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By Randy Whalen
Nearly a year ago, former Bolingbrook football coach Phil Acton, a member of the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, made a list of the best players he coached in his 42 years as a coach in Florida, Indiana, and at Bolingbrook, where he spent his last 24 seasons as a head coach. He retired in 2001 after compiling a record of 166-81 at The 'Brook, including a Class 5A state runner-up finish in 1993. There were 85 names on the list, including 10 who played in the NFL. There was also someone else on the list at linebacker. That's current Lockport head coach George Czart, who played for Acton in 1978, and 79, his first two seasons as head coach.
Acton and Ron Wrather, who coached Czart when he was on the varsity as a sophomore, helped make the Porters coach who he is today. "Absolutely, I found something special about each one of my coaches," said Czart, who graduated in 1980. "I always felt that way about coach Acton. He had success as a coach but I truly felt that he cared about me. He was more than X's and O's. His X's and O's were more like (care) kisses."
It's only fitting that when Lockport travels to face the Raiders at 1 PM this Saturday, April 3 in Bolingbrook, there will be a throwback feel to it. While this week's game was moved to Saturday because of Easter weekend, the Raiders used to play all their home games on Saturdays. That's because the school was originally located where Brooks Middle School now sits. The football field there didn't have lights. Bolingbrook opened its new location in the fall of 2004 and the Raiders first-night game was actually against Lockport. That was on Friday, Sept. 3, 2004, and was a 48-28 Porters victory. "I remember that game," said Czart, who was the Porters defensive coordinator at that time.
Now, 16 1/2 years later, Czart is the head coach of the Porters and, because of COVID-19, there's a spring football season. For Czart, this will be his third game as a head coach against his alma mater. When he was at Lincoln-Way North in his first season in 2008, the Phoenix lost 47-7 to host Bolingbrook in the fourth week. Last season Lockport lost to the visiting Raiders 29-14 on Oct. 4, 2019. Bolingbrook scored the last 29 points. Now almost 18 months later to the day, the Porters know a win over Bolingbrook would put them in the same conversation as the Raiders in terms of the Blue Division of the SouthWest Suburban Conference.
"We want to join the ranks," Czart said of being among the ranked teams of Bolingbrook, Homewood-Flossmoor, and Lincoln-Way East. "Absolutely, that's the plan, to get some results. We need to start out well and finish well."
After falling to top-ranked Lincoln-Way East 42-14 in the opening game, Bolingbrook battered Bradley-Bourbonnais 44-6 on Saturday, March 27, racking up 532 yards. Senior quarterback Vincenzo Meschi (17-for-25, 238 yards, 4TD, 1 INT. Rushing: 3 carries, 52 yards) led the way for the 'Brook. Senior wide receiver Andrew McElroy (5 catches, 107 yards, 2TD) and freshman wide receiver I'Marion Stewart (6 catches, 71 yards, TD) paced the receiving corps. On the ground, junior tailback Jaquan Howard (15 carries, 158 yards, 68-yard TD) and senior running back Justin Lynch (10 carries, 86 yards, 60-yard TD) ran over the Boilermakers. "They have a new quarterback, and he's good," Czart said of Mesch. "The receivers are a lot of young guys and tall guys. We have to be ready for what they have."
The Porter defense was ready last week, only allowing 90 total yards and three first downs in a 23-0 win over visiting Sandburg. Junior linebacker Nicholas Franciskovich, senior defensive back Will Orban, and junior defensive lineman Cole Silzer all had interceptions for Lockport and will have to come up big again. Offensively, running back Andrew LoPresti had a breakout game. The junior finished with 35 carries for 186 yards and scored his first varsity touchdown. That meant that quarterback Riley Pfeiffer didn't have to do much. But he did have a 34-yard TD to fellow senior Kyle Yehling and added a 7-yard TD run.
Another mix of that would be fine for the Porters, who held the ball for 12 minutes: 36 seconds more than Sandburg. "The light switch went on, we ran the ball and took over the game," Czart said. "We had to be doing things right in the trenches." Another game of that and Lockport could join the ranks.
By Randy Whalen
After an opening week loss, the Lockport Township football team knew it could play better. Mission accomplished. The defense came up huge and Andrew LoPresti had a breakout game as the Porters swarmed Sandburg for a 23-0 shutout in a Southwest Suburban Blue matchup on Friday, March 26 in Lockport. "I told them that's the way it happens when you play well and do what you can do," Lockport coach George Czart said of what he told his team afterward. "We wanted to make sure we didn't give up the big play. We came up and made the tackles."
Lockport (1-1, 1-1) lost its opening game of the season, 41-14 at Homewood-Flossmoor. The Eagles (1-1, 0-1) won theirs, 41-6 over Stagg. Against the Porters, Sandburg didn't even muster four first downs. Lockport dominated on defense and in time of possession. Even more important to the Porters is they just played much better. "We just wanted to forget about (the previous week)," Lockport senior linebacker Joe Fiorillo said. "We just wanted to come out here to show what we can do, and this is the result."
