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By Randy Whalen
It's been a busy year for George Czart.
He coached 20 football games in 2021, including 14 this fall. That calumniated with Lockport Township winning the Class 8A state championship.
But after that momentous accomplishment, there was little break for the veteran coach. He and the Porters were honored with a parade through Lockport and a rally at Central Square. There was the team banquet and a rally in Homer Glen happened too.
Oh, and there was something else. Czart, was named the 2021 Chicago Bears High School Coach of the Year. He becomes the Bears’ nominee for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year award that will be awarded at the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas in February 2022.
“Being recognized as Coach of the Year and as a Don Shula nominee is an honor that I have to share with and give thanks to many people,” Coach Czart said in a news release from the Bears. “We, here at LTHS, have truly succeeded together to accomplish a great feat that the whole community can be proud of. I humbly accept the award on behalf of the community, administration, alumni, parents, staff, coaches, and most of all the players that made it happen. Thank you to the Chicago Bears organization for recognizing that we, the Porter Nation, succeeded together.”
Reached a week after the honor was announced, Czart elaborated on winning the award.
"It was very cool and I was surprised a little bit," Czart said. "I felt joy, happiness, and thankful to be in this position. It's because of our kids that we've had a winning team. So this is all because of them."
Czart took over as the head coach at Lockport in 2019, after serving as an assistant football coach at Lincoln-Way West between 2016-18. Before that, he was the head coach at Lincoln-Way North between 2008 and when the school closed following the 2015-16 school year. Going 54-29 in that time. He was the defensive coordinator for Lockport from 1994-2006, during which time the Porters won two Class 8A state championships in 2002 and 2003.
Before Czart took over the Porter program they finished 0-9 in 2018. The Bears, who put out a press release announcing the award on Dec. 14, made a $2,000 donation to the Lockport football program in Czart’s honor.
"I found out about it about a week and a half before," Czart said of the award. "There was a blurb on the NFL Network when the release came out and the finalists get honored at the Pro Bowl."
Following the announcement of the award, Czart was on a couple of Chicago radio stations, in US 99 FM and WBBM AM. The Porters finished the season ranked No. 103 in the High School America national rankings, powered by NFL Play Football.
The Chicago Bears “Coach of the Week” program was launched in 1996. The “Coach of the Week” program honors outstanding Illinois high school coaches who develop players’ football skills and knowledge, character, leadership, discipline, and teamwork abilities.
Deserving high school coaches are nominated by a panel of local prep authorities. Since the program’s inception, which also includes the “High School All-Star” program that began in 2011, the Bears have donated more than $326,500 to Illinois high schools in support of their football programs.
As part of the award, Czart was honored at halftime of the Bear's Monday Night Football game on Monday, Dec. 20 against the Minnesota Vikings. He brought along five of the senior players that were part of this season's state championship team. Andrew LoPresti, Dylan Schmutzler, Ty Schultz, and Cody, and Cole Silzer. They all got to run out onto the field as highlights of the game were played on the big screen and Czart was given the award.
"They were running way ahead of me," Czart said of his players running on the field. "I had been on the field at Soldier Field a couple of other times when I won the Coach of the Week from the Bears at Lincoln-Way North. We were supposed to get to go to a Bears practice but that was closed down because of COVID."
Still, it was a thrill not only for Czart to run on the field but also for some of the players.
"I thought Coach Czart did an exceptional job all year and he definitely deserved the honor of Coach of the Year," Schmutzler said. "You can tell he put in the time and effort needed to win that award. Running out onto Solider field was awesome and a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Two of the Porters were quoted in the press release and they echoed what everyone has thought.
"He's really done a good job of bringing a winning culture and team concept here," LoPresti said. "But he also makes it fun and competitive, where we can show up and enjoy it. He's just something special."
Senior wide receiver Keegan Roberson agreed.
"He's always told us to take responsibility for our own actions," Roberson said. "Also it's something where he will yell at you but it will be to open up a teaching opportunity. He's definitely experienced a lot and I think he's a great coach."
Speaking of great coaches, it was only appropriate that Czart was honored before a game involving the Minnesota Vikings. That's because their head coach is Mike Zimmer, who is the son of former Lockport football coach, Bill Zimmer, who compiled a record of 164-143-5 in 34 seasons between 1960-93. Bill Zimmer was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1986.
Did Czart get to meet Mike Zimmer at the game?
"No, I did not," Czart said. "We were supposed to meet briefly but there was never a time to get it done. He's got a game to coach.
"I have never met him. But he sent me and the team a video message during our season and told us to go out and win a state championship."
That's exactly what the Porters did. They know that something as special as a state title and the accolades that followed it didn't happen overnight though. They started well before that, in times just like this in the middle of winter.
"It's been awesome and I've been busy, busy, busy," Czart said of the three weeks or so following the Porters championship. "But now guys are back in the room doing weight training. We can't take time off. It's a yearly thing to continue to get better and we have to get going."
By Randy Whalen
Before the season started, Lockport Township quarterback Hayden Timosciek was asked what his expectations were.
"I want an undefeated season and I want to win state," Timosciek said. "It's just a matter of not taking our foot off the gas. We have the talent to do it."
It was that sort of confidence that made what happened this past weekend possible.
The Lockport Township football team is your 2021 Class 8A State Champions.
Displaying the same confidence they had all season, the Porters completed their mission and captured the large-school state championship with a 24-6 victory over Maine South on Saturday, night, Nov. 27 at Huskie Stadium on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
Ty Schultz ran for well over 200-yards and scored two more touchdowns as Lockport (13-1) pulled away in the fourth quarter for its fourth double-digit postseason victory. While the Porters didn't quite make the undefeated season, they accomplished something that few onlookers, outside of themselves, would have believed back in August.
It's the third state title in football for Lockport (13-1) but certainly the most unexpected. Before this season the Porters hadn't made the playoffs in five years and had only won one postseason game (2011) since capturing back-to-back Class 8A state titles in 2002 and 2003. The second of those titles was a 48-27 victory over yep, Maine South.
Factor in that when this current group of seniors was freshmen in the fall of 2018, the varsity team was 0-9.
But none of that past history mattered to these young men who have left their mark on a program that has been playing football since 1899. All because they played as a team and played with confidence.
Start with Ty Schultz. Transfering to Lockport following his freshman season at Herscher, the 5-foot-10 now-senior running back was the leading rusher for the Porters as a sophomore in 2019. But he tore his ACL in his left knee before his junior season and missed that as well as the first two games of this year.
In the state title game, he had 32 carries for 231 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"We had confidence every day," Schultz said. "It was just our mo-jo working out there."
Coming back in the third week of the season, Schultz quickly became the go-to guy after initially splitting time with senior Andrew LoPresti. but his time on the sideline gave him a different perspective.
“I learned to not take football for granted,” Schultz said. “When I was on the sidelines watching us win, I felt good about it and happy for our guys, but I was also jealous they were able to play and I was standing there.
“This is really special. I think all of us are going to remember this and cherish this for the rest of our lives. We’re all going to be looking back at it years from now, laughing about it and sharing stories.”
Yes, they will. Many of them will be about the defense that had four shutouts in the first five games and limited three of its playoff opponents to a single touchdown or less, including a 34-0 shutout of second-round opponent, Glenbard West.
That defense was on display in the title game, forcing five turnovers, including many key ones. Like at the end of the third quarter. Trailing by only four points, the Hawks (12-2) had the ball near midfield and looked to create some late-game magic that helped them pull out their previous three playoff wins by a combined total of six points.
So they handed the ball off to their leading rusher, senior Mike Sajenko, who had five touchdowns in a 35-33 semifinal victory over Marist. He gained seven yards to the Lockport 46 but at that point, he lost something.
Danny Martisek reached in and stripped the ball away from Sajenko. The fumble was recovered by fellow senior defensive back Troy Mutz at midfield and returned four yards to the Maine South 46 with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.
It was one of many big plays in the game once again for Martisek, who had two interceptions for the second straight game to go along with seven tackles, and added three catches for 24 yards on offense after having six receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown in the 35-21 semifinal victory at Loyola.
“The D-line got pressure and he was just chucking it up,” Martisek said of Maine South senior quarterback Rowan Keefe. “And then it was just me making plays. When they were running the ball, he was carrying it kind of loose, every time I got a tackle I would try to rip it out and I got one.”
On first down from the 46, Schultz raced down the right side for 31 yards. He carried the next two plays as well, gaining four yards each time. That set up a third-and-two, and Schultz once again got the ball and ran over left tackle. He got the first down yardage and then literally dragged the last few defensive players into the end zone with him for his second touchdown. Following Gabe Czako's extra point, Lockport led 17-6 with 11:16 to play in the game.
"Everybody was doing what they were supposed to," Schultz said. "They (the offensive line) were doing well upfront. That’s the only reason I got those 230 yards.”
