||More Sports||Sign up||School Finder|
Lincoln-Way East's team takes the field for the start of the game vs Joliet West held at Frankfort, Illinois on Friday, October 19, 2012. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
The game figured to be competitive.
If Lincoln-Way East had an advantage, most observers felt it was senior quarterback Tom Fuessel, whose speed and elusiveness has frustrated many a good defense.
Providence entered last Saturday night’s Class 7A second-round playoff clash in Frankfort feeling the Fuessel heat. The Celtics had a good season defensively, but containing him was another matter.
East coach Rob Zvonar, offensive coordinator Joel Pallissard and the rest of the Griffins’ staff, while thrilled to have Fuessel on their side, knew the danger of getting too one-dimensional.
That’s where senior running backs Nick Colangelo and Justin Corbett and wide receiver Justin Winkler came into play. Colangelo rushed for 164 yards in 20 carries, including a 19-yard touchdown scamper, Corbett converted a pass to the left flat into a highlight-reel 49-yard scoring play and Winkler made two receptions, both while diving along the sideline.
East’s offensive line, unheralded except for 280-pound junior center Nick Allegretti, also held its ground against a proud Providence defense. Afterward, Fuessel and Colangelo both expressed the faith they have in the big guys up front.
All those factors helped the Griffins (11-0) to a 24-14 victory and a quarterfinal home game at 6 p.m. Saturday against Edwardsville.
Fuessel was not without his moments, either. He lost a potential 77-yard touchdown pass to Corbett on the first possession when, after scrambling from one side of the field to the other, he was penalized for stepping across the line of scrimmage before releasing the ball. His 54-yard run on a quarterback draw on the next possession set up the first touchdown, which he scored on the subsequent play.
“We won the field position game,” East coach Rob Zvonar said. “We knew if we kept getting shots at it like that, our offense would hit some.”
In contrast, while the outcome was in the balance, East’s defense stifled Providence. In a first half that ended with the Griffins on top 16-0, only four of the Celtics’ 27 snaps went for more than 3 yards, with 13 the longest.
Providence junior quarterback Dominic Lagone finished 12-of-16 passing for 121 yards. But until he began finding sophomore Miles Boykin downfield beginning late in the third quarter, he was 5-of-9 for a total of 11 yards.
“Dominic had a great year stepping in and doing what he did for us,” Providence coach Mark Coglianese said. “But our inexperience at quarterback showed tonight in this type of environment and against a great defense.”
Lagone is a running back by trade. But circumstances late in the summer left the Celtics in need of a starting quarterback. That they finished 8-3 against their schedule and reached the second round of the playoffs is a compliment to how Lagone delivered.
However, East’s defense felt it could take control, and it did. The Griffins’ deep group up front, supported by the excellent linebacking crew of Adam O’Grady, Kyle Langenderfer and Mitch Murphy and the secondary of safeties Jarret Lecas and Brendan Sleeman and cornerbacks Sean Doherty and Moe Almasri, will challenge any offense the rest of the way.
The victory over Providence was East’s first in the second round after Round 2 ousters the previous four years. As Zvonar pointed out, though, each of those second-round games was worthy of a quarterfinal or semifinal, Providence game included.
The Celtics, meanwhile, dropped to 0-6 all-time against the Griffins. But the other five were season openers from 2005 through 2009. The playoffs are different. The Griffins won this one because they deserved it.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they went all the way,” Coglianese said.
He is not alone in that sentiment.