The Porters held Sandburg to 90 total yards and three first downs in registering their first shutout since a 14-0 win over Downers Grove North on August 25, 2017, which was the opening game of that season.
Although his team scored 41 points in the opening week win, Sandburg football coach Scott Peters knew that things would be a little tougher in Week No. 2 for his team. That's because he's known Czart for a long time. "I've known George since I was in fourth grade and went to the football camps at Providence," Peters said. "He was the defensive coordinator over there then. So I know him and Lockport well and they beat us up on both sides of the ball." Czart knows Peters will be successful in the future. "I remember coach Peters from Providence football camp. He's a very smart guy and I've got a lot of respect for him. Even back then, I knew he'd coach."
The Eagles actually got the initial big play of the game on defense. That was the first of two interceptions by senior linebacker Hayden Bedell, giving them the ball at their own 39 with 3:30 left in the first quarter. But on third-and-two from the 47, Sandburg had a costly illegal procedure penalty. On the next play, from his own 42, junior quarterback Kevin Zimmer had his pass intercepted by junior defensive lineman Cole Silzer who returned it to the Eagle 33. Zimmer finished 11-of-19 passing for 66 yards and had three interceptions. Following his first interception, Lockport scored as quarterback Riley Pfieffer hit fellow senior Kyle Yehling, who made a great one-handed grab, for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 53 seconds left in the quarter. The 2-point conversion was no good.
On the try for two, the Porters had something they didn't need happen on the play. That was a leg injury to one of their top players, senior linebacker Joe Suchorabski. He had to be helped off the field. The good news was X-Rays afterward were negative and his return to play is unknown. Also suffering a lower-body injury in the game was senior defensive lineman Travis Coleman and quarterback Hayden Timosciek was still out with a shoulder injury from Week No. 1. Their status for this week also wasn't known.
What was known is the Porter defense kept up the pressure. After Sandburg got its second first down of the game, senior defensive back Will Orban tipped a pass, snared it out of the air, and returned it 10 yards to the Eagle 46. Nine plays later, quarterback Riley Pfeiffer dove in the end zone for a 7-yard TD run and added a 2-point conversion pass to junior Ryan Little. "That was our goal, we wanted to force turnovers and give our offense the ball," Fiorillo said. "Everyone knows what we can do from there and we did it."
They did as the defense once again forced Sandburg into a three-and-out and the Porters took over at the Sandburg 35. Seven plays later, LoPresti scored from a yard out with 1:36 left in the half for a 20-0 lead and that stood up as the score at intermission. It was an excellent breakout game for LoPresti, a junior who finished with 35 carries for 186 yards and his first varsity touchdown. "It felt great to finally get it in for a touchdown," LoPresti said. "We have a bunch of new starters on the line and we got (Sandburg) to jump offsides six times."
Pfeiffer didn't have any sort of big stats, going 3-of-11 passing for 56 yards with a TD and 2 interceptions, and adding 10 carries for 18 yards with the touchdown. But sure enough, he was able to draw the Eagles offside six times in the game, four of those in the first half, and often at key times. The Lockport line of seniors Kyle Hartman, Matt Johnson, Dominic Picciola, Peyton Potempa, and junior Colin Krzeczkowski, along with senior tight end Quinn Kelly and sophomore fullback Rocco Rigoni opened up the holes for LoPresti. In total, the Porters had 205 of their 261 total yards on the ground. "We definitely showed up this game," LoPresti said. "Coach said we had to play hard, fast football and we did. We did an amazing job defensively."
Sandburg had its best scoring opportunity midway through the third quarter. Bedell made a diving interception at the 50 to thwart the Porter's opening drive. A 20-yard pass from Zimmer to senior wide receiver John-Michael Scumaci (4 receptions for 49 yards) moved the Eagles to the 22. But an incomplete pass on fourth-and-three from the 15 ended the drive. Sandburg never got another first down the rest of the game.
Gabe Czako, who doubles as one of the top players on the Porter soccer team, added a 37-yard field goal with 7:03 left in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring. Right after that, junior outside linebacker Nicholas Franciskovich, who was also in on many tackles, had the Porters third interception midway through the fourth quarter. From there, Lockport played keep away and had a time of possession advantage of 30 minutes: 18 seconds to 17:42. "Our defense played pretty well in week one too," Czart said. "It's just that our mistakes against H-F were magnified. Against Sandburg, our best friend on defense was our offense controlling the ball and giving us field position. When they had to, the defense stood up to the challenge."
The Porters plan to do the same this week as they face a big test in another SWSC Blue game on Saturday, April 3, at 1 PM, at Bolingbrook.