Ahh, yes. What of the offensive line? While many skilled starters returned from the Porters 4-2 team in the spring, most of the offensive line was brand new. But what a job they did this season, opening holes for Schultz, who finished with 207 carries for 1,245 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season. As a team, the Porters finished with 2,393 yards and 34 rushing touchdowns.
The offensive line consisted of senior Colin Kreczkowski at left tackle, senior Jimmy Gannon at left guard, senior Anthony Devito at center, sophomore Christos Alexandros at right guard. senior Jake Ahrens at right tackle, along with juniors Hyatt Timosciek at tight end and Mike Doneskiand halfback on certain formations.
Krzeczkowski was the only starter back on the line. He suffered a knee injury in the Loyola game and at first, wasn't sure if he'd be able to play in the title game. But he did and opened many a hole for Schultz.
"I didn’t get to practice a lot this week because of the injury, so I had to take a lot of mental reps in preparation for the game," Krzeczkowski said. "Those mental reps really got me ready to go out and play. I knew that there was no chance that I would miss this game.
"It feels great to open up holes for a guy like Ty and watch him break free and make big plays. He makes the entire O-line and offense look good."
Lockport head coach George Czart has also credited assistants Dave Pammer and Ryan Russell for their work with the offensive line. Plus, naturally, he credits Schultz.
“He’s gotten stronger as the year’s gone on,” Czart said of Schultz. “Why not give it to the guy? He’s a threat to break it at any point. Ty is a special runner.
“Who knows what would have happened if he didn’t have the surgery? He would have had last season. He’d probably have 6,000 yards by now.”
Following Schultz's second touchdown, there was an exchange of punts. The Hawks got the ball back at their own 36 midway through the fourth quarter, and still hoped for a comeback. But it didn't happen. They reached the Lockport 43 but from there Keefe (24-of-41, for 201 yards, no TDs, 3 INT) threw his second interception as senior outside linebacker Ethan Gallagher went up and grabbed it.
"The pick at the end of the game was a dagger-like play," Gallagher said of his seventh interception of the season. "We knew they had to start taking some shots and I went up and made a play on the ball. Lopresti finished the ensuing offensive drive with a touchdown which is when we started to know it was over. It was a great way to finish out the season with a great group of guys."
Sure enough, the Porters took over at their own 18 and drove the length of the field. LoPresti, who carried the load for the team in the spring and had 20 carries for 186 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 48-0 Week 2 win at Metea Valley, scored the final touchdown of the season on a 21-yard burst with 2:50 remaining in the game.
It was the second 21-yard run for LoPresti on the drive, He finished with eight carries for 69-yards in the game and had 119 carries for 689 yards and six touchdowns on the season.
“Andrew was a guy that could do the same thing (as Schultz),” Czart said. “And they blocked for each other. When Andrew was getting yardage, this guy (Schultz) was blocking for him. And vice versa.”
Fittingly, Martisek, Lockport's only two-way starter at both defensive back and wide receiver, grabbed a final interception, his 10th of the season, at his own 31 with 27 seconds left in the game. One kneel-down by Timosciek and the celebration with the large contingent of Porter fans, which included former coach Bret Kooi, and former quarterback (Class of 2012) Billy Reed, who was the previous person to quarterback a playoff win before this season, was on.
"It’s the greatest feeling ever to win the state championship, especially with all my friends who I have been playing with since I was a little kid," Krzeczkowski said. "All the hard work put in from the summer and the season has paid off."
It has, not only for the players but for the coaches. Take Czart, who was the defensive coordinator for the Porters back-to-back state title teams nearly two decades earlier. had an 8-year stint as the head coach at Lincoln-Way North from 2008-15. There he ended with seven straight winning seasons, including an 11-1 campaign his last year.
He was then a defensive coach at Lincoln-Way West for three seasons before getting the call in 2019 to come back to be the head coach at Lockport.
“I can pretend like I’m the big wig but you can’t win without the horses and these guys are the horses,” Czart said of this team. “They are making plays on their own a lot of times.”
A 2004 Lockport graduate, Adam Decaire was a wide receiver on those two state title teams. He's now coaching the guys at that position and found it "100 times more gratifying to win it as a coach."
"It's because of how rewarding it is for me to see these players, my Porter brothers, go through this whole experience because I know how special it was for me when I was in their shoes," Decaire said. "Winning as a player was great, but coaching these boys to victory was amazing!"
A 2009 Porter graduate and former player, Bo Starkey is now the varsity tight ends/fullbacks coach. But two years ago he was the offensive coordinator for the sophomore squad. So he saw first-hand what type of tenacity these guys had.
"They are fearless," he said of this group of seniors, which had 10 starters on each side of the ball. "They would play anyone, anywhere, it doesn’t matter."
That fearlessness was on display right away. Maine South received the opening kickoff and took just three plays to move from its own 32 to the Lockport 29. But from there the Hawks gained no yards after big tackles by senior linebackers Mekhi Johnson Maura and Nicky Franciskovich, who led the team with 12 tackles, three of them for loss, and added a pair of pass deflections, and turned the ball over on downs.
“We all play together,” Franciskovich said. “A guy makes a play and another guy wants to make a better play. We’re all just trying to do our job.”
All-State defensive lineman Drew Blackburn-Forst agreed.
“Together we succeed,” Blackburn-Forst said. “That first drive, they had some pretty good plays, but if we stay together as a unit, we will prevail eventually.”
Following an exchange of punts, the Porters took over at their own 42. Timosciek (12-of-22 for 116 yards, no INT) didn't find the deep passes he had the week before against Loyola, but he was 3-for-3 on this drive for 26 yards. That included a 15-yard pass to fellow senior Keegan Roberson (4 catches for 53 yards) to start the march.
Schultz finished off the 8-play drive by carrying the final four times, including racing in from 11-yards out for the first touchdown of the game with 1:43 left in the first quarter. That made it 7-0 and that score held up at halftime.
Although the Porters nearly added to their lead midway through the second quarter. Timosciek, however, fumbled the snap on a second-and-goal play at the Maine South three and senior cornerback Tommy Locascio recovered for the Hawks.
Later in the half, Keefe fumbled after having a first-and-10 at the Lockport 35 and Cole Silzer recovered for the Porters.
Silzer, along with his twin brother Cody and fellow senior Paul Rasp, joined Blackburn-Forst to make up with was probably the best defensive front four in the state.
"This is a brotherhood,” Cody Silzer said. “We play for the guy next to us. Our team saying this year was, ‘We over me. We is greater than me.’ That’s what we did and we got the job done.”
Especially in the third quarter. With the Hawks desperate for a big play, they made one by partially blocking a punt and taking over at the Lockport 39. But from there, Keefe tried to go deep and instead had his overthrown ball chased down and intercepted by Martisek at the two.
Two plays later, Schultz scampered for 44-yards to near midfield. Timosciek found his leading receiver on the season, senior Ryan Little (2 receptions for 16 yards) for a 7-yard gain, and the Porters eventually got to a fourth-and-one situation at the 20.
From there, Lockport did its "Rhino" package, which included bringing in Blackburn-Forst as a tight end. It worked to perfection as Blackburn-Forst caught a pass on the right side and rumbled for a 10-yard gain. It was his first-and-only pass reception on the season.
"We put in the Rhino play with a couple of weeks left in the regular season," Blackburn-Forst said. "It worked perfectly but I wish we could have used it closer to the goal-line and I could have got a touchdown."
Instead, Lockport only picked up one more yard on the next three plays and Czako came on to split the uprights with a 26-yard field goal and a 10-0 Lockport lead.
In addition to being the Porter placekicker, Czako, a senior, was also captain and a top defender on the Lockport soccer team. The soccer team placed third in the state in Class 3A earlier in the month. So Czako, who is ranked as the top hurdler in the state in Class 3A track and field, finished both of his fall sports with a team victory.
That's obviously a once-in-a-lifetime experience and he hopes to have more to come.
"I would have never thought this at the beginning of the seasons," Czako said of being on both of the state-placing teams. "They are all different things and different teams. So to end both seasons like this... I'm just glad to be a small part of these."
The Hawks responded and scored in a strange way. On a third-and-11 play from the Lockport 36, Keefe was sacked by Gallagher. But the ball popped out of his hands and Sajenko (15 carries for 76 yards) picked it up at midfield and ran 36 yards for a first down.
Keefe scored on a keeper from a yard out, four plays later. But the conversion kick was wide right, leaving the score 10-6 with 2:13 left in the third quarter.
"That was our MO," Czart said of the ream overcoming a bad or potential backbreaking situation. "I can go look back and pick a number of points in a game where we were on the ropes. But then these guys stepped up and made plays."
Sure enough, that would be the only scoring for the Hawks as Lockport's leading tackler on the season, linebacker Dylan Schmutzler, along with defensive backs junior Joey Manzo and senior Shane McEntee, helped make sure of that.
