
EDGY's Take: The Griffins get a playoff rematch with the Saints...this time, minus the mud and slop.

2. Batavia 9-0 (2)
Last Week: Beat Wheaton North, 24-13
This Week: vs Granite City
EDGY's Take: The Bulldogs defense will need to slow down Granite City QB "Fast" Freddy Edwards this week. 

3. Brother Rice 9-0 (3)
Last Week: Beat Montini Catholic, 31-0
This Week: vs Zion-Benton
EDGY's Take: Impressive win over Montini to capture the CCL Blue title.
 
4. Marist 8-1 (4)
Last Week: Beat Benet Academy, 24-7
This Week: vs Stevenson
EDGY's Take: The Redhawks get a very difficult opening round game in hosting the Patriots.
  
5. Mount Carmel 8-1 (5)
Last Week: Beat Fenwick, 49-7
This Week: vs T.F. South
EDGY's Take: The Caravan have a very nice path in 7A; that said, the Rebels are not an easy opening game.

6. Homewood-Flossmoor 8-1 (6)
Last Week: Beat Sandburg, 56-0
This Week: vs Fremd
EDGY's Take: Can the Vikings offense dent a strong Fremd defense this week?

7. Cary-Grove 9-0 (7)
Last Week: Beat Naperville Central, 55-41
This Week: vs Wauconda
EDGY's Take: Wow. Talk about an impressive win. Last Friday's 55-41 triumph over Naperville Central certainly qualifies.

8. Simeon 9-0 (8)
Last Week: Beat Curie, 40-0
This Week: vs Rockford East
EDGY's Take: Simeon gets the top seed in Class 7A and will host the Rockford East E-Rabs in the opening round.

9. Nazareth Academy 8-1 (9)
Last Week: Beat Marian Catholic, 42-6
This Week: vs Andrew
EDGY's Take: The Roadrunners will not have an easy opening round game as they host the T-Bolts.

10. Maine South 8-1 (10)
Last Week: Beat Niles West, 48-6
This Week: vs Huntley
EDGY's Take: The Hawks will need to buckle the chin strap against a very big, strong Huntley team.
 
11. Oswego 9-0 (11)
Last Week: Beat Plainfield South, 22-15
This Week: vs Taft
EDGY's Take: The 3-seed Panthers also have a decent path in 8A. They open up against Taft.
  
12. Richards 9-0 (13)
Last Week: Beat Eisenhower, 41-6
This Week: vs Rock Island
EDGY's Take: Richards will face a strong Rocks' running game, anchored by a big offensive line.
 
13. Phillips 7-2 (13)
Last Week: Beat Raby, 40-0
This Week: vs Lake Forest
EDGY's Take: The Wildcats will begin their 6A journey. Up first: a very solid and battle-tested Scouts team that is coming off a win against Stevenson.

14. Willowbrook 9-0 (14)
Last Week: Beat Downers Grove South, 42-20
This Week: vs Lincoln Park
EDGY's Take: The Warriors get bumped up to 7A and open up against Lincoln Park.

15. Oak Park-River Forest 7-2 (18)
Last Week: Beat Lyons Township, 48-0
This Week: vs New Trier
EDGY's Take: Could it be one of the best round one matchup in the state? The Huskies match up against the Trevians in 8A.

16. Warren Township 8-1 (19)
Last Week: Beat Mundelein, 43-7
This Week: vs Neuqua Valley
EDGY's Take: The Blue Devils defense will get another test this week against the Wildcats.

17. Glenbard West 7-2 (20)
Last Week: Beat Proviso West, 35-6
This Week: @ Bartlett
EDGY's Take: The Hilltoppers wind up on the road in the first round. They take on a 7-2 Bartlett team.

18. Hinsdale Central 7-2 (23)
Last Week: Beat Hinsdale South, 21-12
This Week: vs Conant
EDGY's Take: The Red Devils will need to bring their A-game this week against an up-and-coming Conant program.

19. Rolling Meadows 9-0 (24)
Last Week: Beat Buffalo Grove, 34-7
This Week: vs Alton
EDGY's Take: The Mustangs will host downstate Alton this weekend to open up play in 7A.