By Randy Whalen
Sandburg and Lockport Township meet on the football field this Friday for the Porters home opener at 6:30 PM. The two schools aren't just fierce athletic rivals, their football programs have mirrored each other in recent years. But not in ways either one of them would like. Sandburg hasn't had a winning season since going 6-4 and making the playoffs in the fall of 2015. That was former head coach Dave Wierzal's last season. Since then, the Eagles haven't had a winning record, going 4-5, 3-6, 3-6, and 2-7.
The Porter's last winning season and playoff appearance was in 2016 when they also went 6-4. Since then, they have also had hard times, with records of 2-7, 0-9, and 4-5. Last season Lockport traveled to Orland Park for what ended up being a Saturday afternoon game on Sept. 28, 2019, because of thunderstorms the night before. The Porters rallied for the final 21 points to win 28-21 and improve to 2-3 on the season. That started a 5-game losing streak for the Eagles, who entered the Lockport game with playoffs hopes.
There are no playoffs in this coronavirus pandemic season but there is pride, improvement, and fun. Both teams are playing for that and the Porters are also playing to get into the win column after getting knocked around some in a 41-14 opening season loss on Friday, March 19, at Homewood-Flossmoor. Sandburg, on the other hand, is coming off a big 41-6 season-opening win that same day, over District 230 rival, Stagg.
"Sandburg has a big kid at quarterback," Lockport coach George Czart said. "He's the same guy that quarterbacked them last year and I'm watching film on him. He throws a nice ball but thanks to (the H-F game) we now have some experience against the bubble screen. "That quarterback is Kevin Zimmer, a junior who Sandburg coach Scott Peters called "the real deal.” In the win over Sandburg, Zimmer completed 14 of 22 passes for 198 yards with two touchdowns and also added a rushing TD. John-Michael Scumaci and Dylan Sigel with TD passes in the first half to help Sandburg grab a 35-0 lead. On the ground, Danny Witkowski whisked in on a 5-yard TD run in the second quarter and added a 54-yard touchdown in the fourth. Defensively Alex Szczesniak forced a fumble on a sack and Luke DeVito recovered in the end zone for the TD. It all added up the Eagle's first 40-point plus output on offense since a 44-29 victory over Thornton on Sept. 9, 2016.
The Eagles also have a famous coach on the offensive line. That is 2009 Sandburg graduate, Michael Schofield. He went on to play at the University of Michigan and is currently an offensive guard with the Carolina Panthers. In the 2015 season, his first full playing one in the NFL, Schofield won a Super Bowl as a starter for the Denver Broncos. Being that the high school season is now in the spring, Schofield was able to come back to his roots to coach. "Luckily, he's not playing," Czart quipped of Schofield.
Due to a scheduling glitch, this will be only the second meeting between the Porters and Sandburg since Sept. 18, 2015. This is usually a good matchup, although Sandburg won four straight in the series between 2012-15. "I was happy with how we played physically," Czart said of the game against H-F. "We matchup well there but we have to adjust to the quick passing." Defensively the linebacking crew of seniors Joe Fiorillo and Joe Suchorabski along with juniors Dylan Schmutzler and Nick Franciskovich will be counted on. So will seniors Nolan Ganser and Will Orban in the secondary.
In the opening game, senior wide receiver Kyle Yehling and junior wide receiver Ryan Little had touchdown receptions for the Porters. Junior running back Andrew LoPresti (17 carries for 45 yards, 3 receptions for 24 yards) shouldered the Lockport ground game. Speaking of shouldering, Porter's junior quarterback Hayden Timosciek is most likely out with a shoulder injury. Timosciek didn't start the game but entered late in the first half before hurting his shoulder after throwing a pick-6 in the final minute of the third quarter. X-rays were negative so at least he should be back at some point. Senior Riley Pfeiffer started and finished at quarterback. Both he and Timosciek had touchdown passes but also threw interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. The good news is Pfieffer had quite a nice game against Sandburg last season, finishing 14-of-26 passing for 252 yards and a pair of TD passes.
"This is a big game," Czart said of the Sandburg matchup. "We are just trying to develop players for the fall and give our seniors a nice farewell too. This is a good group of seniors. "It will be nice for the kids to be able to play in front of their friends and parents. Plus, hopefully, enjoy a victory."
By Randy Whalen
Some old footage led to a big beginning for the Lockport Township sophomore football team. Brady Pfeiffer found Joey Manzo with a 67-yard touchdown pass on the Porter's first play from scrimmage to open the new season. That was a spark that kept going as the Lockport sophomore team won its 10th straight game with a 26-6 victory over Homewood-Flossmoor in a SouthWest Suburban Conference matchup on Saturday morning, March 20, in Flossmoor.
It was the first time the Porters (1-0, 1-0) had played in 512 days. They went undefeated in the fall of 2019 and have not lost since a 17-6 season-ending loss at Bradley-Bourbonnais on Oct. 19, 2018. That's 883 days or just over 29 months. "We looked at film," said Pfeiffer, the younger brother of varsity quarterback Riley Pfeiffer. "And knew the play would work," But wait. It was the initial game this season for both teams on the first day of spring. So how did they see this film? "It was old film, we have some on them," Pfeifer smiled. They came out in the same formation as on film and the play ended up working. "It was awesome. It just felt good all-around to be in the same place and playing."