We stopped the running game all year,” Schmutzler said. “So we planned to stop him (Sajenko).”
But nothing could stop the Porters.
"It feels awesome to win at the highest level with my teammates," said Gallagher, who was named as an honorable mention linebacker on the All-State team. "We knew the only way we didn't end our high school careers with a loss was to win the state championship. We preached we over me all postseason and I think our team truly embodies that idea."
They did and that was reiterated the next day. On a sun-splashed but cold Sunday, Nov. 28, there was a big welcome home ceremony at the Porters stadium to celebrate the schools 21st Illinois High School Association state title to go with three others that were won before the sport was officially recognized or during COVID when there wasn't an official state tournament. With the team, the coaches, and the administration all in attendance, a few people said some wonderful words.
That included Czart, who wanted to make sure to mention junior linebacker Jake Duval, who couldn't be at the game or the celebration rally because of recent surgery.
The best words were said by Lockport Central Freshman Center principal, Kerri Green. She reminded the senior-laden team that when they came to Lockport as freshmen, she told them to "leave a legacy they can be proud of."
She also asked them what a Porter was. And said now that "we all know a Porter is a Winner!"
Timosciek showed that he was a winner in leading the team to the State Championship and earning First-Team All-State honors along the way. His prediction of an undefeated state title was only hampered by a 12-10 loss to SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division rival Lincoln-Way East in Week No. 8 on Oct. 15.
He was hurt for that game and only handled minimal punting duties.
But that's not what he and his teammates will remember. They will remember all the times together, from youth football to the culminating event of this past weekend.
“A lot of us were on the (Homer) Stallions together and we were always competitive,” Timosciek said. “By seventh and eighth grade, we kind of got a glimpse of what we could be.
“Now five, six years later, we’re state champs."
By Randy Whalen
Playing for a state championship.
That's what the Lockport Township football team is doing this Saturday evening, Nov. 27 at Northern Illinois University.
There the Porters will take on Maine South at 7 PM in a game to determine the Class 8A state champion.
Just less than two decades ago Lockport seemed on the cusp of a football dynasty, going 34-4 in a 3-year span, which included back-to-back Class 8A state titles in 2002 and 2003. But the Porters won just a single playoff game (2011) after the 2003 championship and had some down years of two, one, and no wins in that span.
But that was then and this is now.
"It feels great," Lockport coach George Czart said. "It was a long time coming for the Lockport fans and community. We've had a lot of people reaching out and wishing us luck."
Every team needs a little luck. But it's been the talent and belief system that has got the Porters to where they are. Their defense had four shutouts in the first five games and now had five on the season. While lineman like seniors Drew Blackburn-Forst, identical twins Cody and Cole Silzer, have got a lot of deserved publicity, many others have stepped up too.
Such as Nicky Franciskovich, who forced a fumble and had an interception in last Saturday's 35-21 semifinal win over previously undefeated and top-ranked Loyola. Mekhi Johnson Maura recover the fumble and also batted down a fourth-down pass. Fellow senior Dylan Schmutzler, who has been the leading tackler on the team all year from his middle linebacker position, also added an interception.
But the player of the game in the Loyola win was senior Danny Martisek, who doubles as a full-time two-way starter. He showed why with a pair of picks on defense and six receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown on offense.
Ryan Little, who has been the go-to receiver, hauled in a pair of touchdown passes and has 14 scoring receptions on the season from fellow senior Hayden Timosciek. All Timosciek has done is throw 23 touchdown passes, against one interception and has 2,007 passing yards despite missing one game.
Timosciek always says that teams have to "pick their poison" when playing the Porters and that is certainly true. Especially with someone like senior running back Ty Schultz, who has rushed for 2,014 yards and 20 touchdowns despite missing the first two games of the season as he recouped from an ACL injury.
Just like Lockport, Maine South is also 12-1. In fact, the Hawk's only loss was by one point (20-19 to Palatine on Sept. 17) while the Porters' only loss was by two points (12-10 to Lincoln-Way East on Oct. 15).
Lockport has four games decided by eight points or less this year but the Hawks have seven. That includes their last three, by a combined total of six points. Those were 21-18 over Plainfield North in the second round, 14-13 over Neuqua Valley in the quarterfinals, and 35-33 over host Marist last week in the semifinals.
In the win over Marist, senior running back Mike Sajenko scored all five of the team's touchdowns He ran 19 times for 108 yards and three scores and caught eight passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
Sajenko has 14 touchdowns in the Hawks’ playoff run. That includes a program-record six in the first-round 51-7 win over New Trier and three in the comeback win over Plainfield North. He has nearly 1,300 yards and 23 rushing TD's on the season and adds 447 yards and seven receiving scores.
"He's a horse, he's an All-Stater," Czart said of Sajenko. "When you have a horse, you have to ride him."
Quarterback Rowan Keefe has 2,245 passing yards with 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His favorite targets are fellow seniors Sajenko (41 receptions) along with Will Guzaldo (36 catches for 566 yards, 5 TDs), and Chris Petrucci (28 receptions for 436 and 5 TDs).
Just like Lockport, the Hawks are senior-laden with 19 senior starters. The Porters have 20.
Defensively the tackle leaders for Maine South are seniors Cole Cichowski at free safety, along with Charlie Leach and Jimmy Brander at linebacker. Another senior, defensive tackle Teddy Gianaris, has impressed Czart on film.
"You aren't going to be as successful as they have been without a great defense," Czart said. "There are no glaring weaknesses and they will be looking to give us fits.
"We can't be our own worst enemy. We had two turnovers against Loyola and some bad penalties. But we've been good enough to overcome them."
This is the fourth state title game for Czart. He was the defensive coordinator at Providence when the Celtics won the 4A title in 1991 and then for the Porters in 2002 and 2003. He is familiar with Maine South from a past meeting. That was the 2003 state title game.
Lockport trailed 20-13 at halftime and 27-20 midway through the third quarter. But Czart's defense came up with big plays down the stretch and the Porters went onto a 48-27 victory.
That was the first of what is now eight state title appearances for Maine South coach Dave Inserra. He lost his first three (2003, 2004, 2005) but has won the past four (2008, 2009, 2010, 2016).
"Maine South is a quality program," Czart said. "They have been there. Dave does a great job getting them believing in their system."
The Porters may not have been there in 18 years, meaning the oldest of their players were just born before the Nov. 29, 2003 date of the last title. But they are there now and so is their talent, which has been overlooked by some media during the season.
"We have a lot of horses," Czart said. "We still have our nonbelievers and I don't know what they're looking at."
When did Czart know he was looking at a team that could advance this far?
"Honestly, I knew last season when these guys were juniors," he said of the shortened six-game spring season where the Porters went 4-2. "I thought if we had playoff then we could have made a run. We talked about it as a team, saying this team is good enough to win a state championship."
Now they are one win away from doing just that.
"I'm just looking forward to the game," Czart said. "I'm just looking forward to that excitement, the kids being excited, and having a celebration afterward."
There will be a celebration as one is scheduled for the next day, Sunday, Nov. 28, at noon at the Porter Stadium.
By Randy Whalen
The Illinois High School Association Class 8A State Championship football game will be this Saturday at 7 PM at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
Lockport Township will be there.
The Porters surprised everyone except themselves as they strolled into Wilmette and knocked off previously unbeaten, top-ranked, and top-seeded Loyola Academy 35-21 on Saturday, Nov. 20 in a state semifinal matchup.
Lockport (12-1) will make its first state title appearance since capturing back-to-back championships in 2002 and 2003. In fact, it will be just like old times as the Porters will face the same team they defeated 48-27 in the 2003 game. That's Maine South (12-1), which held on for a 35-33 win over host Marist in the other semifinal on Saturday.
The loss ends an 18-game winning streak for Loyola (12-1), which was 6-0 in the COVID shortened spring season in which there were no playoffs.
It will be the 10th title game appearance for the Hawks, who have won six championships, including three straight Class 8A ones between 2008-10 and most recently in 2016. This is Lockport's third title game appearance.
The heroes for the Porters against Loyola were plentiful. In other words, it took a team effort. One that starts at the top.
"A lot of that is coach Czart," Lockport quarterback Hayden Timosciek said of head coach George Czart's contribution to the success. "He came in here and set a new culture. That and just this group of guys. Most of us have been playing together since we were kids."
That group of guys included Timosciek, who completed 15 of 26 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns were to Ryan Little (4 receptions for 76 yards) and the other was to another fellow senior, Danny Martisek (6 receptions for 135 yards).
It was quite an all-around day for Martisek, who transferred to Lockport after playing his freshman season on the sophomore team at Providence. He added two interceptions on defense in having his best game in literally years.
"This was my best varsity game, that's for sure," Martisek said. “That was the greatest game I played since youth league. It (going to state) just feels so great. It's awesome."