20. Naperville Central 6-3 (15)
Last Week: Lost to Cary-Grove, 55-41
This Week: @ Plainfield South
EDGY's Take: The Redhawks will need to solve Plainfield South's power option running game this week.
 
21. Hillcrest 9-0 (21)
Last Week: Beat Bremen, 43-6
This Week: vs Jerseyville
EDGY's Take: The Hawks landed a top seed in 5A and will now look to make some serious postseason noise.

22. Bolingbrook 8-1 (16)
Last Week: Lost to Lincoln-Way East, 31-0
This Week: vs Waubonsie Valley
EDGY's Take: One of the most intriguing 8A matchups will be when the 11-seed Raiders host the 22-seed Warriors of Waubonsie Valley.

23. Montini 8-1 (17)
Last Week: Lost to Brother Rice, 31-0
This Week: vs Woodstock North
EDGY's Take: The Broncos will be just fine in 5A despite the 31-0 loss to Brother Rice.

24. Glenbard East 9-0 (NR)
Last Week: Beat Larkin, 42-14
This Week: vs Prospect
EDGY's Take: Can the Rams be more than just a "happy to be here" team in Class 7A?

25. IC Catholic 9-0 (NR)
Last Week: Beat Riverside-Brookfield, 49-0
This Week: vs Raby
EDGY's Take: The Knights will host an always-dangerous Raby team in the opening round.

2018 IHSA Football Playoff Pairings

2018 IHSA Football Playoff Pairings

The 2018 IHSA Football Playoff pairings have been unveiled as teams from all over the state begin their postseason journey. 

Be sure to check our Twitter, @NBCSPreps, or the IHSA's Twitter, @IHSAState, for the latest IHSA Football updates. 

EDGY TIM PICKS CLASS 5A AND 6A

EDGY TIM PICKS CLASS 7A AND 8A

PANEL PREDICTS THE STATE FINALS FOR ALL EIGHT CLASSES

CLASS 8A

CLASS 8A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Brother Rice (9-0) vs. 32. Zion-Benton (5-4)
16. Oak Park-River Forest (7-2) vs. 17. New Trier (7-2)
8. Warren (8-1) vs. 25. Neuqua Valley (6-3)
9. Hinsdale Central (7-2) vs. 24. Conant (6-3)
4. Homewood-Flossmoor (8-1) vs. 29. Fremd (5-4)
13. Oswego East (7-2) vs. 20. Barrington (6-3)
5. Marist (8-1) vs. 28. Stevenson (6-3)
12. Plainfield South (7-2) vs. 21. Naperville Central (6-3)
2. Lincoln-Way East (9-0) vs. 31. St. Charles East (5-4)
15. Bartlett (7-2) vs. 18. Glenbard West (7-2)
7. West Aurora (8-1) vs. 26. South Elgin (6-3)
10. Evanston (7-2) vs. 23. Edwardsville (6-3)
3. Oswego (9-0) vs. 30. Taft (5-4)
14. Minooka (7-2) vs. 19. Loyola (6-3)
6. Maine South (8-1) vs. 27. Huntley (6-3)
11. Bolingbrook (7-2) vs. 22. Waubonsie Valley (6-3)

CLASS 7A

CLASS 7A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Simeon (9-0) vs. 32. Rockford East (5-4)
16. Harlem (7-2) vs. 17. Lincoln-Way West (7-2)
8. Nazareth (8-1) vs. 25. Andrew (6-3)
9. Hersey (8-1) vs. 24. Lincoln-Way Central (6-3)
4. Batavia (9-0) vs. 29. Granite City (5-4)
13. Moline (8-1) vs. 20. Glenbrook North (7-2)
5. Willowbrook (9-0) vs. 28. Lincoln Park (5-4)
12. Maine West (8-1) vs. 21. Benet Academy (6-3)
2. Glenbard East (9-0) vs. 31. Prospect (5-4)
15. East St. Louis (7-2) vs. 18. Hoffman Estates (7-2)
7. Mount Carmel (8-1) vs. 26. T.F. South (6-3)
10. DeKalb (8-1) vs. 23. Lake Zurich (6-3)
3. Hononegah (9-0) vs. 30. Buffalo Grove (5-4) 
14. Wheaton Warrenville South (8-1) vs. 19. Belleville West (7-2)
6. Rolling Meadows (9-0) vs. 27. Alton (5-4)
11. Normal Community (8-1) vs. 27. St. Charles North (6-3) 