The play looked like a simple screen to the right side. But Manzo cut down the sideline, in front of the H-F bench, turned on the jets, and took it the distance for a touchdown just 20 seconds into the season. The extra point was blocked but the Porters were ahead to stay. "We were off all that time and not playing for over 500 days, I just wanted to take it to the endzone," said Manzo, who had five receptions for 103 yards. "I got great blocks from Mikey Doneske and Hyatt Timosciek and went all the way."
It was a good thing the Porter coaches don't get rid of the old film. "It made our job easier," Lockport sophomore coach Jason Frieri said of having the scouting film. "We talked about (the H-F) formation and plays. The kids made 100 percent of the right execution." Pfeifer, who finished 12-of-21 for 189 yards and two touchdowns, threw an interception with 3:53 left in the first half. That set the Vikings of at the Lockport 14. But defensive back Troy Mutz came up to make a big hit on first down and H-F lost two yards on its four chances from there. Another big defensive play was turned in by linebacker Jacob Duval, who made an interception at his own two on a fourth-and-four play from the Lockport five and returned it 30 yards midway through the second quarter. From there, the Porters tried to add onto the lead, but a 10-yard pass to wide receiver Alexander Elgin came up a yard short of a first down at the H-F 10 with 53.5 seconds left in the second quarter. So the score remained 6-0 at halftime.
Lockport made another big play to start the third quarter. Once again it was Manzo, but this time it was from his defensive back position as he cut in front of a pass from quarterback Chris Davis and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown. He fought out of a tackle and dove into the endzone to complete the play. "I just got a good look on the pick-6," Manzo said. "Then I made a spin move at the end. It was a good win. The goal is to go 1-0 every week." Pfeiffer found Doneske for the 2-point conversion and it was 14-0, 1:12 into the second half.
The Pfeiffer/Doneske duo did it again later in the quarter as they connected for a 29-yard touchdown pass. Doneske, a 6-0, 190-pound tight end who had three receptions for 46 yards, broke out of a pair of tackles. The first was at the 20 and then at the 15, to complete the TD surge. That made it 20-0 with 3:05 left in the third quarter. Giovani Zaragoza zipped over right tackle from two-yards out with 4:23 to play in the game to make it 26-0. Zaragoza finished with 12 carries for 50 yards.
Davis scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with 2:15 to play in the game for the Vikings only points. Davis threw more interceptions (2) than completions (1). He finished with 16 yards passing. Brandon Brigham was the Vikings leading rusher with 17 carries for 63 yards. H-F finished with 115 total yards. "We had two interceptions and made pivotal plays," Frieri said. "We wanted a shutout but to hold H-F to six points is good. It's great for the kids to be back here to play, it's been over 500. They have a great passion and are a great group of kids."
By Randy Whalen
The little things. It was a big thing for the Lockport Township football team to get back on the field after waiting over 16 months to once again play. Once there, it was the little things that added up to an opening season loss. That was a 41-14 setback to host Homewood-Flossmoor in a SouthWest Suburban Conference clash on Friday, March 19 in Flossmoor.
"It felt great to be back out there," Lockport senior wide receiver Kyle Yehling said of the opener. "But it's the little things that we have to work on. We had a few missed assignments here and there. But we just have to come back strong and put the loss in the past." Both Yehling and junior wide receiver Ryan Little had touchdown receptions for the Porters but Lockport quarterbacks also threw a pair of pick-6's.
On the other side, the game was played on the last day of winter, but H-F quarterback Alexander Pratt was hot throughout. The senior finished 19-of-24 for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Their quarterback came up big," Lockport coach George Czart said of Pratt. "Anytime they needed it he came up with the big play. What I did like is we played physical and did a nice job shutting down their running back (Sean Allen). They did a nice job with the screen passes and we couldn't adjust quickly enough. It was great to be back on the field. These guys deserve a season."
The feeling of getting back on the field was mutual. "It was just good to be back out here," H-F coach Craig Buzea said. "I thought we played pretty well against a good team." Buzea certainly felt better at halftime as his team was up 21-0, but here was no quit in the Porters as they forced H-F into a three-and-out in its first possession of the third quarter. Starting at its own 33, Lockport moved to a first-and-goal behind the passing of Hayden Timosciek, who hit his first four passes of the drive, including a 23-yarder to junior running back Andrew LoPresti (17 carries for 45 yards, 3 receptions for 24 yards) that moved the team to a first-and-goal at the six. Timosciek, a junior, entered the game in the second quarter and finished 7-of-12 for 56 yards with a TD.