Senior running back Ty Schultz, a steady force ever since he's returned from ACL surgery in the third week of the season, added 72 hard-earned yards on 24 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. He now has 1,004 yards and 20 touchdowns for the season.
The vaunted Porter defense forced five turnovers. Senior linebacker Dylan Schmutzler and senior defensive back Nicky Franciskovich also recorded interceptions for the Porters. Franciskovich also forced a fumble which was recovered by Mekhi Johnson Maura, a senior linebacker, who also had a key deflected fourth-down pass.
The Porters senior All-State players, defensive lineman Drew Blackburn-Forst along with linebacker Ethan Gallagher performed as well as ever.
"It feels awesome, awesome, Gallagher said. "We just work hard in practice and everything we do, we do together all across the board. Everyone just stepped up and made big plays."
In addition to Blackburn-Forst, the defensive front of seniors Paul Rasp and twins Cody and Cole Silzer were also everywhere. To play in the game was especially great for Cody Silzer, who left the previous week's 28-22 win over host Glenbard North with a left leg injury.
"I didn't feel 100 percent but I was not, not playing in this game," Cody Silzer said. "It feels amazing. We all watched the film and knew what we had to do. It feels awesome and all the hard work paid off."
Especially with big plays down the stretch. The game was tied 14-14 at halftime and the Ramblers got the ball to start the third quarter. But they turned the ball over on downs following an incomplete pass on a fourth-and-six play at the Lockport 42.
Aided by a pair of pass interference penalties and a 15-yard strike from Timosciek to senior wide receiver Keegan Roberson (2 receptions for 20 yards) to the Loyola 20 on a fourth-and-seven play, the Porters marched down to a first-and-goal at the nine. On second down, Schultz scampered in from the seven and Lockport had the lead for good at 21-14.
Following Franciskovich punching the ball out and Johnson Maura recovering at the Lockport 48, the Porters were back on the move. Once again there was a big fourth-down play on a fourth-and-six from the 32, Martisek made a great catch down the right side to set up a first-and-goal at the five in the final minute of the third quarter.
"Offensively it was just a matter of getting the ball out quick and trusting my receivers," Timosciek said. "Just putting together the practice plan. We knew we could throw on them. We have the best receiving core in the state. On any given day, at least in my mind, no group of defensive backs is going to be able to stop all of them.”
Then Schultz slammed in from a yard out on third-and-goal with 11:10 left in the game and Lockport led 28-14.
Aided by a big play on a flea-flicker pass and a pair of Porter penalties, Loyola responded in just 43 seconds and pulled within 28-21 on a six-yard touchdown pass from junior Jake Stearney to senior wide receiver Roger Simon with 10:27 to play.
Things looked good for the Ramblers when they recovered a fumble at their own 38 with 8:36 remaining. That was one of two turnovers by Lockport. Timosciek had thrown his first interception of the season in the final minute of the first quarter.
Loyola, however, turned the ball right back over as Schmutzler snuck in, grabbed a mishandled fourth-down pass, and returned it to the Loyola 43 with 8:09 left.
"I've been trying all year to get one and finally in a huge game I got one and it couldn't be better," Schmutzler said. "Hopefully I can get some more.
"It's a great feeling our whole team has been talking about state since freshmen year and we've put in a lot of work, but we're not done yet we have to finish the job and go win state. Time to continue working and practicing and focus on the next game."
Another long pass, this one a 31-yarder from Timosciek to Martisek to the Rambler nine, set up a first-and-goal. On third-and-goal, Timosciek connected with Little who tipped the ball up in the air, away from the defender, and to himself for an eight-yard touchdown in the right corner with 4:49 to play.
Counting the time that Little tossed a TD pass to Timosciek, it was the 15th TD combo between the two this season.
"That was all concentration," Little said of his fourth-quarter touchdown. "I didn't have the position on the ball that I would have liked because I was more in front of the DB. But I just stuck my hand up and was able to keep the ball away from the defender on the way down to the ground.
"I’m so happy. You can’t put words on it."
Gabe Czako, a senior who was a top defender and one of the captains on the Porters Class 3A third-place state soccer team, booted his fifth extra point of the game and Lockport led 35-21 with 4:49 remaining.
"At the start of the seasons I could never imagine the success in both sports," Czako said of being one of the few to ever help lead two teams to state trophies in one season. "I can't put it into words, it's just an unreal experience."
Stearney, who battled through a thumb injury in the second half, finished 20-of-35 with a TD and four interceptions. He tried to lead a last-minute drive but Martisek made his second interception of the game at the 14 with 2:25 to play.
“I don’t get a lot of balls thrown my way,” Martisek said. “I am usually locked down in coverage. They tried the comeback and it didn’t work. I was right there.”
After Lockport ran a little over a minute off the clock, Franciskovich was there too. His interception and return into Ramber territory with 1:18 remaining was the icing on the cake on a beautiful fall afternoon that was at least 10 degrees warmer than the weekend before.
"I just read it, picked it off, and waved goodbye," said Franciskovich, who doubles as a linebacker as well as a DB. "Coach Czart got on me after the last game and said I wasn't a linebacker. That motivated me.
"It's the best feeling ever. No one gave us a chance but we all thought we were going to win."
After a couple of kneel-downs by Timosciek, the Porters danced off the field in celebration of something few would have ever thought possible when the varsity team went 0-9 just three years ago.
The game, however, didn't exactly start off well. On the first play from scrimmage, Timosciek was sacked by senior defensive lineman Michael Williams for a three-yard loss. Shaken up on the play, Timosciek left the game, and junior Brady Pfieffer came in for the next two plays, including an incomplete pass.
"It was just a stinger," Timosciek said of the play. "I held the ball too long."
To make matters worse, the Ramblers partially blocked the punt and set up shop at the Lockport 27. Six plays and two Porter penalties later, senior fullback/linebacker James Kreutz barreled in from a yard out with 8:09 left in the first quarter.
Kreutz is the son of former Chicago Bear offensive lineman Olin Kreutz.
Timosciek, who is a first-team Class 8A All-State selection, showed he was back at full strength as he returned on the next possession and led the Porters downfield. He hit a 22-yard strike to Little and had a 25-yard pass to Martisek, which was immediately followed by a seven-yard touchdown pass to Martisek to tie the game at 7-7 with 6:47 left in the opening quarter.
“They were pressing,” Martisek said of the Rambler defense. “We have good, fast receivers and we took the top off. Hayden got us the ball and Ryan Little and I made plays.”
The defenses started to make plays following that. Martisek made his first pick at his own 18 with just under three minutes left in the first quarter. But in the final seconds of the quarter, Timosciek was intercepted for the first time this season. But since he's thrown for over 2,000 yards and has a 23-1 TD to interception ratio, he can be forgiven.
Johnson Maura deflected a fourth-down pass on the ensuing possession but the Porters went three-and-out and had to punt. That punt was also partially blocked and the Ramblers took over at the Lockport 43.
That led to Kreutz scoring from a yard out on a fourth-and-goal play to give the Ramblers their last lead at 14-7 with 3:07 to play in the first half.
But back came the Porters, going 71 yards in nine plays for the tying touchdown. A four-yard pass to Schultz on a fourth-and-three play kept the drive alive. It also set up the next play, a 30-yard rocket from Timosciek to Little on the left side, that resulted in a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14 with just 24 seconds to play in the first half.
"The first touchdown catch was definitely a big one especially since we were down before the half, and tying up the game was huge there," Little said. "I was able to just run past the DB and Hayden gave me a great ball to make a play.
"It is an amazing feeling knowing we are going to state, from the beginning of the season, we knew that this team had what it takes to go down and have a chance at the title."
The touchdown was truly big as it renewed the Porter passion.
“For me, that was a big momentum shift,” Timosciek said. “Going into the second half, we knew it was a new game and we were not having to come back from a deficit.”
It will certainly go down as one of the most memorable victories in the annuals of Lockport football history.
"Danny got the opportunities and we found a matchup where he showed what he can do," Czart said of Martisek. "Then Hayden made the plays and we had our stops by forcing the turnovers. We stepped up when we needed to. It's just awesome, awesome to have this experience."
Something that impressed Czart, and he made sure to point out to the team afterward was the number of football alumni that showed up to support the team. That included many of the seniors that graduated this past spring after not getting a full final season or an opportunity for the playoffs.
It also included former quarterback Spiro Voulgaris, who led Lockport to its first-ever playoff win (21-14 over East Moline United) in the fall of 1985, and many members of the 2002 and 2003 state title teams.
"I saw all the alumni and the first thing I noticed was all the big smiles on their faces," said Czart, who was the defensive coordinator for the Porters for 13 seasons from 1994-2006. "We always want them here. Once a Porter, always a Porter and that's what makes Porter Nation."
SWSC All-Conference (Blue) - Congrats to our 7 Porters
By Randy Whalen
The further a team goes in the playoffs, the tougher it's supposed to get.