CLASS 6A

CLASS 6A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Cary-Grove (9-0) vs. 16. Wauconda (5-4)
8. Kaneland (6-3) vs. 9. Von Steuben (6-3)
4. Phillips (7-2) vs. 13. Lake Forest (5-4)
5. Prairie Ridge (7-2) vs. 12. Hinsdale South (6-3)
2. Antioch (9-0) vs. 15. Reavis (5-4)
7. Lakes (7-2) vs. 10 Belvidere North (6-3)
3. Kenwood (8-1) vs. 14. Crystal Lake South (5-4)
6. Niles Notre Dame (7-2) vs. 11. St. Ignatius (6-3)
1. Richards (9-0) vs. 16. Rock Island (5-4)
8. Yorkville (7-2) vs. 9. Dunlap (7-2)
4. Normal West (8-1) vs. 13. Peoria Notre Dame (6-3)
5. Shepard (7-2) vs. 12. Springfield (6-3)
2. Washington (9-0) vs. 15. Providence Catholic (5-4)
7. Sacred Heart-Griffin (7-2) vs. 10. Quincy (7-2)
3. Glenwood (8-1) vs. 14. Lemont (5-4)
6. Bloomington (7-2) vs. 11. Crete-Monee (6-3)

CLASS 5A

CLASS 5A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Payton (9-0) vs. 16. Evergreen Park (5-4)
8. Elmwood Park (7-2) vs. 9. Back of the Yards (6-3)
4. Montini (8-1) vs. 13. Woodstock North (5-4)
5. Sycamore (7-2) vs. 12. Rochelle (5-4)
2. Sterling (8-1) vs. 15. Phoenix Coop (5-4)
7. Hyde Park (7-2) vs. 10. Brooks (6-3)
3. Boylan Catholic (8-1) vs. 14. Glenbard South (5-4)
6. St. Francis (7-2) vs. 11. Amundsen (5-4)
1. Hillcrest (9-0) vs. 16. Jerseyville (5-4)
8. MacArthur (6-3) vs. 9. Morton (6-3)
4. Cahokia (8-1) vs. 13. Mt. Zion (6-3)
5. Carbondale (7-2) vs. 12. Champaign Central (6-3)
2. Highland (9-0) vs. 15. Rich Central (5-4)
7. Mattoon (6-3) vs. 10. Mascoutah (6-3)
3. Metamora (8-1) vs. 14. Joliet Catholic (5-4)
6. Marion (6-3) vs. 11. Rich East (6-3)

CLASS 4A

CLASS 4A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. IC Catholic (9-0) vs. 16. Raby (5-4)
8. Dixon (6-3) vs. 9. Stillman Valley (6-3)
4. Urban Prep Bronzeville (8-1) vs. 13. St. Edward (5-4)
5. Marengo (7-2) vs. 12. Sullivan (6-3)
2. Coal City (8-1) vs. 15. Wheaton Academy (5-4)
7. Ag. Science (7-2) vs. 10. Johnsburg (6-3)
3. Richmond-Burton (8-1) vs. 14. Plano (5-4)
6. Genoa-Kingston (7-2) vs. 11. Clemente (6-3)
1. Taylorville (9-0) vs. 16. Illinois Valley Central (5-4)
8. Columbia (7-2) vs. 9. Freeburg (7-2)
4. Rochester (8-1) vs. 13. Breese Central (6-3)
5. Pontiac (8-1) vs. 12. Herrin (7-2)
2. Paris (9-0) vs. 15. Salem (6-3)
7. Breese Mater Dei (7-2) vs. 10. Effingham (7-2)
3. Bishop McNamara (8-1) vs. 14. Richland County (6-3)
6. Murphysboro Coop (7-2) vs. 11. Prairie Central (7-2)