That touchdown, a 2-yarder to a wide-open Yehling who had four receptions for 19-yards, came on fourth-and-goal. Junior Sean Svoboda knocked through the extra point kick and the score was 21-7 with 5:04 left in the third quarter. The ensuing kickoff was returned by junior Jyles Walton, who fumbled it away at his own 30. There was a mad pileup for the ball and the Porters swore they had it. If so, they would be in a position to add another touchdown and take the momentum of the game in their favor. But in another of those "little things" that went wrong, after nearly 30 seconds of un-piling people, it was ruled that the Vikings recovered the fumble and maintained possession. Seven plays later they scored again when Pratt hit senior wide receiver Darnell Jones on a screen pass to the left which was broken for a 17-yard touchdown. Pratt connected on his last four passes of the drive for 42 yards and H-F led 28-7 with 1:51 to play in the third quarter.
"We had some momentum there," Yehling said of his TD catch. "But then the fumble went in H-F's favor. We have a good team. We just have to keep competing." The Porters did keep competing but just over a minute later junior defensive back Khadari Kurns returned an interception 44-yards for the Viking's second pick-6 of the game. Timosciek suffered a shoulder injury on the play and didn't return. He was taken for X-rays after the game which came back negative. He is day-to-day going forward.
A highlight for Lockport was a Little's 26-yard TD catch from Riley Pfeiffer, who re-entered the game at quarterback following the injury to Timosciek. Pfeiffer finished 11-of-15 for 95 yards and one TD. On the pass, down the right side in front of the Porter bench, Little proved to be big as he literally catapulted himself into the end zone at the right pylon as he was being hit. That earned Little, who had four receptions for 66 yards and the touchdown, a ton of cheers and pulled the Porters within 34-14 with 9:04 to play in the game. "Yes, I was determined to get in," Little said of his touchdown leap. "But there's a backstory to that. When I was in youth football, about four years ago, I tried the exact same thing and was called out of bounds at the one. But this time I got some good blocks and got in. "We have the talent. We will get the wins. I'm still positive, now 5-1 is the goal."
The Vikings got a capper score on their ensuing play from scrimmage as Pratt fired a deep ball to junior Myles Walton (8 receptions for 145 yards, 2 TD's) for a 62-yard touchdown with 8:43 to play in the game. Ethan Lindquist added the extra point. The senior was good on five of his six PAT kicks but had one blocked by junior Nicholas Franciskovich.
H-F got off to a hot start when they took the opening possession 82 yards in 10 plays and scored on Pratt's 27-yard pass to Myles Walton with 7:34 left in the first quarter. The Vikings converted a fourth-and-one play from their own 37 on a 2-yard burst by Allen midway through the drive. On the ensuing possession, the Porters tried to answer. But another little thing, a third-and-two run by LoPresti was called inches short of the first without a measurement at the H-F 38. Pfeiffer quickly got the team to the line and tried to run a quarterback sneak on the next play where Lockport was whistled for illegal procedure and ended up punting. Allen (16 carries for 77 yards) eventually capped an 11-play, 95-yard drive with a 5-yard TD run for a 14-0 lead with 39.5 seconds left in the opening quarter. Jyles Walton added a 44-yard interception return for a TD midway through the second quarter as Pfeiffer tried a find a receiver underneath.
Lockport was held to 71 yards and three first downs in the first half. H-F had the two long drives to open the half but thanks to big tackles from senior defensive back Nolan Ganser, junior linebacker Dylan Schmutzler, and junior defensive lineman Andrew Blackburn-Forst, nothing else on three other drives in the second quarter. The Vikings had 161 total yards in the first half. Pfeiffer, who started five games last season when then-senior Marcos Voulgaris broke his hand, started at quarterback. He also played slotback and caught a pass for 3-yards in the third quarter. Both he and Timosciek, who came in for the final Lockport possession of the first half, threw a touchdown and an interception. "Riley deserved to start, he started last year and put in the work," Czart said of Pfeiffer. "But both he and Hayden (Timosciek) have been working hard and we planned to use them both in this game.
The little things. The Porters will have a chance to work on the little things against Carl Sandburg on Friday night at Lockport.
By Randy Whalen
After the longest layoff in Lockport football history, the Porters will find out soon enough how good they are. That's because they are jumping right into the fire in their opening game of this abbreviated 6-game spring season facing off in a SouthWest Suburban Conference game this Friday, March 19 against host Homewood-Flossmoor.
All the Vikings have done in the past decade is go 94-24 under coach Craig Buzea. Buzea, who has overcome a battle with leukemia this past year, will become the new head football coach at Crown Point High School in Indiana in the fall of 2021. Buzea is still coaching the Vikings this season, which he hopes is their 11th straight winning one. In the fall of 2014, he guided H-F an 11-3 record and a trip to the Class 8A State Title game. There the Vikings had a late fumble at the goal line and lost a heartbreaker by the score of 31-25 to Stevenson.