Coming off its toughest playoff game, the Lockport Township football team will travel to Wilmette at 1 PM on Saturday afternoon to face, what is one paper, the biggest challenge yet.
The undefeated Ramblers have been ranked No. 1 in Class 8A AP poll since they found out they'd be in the largest class in Week No. 4. They are the top seed in the class and that's why they are hosting the semifinal game this weekend.
All they have done since 2011 is win a pair of state championships, and finish second four times, all of those in 8A. They played in four straight title games between 2015-18, winning the title in 15 and 18. In '19 they lost in the quarterfinals and there were no playoffs due to COVID this past season, which was moved to the spring.
Still, Loyola obviously has a tradition, is used to getting to this point as this is its 10th state semifinal advancement since 2009.
"They are a good team, no doubt," Lockport coach George Czart said. "They are a big team. They have some size, some savvy. Their quarterback (junior Jake Stearney) throws the ball well and runs well. They have big linemen and they can do a lot of things. They are just solid everywhere."
The Ramblers (12-0) defeated visiting Lincoln-Way East 3-0 in their quarterfinal matchup last Saturday. Afterward, veteran Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar was impressed.
“Best team in the state, best team in the Midwest,” Zvonar said of the Ramblers
Lincoln-Way East was the only team to defeat the Porters this season. That was 12-10 in a Week No. 8 SouthWest Suburban Blue Division matchup on Oct. 15 at Lockport.
But that refocused this Lockport (11-1) team, which is the fourth seed in Class 8A and has scored at least four touchdowns per game and won four in a row since then.
"There's no room for error, we have to have all three phases of our game in high gear," Czart said. "Especially our offense. We need to do what we've been doing all year and score a lot of points."
An example of that can be found in a play in last week's quarterfinal contest at Glenbard North. The Porters led 21-7 at halftime and looked to extend to a three-touchdown lead, putting together a nice drive to open the third quarter. But they were stopped, literally a centimeter short on a fourth-and-one play from the Glenbard North 10. While the Panthers never tied the game, they hung in there until the final minute.
If the Porters would have scored there they most likely would have put the game away. There won't be any margin to come up short on those close plays against Loyola.
Just ask Lincoln-Way East. Down 3-0 in the third quarter, the Griffins took advantage of a bad snap on a punt and had possession at the Loyola 15. But the Ramblers defense held a pair of runs to a net of one yard and after a delay of game call, seniors Sam Rushin and Graham McCabe had sacks to end the threat.
All told, Loyola had nine sacks on the day. The appropriately named Rushin had two-and-a-half of them as the Griffins were limited to just over 100 total yards. So the Lockport offensive line, which has really come together after being a question mark to open the season, will have their work cut out for them.
"Our offensive line has done a great job," Czart said of seniors Colin Kreczkowski, Jimmy Gannon, Anthony Devito, and Jake Ahrens along with sophomore Christos Alexandros, plus tight end Hyatt Timosciek and fellow junior Mike Doneski as a halfback. "(Assistant coaches) Dave (Pammer) and Ryan (Russell) have done a great job with the kids and it's great to see the hard work pay off."
Against the Griffins, Stearney completed 18 of 28 passes for 178 yards, including a 35-yarder to junior tightened Jack Parker on a fake punt as time was winding down to put the game away. Senior James Kreutz led the Ramblers, who had just over 100 yards on the ground with 41 rushing yards. Sophomore Michael Baker accounted for the only points of the game, kicking a 32-yard field goal with nine seconds left in the first half.
Two of the Rambler's three shutouts on the season have come in the playoffs. They opened the postseason by blanking Downers Grove South 44-0. Lockport has five shutouts on the season, including 34-0 over visiting Glenbard West in the second round. Loyola is coached by former NFL linebacker John Holecek, who played in the league from 1995-2002 and is a 1990 Marian Catholic graduate.
For most of the quarterfinal game, Lockport's outstanding all-senior defensive line was playing without a key player, Cody Silzer, who went out with a left ankle injury in the first quarter. His twin brother, Cole, along with Drew Blackburn-Forst and Paul Rasp, stepped up as did others. Notably, outside linebacker Ethan Gallagher, who had an interception and a fumble recovery.
"The x-rays were negative and he's been getting aggressive treatments," Czart said of Silzer. "We hope he's back but if not someone will have to step up."
Offensively it was Ty Schultz, who had 26 carries for 175 yards and four touchdowns, who carried the load for the Porters in the quarterfinal game. Fellow senior running back Andrew LoPresti added 20 yards in the game and could break free at any point. Senior quarterback Hayden Timosciek was 7-of-13 for 97 yards. While he didn't have a touchdown pass, he has 20 of them on the season against zero interceptions. Seniors Ryan Little, Danny Martisek, and Keegan Roberson have been the top receivers.
After 12 games, Lockport's offense is literally divided down the middle with 2,029 rushing yards and 2,027 passing yards.
Blackburn-Forst and Timosciek were both named to the Illinois High
School Football Coaches Association Class 8A All-State team.
was the defensive coordinator for the Porters when they won Class 8A semifinal
games by the scores of 41-38 at Hinsdale Central in 2002 and 37-16 at Brother
Rice in 2003.
While the Porters have played in four games decided by eight points or less, Loyola had played in and won four games by three points or less. Included in that was a 46-43 victory at Class 7A semifinalist Brother Rice on Sept. 17.
So the Ramblers are certainly vulnerable. It just hasn't happened yet but there's always a first.
Either way, Lockport football is back in prominence and here to stay as Czart has the program back among the top ones.
"Personally I feel lucky and blessed to be in this position," Czart said. "It's really been great. It's been awesome and a whole lot of fun to work with these coaches and players.
"It's exciting to go there (Loyola). It's a privilege to play and we want to represent Lockport. But absolutely, if we want to be held in high regard we have to win these games. That's what we plan to do."
2021-2022 IHSFCA All-State Team **Congrates to Andrew Blackburn-Forst and Hayden Timosciek**
2021-2022 IHSFCA Honorable Mention All-State Team **Congrates to Ethan Gallagher**
By Randy Whalen
As Ty Schultz walked off the field following the hard-fought Lockport Township quarterfinal football victory, he was stopped by his grandfather.
That's Dennis Schley, who was a very successful football coach at Romeoville, guiding the Spartans to 44 wins in a 6-year span between 1982-87.
None of Schley's teams, however, made the state semifinals. But now, in 2021, Schley had a huge smile on his face as he beamed with pride and happiness. That's because he had just seen his grandson literally carry the Porters to that point.
Schultz, a senior running back scored all four Lockport touchdowns as the Porters punched their ticket to the state semifinals with a 28-22 victory over Glenbard North in a Class 8A football quarterfinal playoff on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 13 in Carol Stream.
Lockport (11-1) will play Loyola, a 3-0 winner over Lincoln-Way East, this coming Saturday in the state semifinals in Wilmette.
The Panthers (8-4), who battled until the final minute, advanced to their first quarterfinal since finishing second in the state in Class 8A in 2012.
"It's very exciting," Schultz said of the Porters advancing to the semifinals for the third time in school history. "We had a good week of practice and want to just keep doing what we're doing. Our line did a really good job blocking and was very physical."
Schultz, who finished with 26 carries for 175 yards, galloped in from 10-yards out with 9:25 to play in the game. That gave the Lockport a 28-14 lead and the drive was kept alive after the Panthers were called for roughing the kicker on a Porter punt on a fourth-and-22 play from the Glenbard North 38.
When the Panthers punted on their next possession, it appeared that the game was over. But out of timeouts, the Glenbard North defense held the Porters on a fourth down play. Taking over at their own 32, the Panthers put together a frantic 15-play drive, that included a pair of fourth-down conversions. They capped it off on a 19-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Justin Bland to senior wide receiver Joshua Applewhite (5 receptions for 97 yards), who hauled it in among three defenders in the right corner of the end zone.
That came with 40.6 seconds left in the game and when Bland found junior Ryan Prell on the 2-point conversion pass, Glenbard North was within six points. The 22 points were the most allowed in a game by the Porters, who entered only allowing 70 points total, this season.
The Panthers then appeared to recover the onside kick. The ball, however, didn't go 10 yards. So Lockport took possession and ran out the clock.
There was nothing bland about Bland as he kept creating plays all game. He finished 18-of 31 for 252 yards passing with two touchdowns and an interception. He added 14 carries for 68 yards.
"Our quarterback did a nice job extending plays," Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkins said of Bland. "We tried to mix in the run but they pretty much shut that down. It was just a great high school football game. Our defense has been playing well all year. But (the Porters) run the ball well and throw it well too. Plus they are big upfront.
"We left some plays out there. But I can't say enough about these kids, especially the seniors. I'm very proud of the kid's effort."
They impressed Lockport coach George Czart.
"They were no fluke, they were a really good team," he said of the Panthers. "They threw the ball on us and that's what we were afraid of."