CLASS 3A

CLASS 3A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Byron (9-0) vs. 16. Rock Island Alleman (5-4)
8. Elmwood-Brimfield Coop (6-3) vs. 9. Princeton (6-3)
4. Lisle (8-1) vs. 13. Dwight Coop (6-3)
5. North Boone (7-2) vs. 12. Mid-County Coop (6-3)
2. Dunbar (8-1) vs. 15. Herscher (5-4)
7. Clark (6-3) vs. 10. Hall Twp. (6-3)
3. Eureka (8-1) vs. 14. UP/Englewood (5-4)
6. Monmouth-Rosevl. (7-2) vs. 11. Wilmington (6-3)
1. Monticello (9-0) vs. 16. St. Joseph-Ogden (5-4) 
8. Anna-Jonesboro (7-2) vs. 9. West Frankfort (7-2)
4. Farmington (9-0) vs. 13. Greenville (6-3)
5. Beardstown (8-1) vs. 12. Pleasant Plains (6-3)
2. Carlinville (9-0) vs. 15. East Alton-Wood River (6-3)
7. Vandalia (7-2) vs. 10. Paxton-Buckley-Loda (6-3)
3. Fairfield (9-0) vs. 14. Newton (6-3)
6. Williamsville (8-1) vs. 11. DuQuoin (6-3)

CLASS 2A

CLASS 2A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Gibson City-MS (9-0) vs. 16. Watseka (5-4)
8. Hope Academy (7-2) vs. 9. Knoxville (6-3)
4. Illini West (9-0) vs. 13. Mercer County (5-4)
5. Newman C.C. (8-1) vs. 12. Rockford Christian (6-3)
2. Orion (9-0) vs. 15. Fieldcrest (5-4)
7. Clifton Central (7-2) vs. 10. Rockridge (6-3)
3. Eastland-Pearl City Coop (9-0) vs. 14. Harlan (5-4)
6. Collins Coop (8-1) vs. 11. Chicago Christian (6-3)
1. St. Teresa (9-0) vs. 16. Staunton (5-4)
8. Eldorado (7-2) vs. 9. Athens (7-2)
4. Pana (8-1) vs. 13. Oakwood (5-4)
5. Nashville (8-1) vs. 12. Tri-Valley (5-4)
2. Maroa-Forsyth (9-0) vs. 15. Routt Coop (5-4)
7. Warrensburg-Latham (7-2) vs. 10. Chester (6-3)
3. Tuscola (8-1) vs. 14. Villa Grove-Heritage Coop (5-4)
6. Bismarck-Henning (8-1) vs. 11. West Hancock Coop (6-3)

CLASS 1A

CLASS 1A EXPERT ANALYSIS

1. Princeville (9-0) vs. 16. Polo (5-4)
8. Annawan-Wethersfield Coop (6-3) vs. 9. Aurora Christian (6-3)
4. Lena-Winslow (8-1) vs. 13. Lewistown (5-4)
5. Orr (8-1) vs. 12. LeRoy (5-4)
2. Ottawa Marquette (9-0) vs. 15. Orangeville (5-4)
7. Stockton (7-2) vs. 10. Dakota (6-3)
3. Milledgeville (9-0) vs. 14. Fulton (5-4)
6. Forreston (7-2) vs. 11. Hiawatha (6-3)
1. Argenta-Oreana (9-0) vs. 16. Cerro Gordo-Bement Coop (5-4)
8. Fisher (7-2) vs. 9. Cumberland (7-2)
4. Red Hill (8-1) vs. 13. Central A&M (6-3)
5. Madison (8-1) vs. 12. Edwards County (6-3)
2. Camp Pt. Central (8-1) vs. 15. Greenfield-NW Coop (6-3)
7. Sesser-Valier Coop (7-2) vs. 10. Carrollton (6-3)
3. Triopia Coop (8-1) vs. 14. Georgetown-RF (6-3)
6. Arcola (7-2) vs. 11. Salt Fork (6-3)