In the five seasons since then, they have gone 49-9 but haven't advanced past the quarterfinals. Alexander Pratt, who was on special teams and was the backup quarterback in the fall of 2019 is expected to be the starting quarterback for the Vikings. He says he "learned a lot" behind 3-year starter Dominick Jones, who is now at Delaware State. But as Lockport knows too well, the Vikings have athletes everywhere. "I want to see how good we're going to be and we get to do that right away," Lockport coach George Czart said of the 7 PM varsity season opener in Flossmoor. "The kids are itching to get back out on the football field. We know they are very good and it's awesome that we get to play the best teams in our conference. If we want to be in that category, we have to be able to beat those teams."
A trio of SWSC Blue Division teams are ranked in the Illinois Pre-Season Polls. H-F is No. 6 in the Coaches Poll and No. 8 in the MaxPreps poll. Defending Class 8A State Champion Lincoln-Way East in No. 1 in the Coaches Poll while the Griffins clock in at No. 5 on MaxPreps. Bolingbrook is No. 9 in the Coaches Poll and No. 14 at MaxPreps. Lockport's last win over the Vikings was on October 9, 2009 by the score of 27-6 at Lockport. Since then the Porters are 0-11 against H-F. That includes a 48-7 loss in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs in 2011.
That was the last season Lockport won a playoff game. There are no playoffs in this coronavirus shortened season. In the most recent meeting, which was on September 20, 2019, H-F handed the Porters their only shutout of the season in a 40-0 drubbing. "They whipped us last year," Czart said of the Vikings. "Whenever there was a chance for us to make a big play, we didn't. We even got them into some third-and-long situations and they would come up with a play. They have guys back on defense too. Plus, their tailback is awesome."
That tailback is Sean Allen, who as a junior, ran for a school-record 2,082 yards and 25 touchdowns to become the school’s all-time leading rusher. He had 16 carries for 214 yards and a trio of TD's in the victory over Lockport last year. He is committed to Illinois State. With junior running back Ty Schultz got for the season with a left ACL injury, senior quarterback Riley Pfeiffer may have to shoulder some more of the offensive load for the Porters. Especially early on until the running game gets going. "I feel really good about this team," Pfeiffer said. "We have really good team chemistry."
The defense knows it will have to have that against H-F. "We were a little young on defense last year," Czart said. "But the kids have worked hard and we have got more physical." The big test awaits Friday night.
by Randy Whalen
It's been 511 days.
That's correct, it will be 511 days between the last time the Lockport Township football team walked off the field from a game and the next time it walks out for one. The coronavirus pandemic caused the postponement of the football season last fall but it couldn't dim the enthusiasm of this group of Porters as they look forward to playing a season over four months after their last one was scheduled to end.
"I'm obviously as positive as possible," Lockport coach George Czart said about the season. "We have six games. Sure, we wish it was more. But we want something special for the kids. For a lot of them, this is the last year they will play football." It is, but even without a postseason to play for, what's on the player's minds now is making the most of this one.
"I've been waiting for it for a while," senior captain and inside linebacker Joe Fiorillo said of the season. "I'm ready, the team is ready." Fellow senior captain Will Orban, who will double at defensive back and wide receiver, agreed. "It's different for sure, but I'm happy to play," Orban said. "We've been sitting around for what, over 500 days? So we're ready to play. We have six games, that's better than nothing. This past winter we didn't know if we'd get one. We didn't have much hope but we are here now."
Yes, they are and the Porters and coming off a 4-5 season, which was their most wins since the 2016 playoff team racked up six victories. Plus last season's sophomore squad was undefeated at 9-0. So this group is brimming with confidence. "I feel really good about this team," senior quarterback Riley Pfeiffer said. "I believe we will go 6-0. We want to win them all, that's the mentality. We have really good team chemistry."
Pfeiffer started five games last season when Marcos Voulgaris was out with a broken hand. So that experience was invaluable when it comes to leading the team this season. "A lot of us have played together for a long time," Pfeiffer said. "I've got to play with the best guys and I love it. I'm glad for the six games this season, it's better than nothing.
A week before the season opener at state-power Homewood-Flossmoor, the Porter's depth chart looked like this. Pfeiffer (6-foot-0 inches, 160 pounds), along with juniors Hayden Timosciek (6-7, 232) and Conor Holloway (6-3, 192) at quarterback. Junior Andrew LoPresti (5-11, 180) and senior Owen Fitzgerald (5-7, 163) are at running back, while senior Kyle Yehling (6-3, 195), junior Ryan Little (6-3, 180), seniors Vinny Pichardo (6-1, 175), Will Orban (5-9, 175) and juniors Sean Svoboda (6-0, 161), and Keegan Roberson (5-8, 145) at wide receiver, plus senior Quinn Kelly (6-2, 225) at tight end round out the skill positions. Ty Schultz (5-10, 191), a junior who capped off last season with 20 carries for 192 yards and four touchdowns in the Porters year-ending 42-12 win over Stagg on Oct. 25, 2019, was expected to literally carry the load at running back. But he suffered an ACL injury in his left knee and is out for this spring season.