Lockport won the toss and elected to defer. That proved to be a good decision as the Panthers went three-and-out on their first possession and punted. Lockport then went 75-yards in 11 plays, plus drawing a key offside call on a fourth-and-three play at the five. Schultz gained a first down on the ensuing play and then scored from the one midway through the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Fresh off helping the Porters soccer team to a third-place finish in the Class 3A state finals on Saturday, Nov. 6, senior Gabe Czako booted all four of his extra-point attempts.
Senior quarterback Hayden Timosciek, who finished 7-of-13 for 97 yards, was 3-of-5 for 58 yards on the opening drive. Senior wide receiver/defensive back Danny Martisek had four receptions for 70 yards in the game, including a 29-yard one on a third-and-10 play in the opening drive.
"It was sort of a pick your poison with us and we just rammed it down their throat," Timosciek said of the running game. "It (going to the semifinals) feels great. It's one of those you things you kind of dream of but it's 10 times better when it happens."
Glenbard North tied the game when Bland connected with junior Zamari Robinson (3 receptions for 43 yards), who reached up to haul in a 29-yard TD pass with 5:23 left in the second quarter.
But that was short-lived as Schultz scampered 63-yards down the right side on the Porters ensuing play from scrimmage for a touchdown just 18 seconds later.
"It was big," Schultz said of his long TD run. "Any play like that is big at any time but especially after they just scored. "(fellow senior running back) Andrew LoPresti threw a good block and I stiff-armed a guy and kept going."
Going behind the offensive line of seniors Colin Kreczkowski, Jimmy Gannon, Anthony Devito, and Jake Ahrens along with sophomore Christos Alexandros, plus tight end Hyatt Timosciek and fellow junior Mike Doneski as a halfback helped too.
Ethan Gallagher, a senior outside linebacker, who also had a big fumble recovery at the Lockport 18 midway through the third quarter, grabbed an interception at midfield and returned it 30 yards to the Panther 20. Five plays later, Schultz slammed in from 4-yards out on a third-and-goal play and Lockport led 21-7 with 45.8 seconds left in the first half. That was the score at intermission.
"It felt awesome getting two takeaways that put our offense in a good spot," Gallagher said. "Our goal on defense is to always find a way off the field and turnovers are the easiest way to do that."
After getting the ball at the Porters 42, Glenbard North took advantage of the short field and close to 21-14 when junior running back Damarion Elliston (10 carries - 17 yards) rumbled in from the two with 42.8 seconds left in the third quarter.
"Ethan is a big playmaker for us and did a great job," Czart said. "The offensive line was excellent and (assistant coaches) Dave Pammer and Ryan Russell do a great job preparing them."
The news wasn't all good for the Porters. they lost top defensive lineman senior Cody Silzer, to a left leg injury with five minutes to play in the first quarter. He stayed out the rest of the game but plans to be back this week.
"Having Cody out was a challenge since I had to take his place at the tackle position," Porter senior defensive lineman Drew Balckburn-Forst said. "But we had (senior) Michael Holland and (junior) Owen Skentzos among others step in and that was amazing.
"This is a dream come true to be in the Top Four in the State. But we're not done yet."
No, the Porters are not as they will be on the road against an undefeated top-seed Ramber team that won their fourth game of the season by three points or less in the semifinals. Lockport will need to make some big plays as Schultz did against the Panthers.
"That (67-yard TD run) was big," Czart said. "Ty did a really nice job on that run. What a special runner he is, really a special athlete. It's too bad he missed the spring season and first two games of this year (with a torn ACL). He would have had more looks from colleges.
Czart was part of state semifinal teams as a defensive assistant at Providence and the two at Lockport (2002 and 2003) which went on to result in Class 8A State Championships. But as a head coach, he lost a pair of close quarterfinal games (2013 and 2015) at Lincoln-Way North. So it's special for him to get a team to this point.
"It feels good right now," Czart said. "I'll probably go in a room, close the door, put my hands in the air, and scream later to enjoy it in my own way."
By Randy Whalen
When a team gets this far in the high school football playoffs things just start to feel different. There are only eight teams left and each one has two wins. A victory this week means moving onto the final four.
That's what is on the mind of Lockport Township as the Porters (10-1) prepare to face Glenbard North (8-3) this Saturday at 1 PM in a Class 8A quarterfinal matchup in Carol Stream.
"The quarterfinals are a little more intense," Lockport coach George Czart said. "You pay more attention to detail. You have a whole season worth of film to scout with. So you get a nicer picture."
They also get a day game, something that the Porters haven't played since defeating host Bolingbrook 42-14 on April 3 in the COVID shortened spring season.
"We haven't had a day game since Bolingbrook in the spring," Czart said. "But we did OK there. We were the road warriors early on this season (with 4 of the first 5 games on the road and all of them Porter shutouts). We just have to take the time to focus."
This is the third time that Czart has coached a team to the quarterfinals. He lost close games at this junction as Lincoln-Way North (12-6 to Richards in 2013 and 42-35 to Hinsdale South in 2015). This is the fourth time that Czart has been involved with a quarterfinal team at Lockport. He was the defensive coordinator in 1998 (20-17 loss at Naperville North), 2002 (40-20 win at Downers Grove South), and 2003 (27-14 home win over Wheaton Warrenville South).
So all of the Porters quarterfinal appearances in their history have happened with Czart involved in them.
Despite Lockport's success and the fact the team has five shutouts, including last week in a 34-0 home blanking of Glenbard West, there have not been a lot of accolades for the Porters.
"I don't know what they are looking at," Czart said of the lack of respect. "But unit we get it, it's OK. We will use it as a chip."
When Czart looks at Glenbard North he sees a very good team that has played a lot of close games. The Panther's losses were by a total of five points, with two of them coming by the score of 21-20 in midseason to Batavia and Wheaton North, which only had one regular-season loss between them.
Glenbard North also had a pair of 5-point wins to start the season and its two playoff games have also been close. Those were 34-30 over host Bolingbrook and 10-7 at home against Warren.
"All of their games except a couple have been close," Czart said. "On film, I see a good running and passing attack and a good defense. They do sort of the same thing as us, except they do it differently.
"Their quarterback (junior Justin Bland) does a nice job and they do a two-tight end set. Their offensive line is big and pretty active and effective. Our plates going to be full."
Especially with the likes of senior wide receiver Shea Gaffney, who caught three touchdown passes in the first quarter against Bolinbbrook (7-3). Junior Sam Palmer ran for two scores as Glenbard North had 332 total yards.
In the victory against Warren (9-2), Palmer scored in the second quarter and that held up until late in the game. After tying the score with 2:34 to play, the Warriors forced a quick punt and had an opportunity to win. But the Glenbard North defense came up with a huge play, as senior linebacker Colin Gudella and senior lineman Max Eick combined on a strip-sack, and the Panthers recovered the fumble with 1:36 left to play.
That led to the game-winning 43-yard field goal by junior kicker Juan Ramirez with 24.5 seconds to play in the game.
The Porters, however, know all about making big plays too. This past week, Glenbard West was marching downfield, in control of the ball and taking time off the clock. But, with a first-and-goal at the 10, the Hilltoppers fumbled and junior free safety Troy Mutz recovered with 1:41 left in the opening quarter.
In the second quarter, junior Joey Manzo set up the first TD with a 24-yard punt return to the 21. Two plays later, senior Ty Schultz (16 carries for 88 yards) scored the first of his two touchdowns.
Then senior defensive back Danny Martisek made another interception. He leads the team with six on the season, and this one led to a quick score as Hayden Timosciek (10-of-18, 198, 3TDS) found his favorite receiver, fellow senior Ryan Little (5 receptions for 108 yards, 2TDs) for an 11-yard touchdown on the next play to make it 14-0.
Ethan Gallagher caught another TD pass just before halftime and the rout was on as it was 21-0 at intermission. Gallagher doubled at linebacker on defense and made plays as did fellow seniors Drew Blackburn-Forst and Paul Rasp on the defensive line.
"Our kids were able to weather the storm early on and get off the ball," Czart said of his defense. As the game goes on our kids should be able to make adjustments like that and get better.
"Teams have an MO or identity at this point. To see the plans come to fruition is a good feeling."
The forecast calls for a crisp mid-November day with a high of 40 or so. In other words, quarterfinal playoff weather.
"It should be a beautiful day for a ballgame," Czart said. "We can't wait. We're happy to be here but definitely not satisfied."
By Randy Whalen
Comic Rodney Dangerfield had a famous one-liner of "I get no respect."
Well despite an 8-1 regular-season record and a No. 4 playoff seed, the Lockport Township football team felt that way too.
Before their opening playoff game, a Chicago paper picked the Porters to lose to Lyons Township. Many thought they would meet their end this past weekend then.