Most of the offensive line is new but senior Kyle Hartman, at center, is not. He's not only the lone returner on the line he is also one of the team captains. The other expected starters up front are seniors Peyton Potempa (5-11, 235) and Dominic Piccola (6-1, 270) at the guards with seniors Matt Johnson (6-3, 280), Connor Hearne (6-5, 265), and junior Colin Krzeczkowski (6-5, 255) at the tackles.
"I think we will have guys step up on the line," Hartman said. "We've been working well in the weight room and the guys have all stepped up there. Our top goal is to beat Lincoln-Way East. But right now our focus is on H-F. "Hartman is very happy there is a season for himself and his teammates. "Actually, I don't feel any different," he said of being out for football in the spring. "I'm just happy to get going again. It feels nice."
Some talent returns on defense. Upfront Lockport will look to juniors Andrew Blackburn-Forst (6-2, 225) and Cody Silzer (6-3, 220) along with sophomore Rocco Rigoni (6-2, 230) at defensive tackle. Seniors Jett Ciucci (6-2, 215), Travis Coleman (6-0, 180), and junior Cole Silzer (6-3, 220) are at defensive end.
At inside linebacker, the Porters believe they have two of the best in seniors Joe Suchorabski (5-11, 215) and Joe Fiorillo (5-10, 175). The two are also team captains.
"Our two middle linebackers are as good as anyone we've ever had here," Czart said of Fiorillo and Suchorabski. Juniors Ethan Gallagher (6-4, 180), Dylan Schmutzler (6-1, 175), Nick Franciskovich (5-9, 160), and senior Dom Brunetti (5-10, 160) will be counted on at outside linebacker. Juniors Danny Martisek (5-11, 170) and Shane McEntee (5-9, 140) plus senior Nolan Ganser (5-10, 150) will be looked to at cornerback. Orban and fellow senior John Schmitt (6-0, 175) will be at free safety. "I think we have a solid defense and are going to have a lot of swag out there," Fiorillo said. "We've got the mindset to keep going. We are just going to keep pounding it and week-by-week we have the potential to be really good."
Gabe Czako (6-0, 150) and fellow junior Sean Svoboda, will both be counted on to do placekicking. Czako also plays on the soccer team, which is also now in season. Plus, he runs track and he will miss the opener at H-F because the Porters have a soccer game at the same time. So Svoboda will handle the kicking duties that game and will also be counted on to handle the punting during the season.
Being in the Blue Division of the SouthWest Suburban Conference doesn't do the Porters any favors. A trio of teams form the conference, defending Class 8A champion Lincoln-Way East (No. 1), H-F (No. 6), and Bolingbrook (No. 9) are all in the Top 10 of the Illinois Pre-Season Coaches Poll. But that's OK. The Porters know, if they want to be the best, they have to play and eventually beat the best.
"Our depth might not be as good as last year," said Czart, who enters his second season as Porters head coach. "But quality-wise, we are right there. We might have to pull up some sophomores but we will make it work. We have a lot of good players."
By Randy Whalen
Dominic Picciola is a senior on the Lockport Township football team and he plays on the offensive line.
1. After the nice 23-0 win over Sandburg last week, how would you assess the Porter season so far?
In the first week (41-14 loss to H-F) we had a few nerves. We hadn't played in a game for a year and a half. But in the second week, we improved a lot. We got our technique down on blocking and got it done. This was how we should play. Plus, it was good to play at home.
2. How long have you been playing football?
I started playing tackle football my freshman year at Lockport. Before that, I'd never played tackle football. I played flag football for a couple of years when I was at junior high at St. Joe's in Lockport. So I started later than most. My dad (Dave) wanted me to play high school football so I did and I love it.
3. Have you always played offensive line?
Yes, I always was a big kid (he's currently listed at 6-foot-1, 270 pounds), so I always wanted to play it. I love playing offensive line.
4. What is something about playing on the offensive line that the average football fan doesn't know?
That as a group in general, the offensive line is one of the more closer groups. You have to trust one another blocking as a group. That's the only way to be.
5. Do you play any other sports?
No. I used to. I played rec league baseball in Homer from tee-ball until eighth grade. Also, from firth the eighth grade I played basketball in junior high at St. Joes.
6. What have you learned from Lockport coach, George Czart?
What I've learned the most is to enjoy what you have left. The time is going to fly by, especially as a senior, so enjoy it. He's also taught us that hard work pays off and that you see the results on the field.
7. Who has influenced you as far as playing offensive line?
Two of the guys who graduated last year were big influences. They are Payton Collins, who is now at Grand Valley State University, and Billy Doyle, who is now at McKendree University. They taught me a whole bunch of things as far as playing on the line. I really look up to them.