Instead, all the Porters did was make big play after big play and dominate in a 34-0 rout of Glenbard West on Saturday night, Nov. 6, in a Class 8A second-round matchup before a good-sized crowd in Lockport.
Hayden Timosciek fired three touchdown passes, two to Ryan Little, and fellow senior Ty Schultz rushed for a pair of touchdowns. The defense recorded its fifth shutout of the season but first at home and also first since a 42-0 win over Sandburg in Week No. 5.
Lockport (10-1) will travel to Carol Stream on Saturday at 1 PM to take on No. 21 seeded Glenbard North, a 10-7 winner over No. 5 seeded Warren, in a quarterfinal matchup.
This is the fourth time in school history that the Porters have made the state quarterfinals. The others were 1998, 2002, and 2003. In 2002 and 2003 they went on to win the Class 8A state title.
"Coming in we hadn't earned people's respect yet," Lockport coach George Czart said. "We thought we could make a run last season but it got moved (to the spring because of COVID) and there were no playoffs."
This should help on the respect level, especially for Timosciek who now has 20 touchdowns and no interceptions on the season.
“Hayden is the real deal,” Lockport coach George Czart said. “He’s a 6-foot-7 kid who’s got a passion for playing quarterback. He’s got a burning desire to succeed. He’s our leader.
“He’s got an arm. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and he works hard. He certainly can throw that ball, and he’s got great receivers to throw to. They’re protecting really well for him, too. He doesn’t take a beating back there.”
The offensive line of seniors Colin Kreczkowski, Jimmy Gannon, Anthony Devito, and Jake Ahrens along with sophomore Christos Alexandros, plus tight end Hyatt Timosciek and fellow junior Mike Doneski as a halfback, make sure of that.
“We came in here wanting to show how we’re not just a defensive team,” Timosciek said. “We probably have the best defensive team in the state. But I wanted to show everybody we’re more than that.
“We have the ’85 Bears defense, but we also have the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs offense. It’s a track race out there with guys like Ethan (Gallagher), Danny (Martisek), and Ryan (Little).”
Timosciek finished 10-of-18 for 198 yards and three touchdowns. He didn't play in the Porters 12-10 loss to Lincoln-Way East in Week No. 8 because of an injury but has been playing great since completing 37-of-51 passes for 658 yards and six touchdowns in the last three games.
"I’m feeling 120 percent,” Timosciek said. “I really wanted to play in that Lincoln-Way East game, but now I’d say it was for the better. I’ve come back and thrived ever since.”
The game started out as advertised as neither team could get its offense going, although the Hilltoppers sure tried on their second drive. Taking up over five minutes and 14 plays, they drove from their own 35 to a first-and-goal at the Lockport 10.
But a bad exchange on first down led to a fumble that was recovered by junior free safety Troy Mutz at the nine. Although the Porters had to punt, that was huge as the game remained scoreless with 1:41 left in the first quarter.
"Who knows what happens if they score," Czart said. "They're a tough team. I felt blessed. We had no answer for them at the time."
But they did the rest of the game as the Hilltoppers barely crossed midfield after that drive.
"They do a good job changing things up," Czart said of the Hilltoppers. "So we tried to keep things as simple as possible upfront."
After a 56-yard punt by Timosciek that defensive strategy worked as senior linebacker Dylan Schmutzler had consecutive tackles and Glenbard West had to punt. Junior Joey Manzo returned the punt 24-yards to the Hilltopper 21. On fourth-and-eight from the 19, Timosciek fired a 14-yard strike to Little for a first and goal at the five.
Two plays later, Schultz shot through the line and into the endzone for a 5-yard touchdown with 5:54 left in the first half. It would be the first of three touchdowns in a 4:44 span for the Porters. Schultz also added the extra point on all three of those since he was the placekicker as the main kicker, senior Gabe Czako, and secondary kicker sophomore Nate Blazewski, were in Hoffman Estates, helping the Lockport soccer team to a third-place finish in Class 3A.
After senior Danny Martisek, who also had two receptions for 33 yards, made an interception and returned it to the Hilltopper 11, the Porters struck again. That was immediately on an 11-yard strike from Timosciek to Little (5 receptions for 108 yards) in the left corner with 4:23 left in the half.
The Hilltoppers were just over midfield when they tried a fake on fourth-and-seven which only gained two yards. Thanks to a 42-yard pass from Timosciek to Ethan Gallagher, Lockport went right down inside the red zone. Two plays later, Timosciek fired a crisp, quick pass to Gallagher for a 14-yard touchdown. That made it 21-0 with 1:10 left in the first half.
Gallagher, who doubles as outside linebacker had a sack on the final play of the first half to make sure the score stayed at 21-0 at intermission.
“Those were deflators,” Gallagher said of his big plays at the end of the half. “We felt a lot of momentum. We knew they were a young team. We had to weather the storm early and then just outlast them.
"All credit to Hayden. We have a lot of great receivers and once we start hitting on all cylinders we're hard to stop."
But Gallagher, a 3-sport athlete in basketball and track and field too, loves playing defense the best.
"It’s was a fun day to be a linebacker," he said. "We knew that coming in. They’re just trying to confuse you, motioning guys and giving different looks. But we’re ready to be in the trenches, our eight against your eight, and we like our chances there.”
The defense kept it up in the second half and the offense came through with the big plays again too. The first of those was Timosciek finding Little streaking down the right sideline for a perfectly thrown dart that went for a 71-yard touchdown with 7:56 left in the third quarter. That made it 27-0.
On the next Porter possession, Schultz (16 carries - 88 yards) broke loose and rumbled 50-yards to the two. He took it in from there on the next play to put the score at 34-0 with 4:24 left in the quarter. Lockport substituted freely after that but still completed its first-ever playoff shutout and 17th overall postseason victory in school history.
"It's all teamwork, confidence and hard work," Lockport defensive end Paul Rasp said of the defensive success. "This isn't a four-month season, this is year-round."
Senior inside linebacker Mekhi Johnson Maura missed the game with a sprained left ankle but plans to be back this week. Rasp and fellow defensive lineman Drew Blackburn-Forst both had a sack and a pair of tackles for loss. The Silzer twins, Cody and Cole were also breaking havoc on the line against a Hilltopper offensive line that featured the likes of 6-foot-6, 295-pound junior tackle Chris Terek.
The Hilltoppers finished with 138 total yards.
"As far as the defense goes, we have some of the best mindsets I’ve ever been a part of,” said Rasp, who is 6-foot and 175 pounds. “I’ve played a lot of sports, from wrestling to soccer to football and basketball, and these guys don’t stop.
“We're all going year-round and getting better. That’s why we have our 230-pound guys taking out 300-pound guys like it’s nothing. It’s all technique."
No matter what happens in the next round, if the Porters win the quarterfinal they will also be on the road in the semifinals. That should be fine with them as they opened the season with four of their first five games on the road and all of those were shutouts. In total Lockport has outscored its opponents 167-13 on the road this season.
"We were the road warriors," Czart said. "So we will be ready."
By Randy Whalen
Although it's never an exact science, many people do it.
Score compare. Especially now with the high school state football playoffs.
If one team beat another by this many points, then this team should be able to beat this team by that.
The formula, however, gets thrown off the rails by things like field conditions, injuries, and turnovers. Not to mention, matchups.
Take the regular season for example. Lockport Township defeated host Sandburg 42-0 in the fifth week. The next week, Sandburg went on the road and stunned Lincoln-Way East 30-27. Two weeks later, Lincoln-Way East knocked the Porters off of an undefeated season with a 12-10 win at Lockport.
So while the score comparison formula isn't a good one, let's use it here to illustrate Lockport's second-round playoff matchup against Glenbard West.
The Porters (9-1) just defeated Lyons Township 35-10 an opening-round Class 8A playoff matchup. Lockport's opponent in the second round is Glenbard West, which defeated Lyons 35-3 on Oct. 15 in the team's Week No. 8 West Suburban Silver Conference meeting in Glen Ellyn.
In other words, this week's matchup with Glenbard West (8-2), which is scheduled for 6:30 PM on Saturday at Lockport, should certainly be a close one, low scoring one.
"They are obviously a good football team," Lockport coach George Czart said of the Hilltoppers. "Their defense is good and they are active, especially their linebackers. They don't give up a lot of points.
"Their running backs are good and they have a nice big lineman (junior Chris Terek) at one of the tackle positions. They go with a lot of multiple offensive formations."
The Hilltoppers have an excellent football tradition, winning a trio of undefeated state titles (5A in 1983, 7A in 2012, 7A in 2015) and a pair of runner-up trophies (5A in 1976 and 7A in 2009). Three of those trophies have happened since Chad Hetlett took over as head coach in the fall of 2007. His teams have made the postseason every year it's been held since then.
"They have a great history and they expect to win," Crazt said of the Hilltoppers. That's what good programs do."