8. Do you plan to play football in college?
I'm not sure yet. I'm weighing my options but I'm open to it. I'm undecided on a major.
9. If you could be any animal, what animal would you be and why?
A lion. Because they are the kings of the jungle. They hunt and they are big and strong. I relate that to playing on the offensive line.
10. What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
The best thing is the family you have in your sport. Just how much you see those people in the sport for four years, makes them your family in that time. You can just hang out with them on any day of the week.
Joe Suchorabski is a senior at Lockport Township. He is a starting linebacker on the football team.
1. How would you evaluate the team after the opening season loss to Homewood-Flossmoor?
I think both sides of the ball had great spurts. But at other times we had to shake the rust off. If we put it together on both sides of the ball, we are going to have a great season.
2. How long have you been playing football?
I've been playing since I was six or seven. I started playing flag football with the Homer Stallions and fell in love with it. I've been going ever since. My parents (Paul and Chrissy) pushed me toward it and I'm glad they did. My dad played football in high school at Reavis.
3. Do you play any other sports?
No. I played baseball freshman year and played before that too. But then I decided to focus on football.
4. What is it about the game of football that makes it the sport for you?
Football is a team sport. You have a close bond. It feels like you are out there with a bunch of brothers to me. Plus I love making a good hit and having the team and crowd behind you, cheering you on.
5. With all the COVID regulations in place, and the delaying of the season until spring, what did you do to stay fit and fresh?
I just had to mentally motivate myself to keep working. I love football, it gave me that drive and it felt really good to get back out there.
6. What opponent are you looking forward to playing the most the rest of the season?
Either Sandburg or Andrew. But probably Andrew. That's because we lost to them my sophomore year but beat them last season. When we beat them (24-7 on Oct. 18, 2019) at their place, we played one of our best defensive games.
7. What have you learned from Lockport football coach, George Czart?
Honestly, he's one of the greatest coaches that I've ever had. He helped motivate me and everything. He gets in my face sometimes but it helps motive me. He also teaches you morals, on-and-off the field.
8. Are you going to play football in college?
Yes. I just committed to Upper Iowa University (A Division II school in Fayette, Iowa). It's got great facilities, the coaches made me feel welcome. They have a great program revival going there and everyone is excited. I will probably major in business or economic finance.
9. Got to toss out this fun question again. If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?
Superman. Because everybody knows him. He's a good superhero and he saves the city.
10. What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
Just how everyone is supportive. They are there for you and support you through the ups-and-downs. Plus, when you play there is just a great atmosphere.
Interview by Randy Whalen
1. How excited are you for the football season?
I'm very excited especially coming off the pandemic because we haven't been on the field and I couldn't wait to get back out there with the team. It should be fun and I can't wait.
2. How long have you been playing football and how long for baseball?
I started playing football at around age six. I played flag football with the Homer Stallions and then moved to tackle football. I played through eighth grade and then four years at Lockport. I've been playing baseball about a year longer than football. I play second base and shortstop.
3. Have you always been a quarterback in football?
No. In my first couple of years, I was a right guard on the offensive line. Then I moved to center. and eventually to wide receiver. Since I was tall and athletic I took snaps at quarterback and started playing quarterback in high school.
4. Speaking of playing quarterback. You had to step in at the position last season when Marcos Voulgaris got hurt with a broken hand and you started five games. How much did his support mean to you at that time?
It was huge. I learned a lot from him and look up to him. He's now on the football team at Butler University and we still keep in touch. He was always positive and that's my thing too, to just believe.
5. So which sport do you like better, football or baseball?
That's a tough question. I love both but I'd have to say baseball. I've committed verbally at the end of January to play baseball at the collegiate level for the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. Since I've been young baseball has been my passion. But I also love the responsibility of running a team too. So I might try to walk on the football team. I don't know yet.
6. Because of the pandemic moving some fall sports to the spring, the high school football and baseball seasons will overlap a bit. How are you going to work that out?
Yes, they will overlap for two weeks. I just have to at least be a part of seven baseball practices in order to be eligible to play at the start of the season. I can do it but it's so crazy that those two seasons overlap.
7. What team are you looking forward to playing the most this season?
Lincoln-Way East. Obviously, they are the team to beat every year but if we are going to beat them, this is the year. We have such good team chemistry and as seniors, we have never beat them.
8. What have you learned from Lockport football coach, George Czart?
I've learned a lot. He's one of my favorite coaches. He just knows the game and has been around. What I really take from him is just to give 100 percent all of the time and just go full out, no matter what.
9. Here's a fun question. Who is your favorite superhero and why?
I'd say The Hulk. Because he's big, strong, and unbeatable. I like him by himself and I like him with The Avengers.
10. What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
The facilities are top-notch. We have one of the best baseball fields around, it's outstanding. Plus we have great athletic trainers, like coach (Joe) Cunnane.
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