The Porters, who won a postseason game for the seventh time in their 16 playoff appearances, have taken that same attitude. Things didn't start well for them in their opening round win over Lyons with a turnover and a touchdown called back on their first two possessions. But then they got down to business, raced out to a 21-0 lead and the Lions never got closer than 18 points after that.
"We just kept our heads high, there isn't much else to it," Ty Schultz said of the Porter's attitude following the miscues. "There's just an expectation to win."
Schultz had 26 carries for 228 yards and two touchdowns and fellow senior running back Andrew LoPresti added 10 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown as the Porters pounded the ground game for 302 yards. Plus senior quarterback Hayden Timosciek actually had one of his best passing games, finishing 15-of-17 for 185 yards. Senior Danny Martisek had six receptions for 90 yards.
After missing the Lincoln-Way East loss with an injury, Timosciek has been back with a vengeance, completing 27-of-33 passes for 460 yards In the last two games with three touchdowns and he has no interceptions on the season.
"Hayden does a great job," Czart said. "He and the team knew that we can't let those (early) mistakes rattle us as far as moving forward."
The defense made sure of that too. While the Porters gave up a field goal on the final play of the first half, they led 21-3 at halftime. They have only allowed 22 first-half points on the season. While the defensive front gets a lot of credit for that, the underrated linebacking group of Nicky Franciskovich, Ethan Gallagher, Mekhi Johnson Maura. and Dylan Schmutzler came up big.
Johnson Maura sprained his left ankle late in the third quarter. He hopes to be back for this weekend's game but as Czart said, "he has to be 100 percent to be out there."
Glenbard West defeated Oswego 38-10 in the opening round playoff game. The Hilltoppers have allowed 81 points all season, including just 41 in their last seven games. They have three shutouts on the season.
The Porters have only allowed 70 points this season and no team has scored more than two touchdowns in a game on them. They have four shoutouts, which came in their first five games.
"They have played some low-scoring games too," Czart said of the Hilltoppers. But I feel confident that if we put points on the board we will have a chance to win. The defense has done its job."
Whatever happens, November is here and the longer the playoffs go, the bigger the excitement.
"I've just got a lot of nervous energy working," Czart admitted. "We are just getting the game plan going. It's all part of the process, all part of the plan."
By Randy Whalen
It was the night before Halloween and the Lockport Township football team was playing its first postseason game in five years and first home one since 2004.
But during much of the first quarter, the Porters thought they were in a house of horrors as they turned the ball over on their first possession and had the first of two touchdowns called back on the next.
But it turned out to only be a good scare.
That's because the frightening start developed into a fun game. Ty Schultz rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns as Lockport scored five times on the ground and defeated Lyons Township 35-10 in a Class 8A opening-round playoff game on Saturday night, Oct. 30, at Lockport.
The Porters (9-1), who won their first playoff game since an 18-15 victory over host Simeon in an opening-round Class 8A game in 2011, will host Glenbard West, a 38-10 winner over Oswego, in the second round this coming weekend.
Lyons Township (5-5) was making its first playoff appearance in four years.
Some of those setbacks may have rattled another team that hadn't made the postseason in five seasons. But not the Porters.
"We just kept our heads high, there isn't much else to it," Schultz said. "There's just an expectation to win."
Lockport was driving downfield on the opening possession but lost the ball on a fumble, which was recovered by senior defensive back Owen Cherry at the Lion's 25. But a sack on third down by Mekhi Johnson Maura made sure Lyons didn't capitalize.
"It was just turning off my man and making sure I got in there," Johnson Maura said of his sack. "But it wouldn't have been possible without (fellow senior linebacker) Ethan (Gallagher) helping out there."
Johnson Maura left the game late in the third quarter with a sprained ankle. His status for the next game is unknown but he plans to play.
"It's a minor sprain," he said. "I'll be back for (this) week. I can't miss it."
Lockport missed a touchdown on its second possession as Hayden Timosciek's 53-yard TD pass to fellow senior Keegan Roberson was called back because of illegal procedure. The Porters eventually had to punt for the only time in the game.
"We never panicked," Lockport coach George Czart said of the first quarter miscues. But we were frustrated and at times we were our own worst enemy.
Czart also wasn't happy with the penalties by his team. There were numerous ones on both sides, with some unsportsmanship ones, including a Lions player being tossed from the game early in the second quarter.
"We had some bad penalties, especially after the whistle," Czart said. "That's not acceptable in the playoffs."
But, as they have all season, the Porter defense stepped up. They didn't allow a first down until midway through the second quarter. Pretty good for a unit that wasn't even at its best.
"We came in here and we weren't in the moment," Lockport senior defensive lineman Drew Blackburn Forst said. "But then we came out and showed what we can do.
"We just have to learn from it and recharge going into (this) week."
Lockport was very businesslike on its next three drives of 70, 45, and 81 yards. They all resulted in touchdowns. The first two on runs of four and 17 yards by Schultz, who made a really nice cut to his left and outraced the defense on the second one.
"The offensive line did a great job," Schultz said of seniors Colin Kreczkowski, Jimmy Gannon, Anthony Devito, and Jake Ahrens along with sophomore Christos Alexandros, plus tight end Hyatt Timosciek and fellow junior Mike Doneski as a halfback "It was just a little cut to the outside on the second TD. It felt good but we still wanted to score more."
The Porters got more when senior running back Andrew LoPresti (10 carries for 65 yards) burst through from 10-yards out for a 21-0 lead with 1:13 left in the first half. Behind the passing of sophomore quarterback Ryan Jackson (13-of-20, 145 yards, TD), the Lions reached the Lockport 20 and junior David Waight kicked a 37-yard field goal on the last play of the second quarter to make it 21-3 at halftime.
Schultz had a TD run from two yards called back because of a chop block early in the third quarter. Lockport then missed a short field goal. Undaunted, the Porters scored the next time they got the ball as Schultz, who had 26 carries in the game, galloped in from nine yards out with 52 seconds left in the third quarter. He now has 12 touchdowns on the season, in only eight games.
"Ty is an exceptional player and we knew that from the get-go," Czart said of Schultz, who was the Porters leading rusher as a sophomore but missed the spring season and the first two games of this season with an ACL injury. "He and (LoPresti) are a great one-two punch."
Jackson connected with his big junior tight end, Graham Smith for a 39-yard touchdown pass over the middle with 9:43 to play in the game to close the score to 28-10. The Porters ended any doubt though by driving 78 yards in 10 plays and Timosciek capped off the scoring as he plunged in from a yard out with 3:43 to play in the game.
Senior Gabe Czako, who helped the Porter soccer team capture its first sectional championship in school history with a 5-2 win over Romeoville two days earlier, was 5-for-5 on extra points.
Timosciek actually had one of his best passing games, finishing 15-of-17 for 185 yards.
The game brought back flashbacks for Lyons coach Jon Beutjer. He lost on the same field as a junior in 1997 when he was the starting quarterback for Wheaton Warrenville South.
"No, I don't have good memories of this field," Beutjer said of the 31-27 loss in the opening round of the Class 6A playoffs in 1997. But that motivated us for the next season (an undefeated Class 6A state championship).
He hopes the experience of this season will do the same for his team.
"He's a sophomore and he's a fighter and very elusive," Beutjer said of Jackson. "On defense, our goal was to get three turnovers and we did that (including the stops). But credit to Lockport. They are a very physical team and their three defensive linemen (Blackburn Forst and senior twins Cody and Cole Silzer) are among the best I've seen."
The bottom line is the Porters didn't play their best but they did more than enough to win and move on.
"I'd say we all play together," Mekhi Johnson Maura said when asked of the team's success. "We play as one for Porter Nation."
By Randy Whalen
In high school football, there is nothing like it.
That's correct, five weekends from late October through Thanksgiving weekend. There are 256 schools that begin the journey in eight classes in Illinois. So there are 32 in each class hoping to play in the title game at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
There is a little extra special feeling to the postseason this fall too. That's because it was not played last fall or in the abbreviated spring season because of COVID.
Plus, for the first time in five years, Lockport Township is one of those teams in Class 8A. The Porters (8-1) will also host a playoff game for the first time since 2004 and look for their first postseason win since 2011 at 6:30 PM this Saturday when Lyons Township (5-4) comes to town.
"All playoffs are exciting," Lockport coach George Czart said. "I love it. This is a great opportunity for our kids to showcase our talent."
As an assistant coach, Czart was part of state championship playoff runs at Providence and Lockport. As head coach at Lincoln-Way North for the eight years the school was open, his teams made the playoffs six times and went 5-6, reaching the quarterfinals twice.
One thing neither he nor the Porters have ever done, however, is face Lyons in the postseason.
"No, I'm not surprised," Czart said of playing Lyons. "They were one of the five or so teams we figured we could see."
Beyond both schools' initials being LTHS, there are certainly similarities between the two teams. This is the first playoff appearance for the Lions since 2017 and the first since 2016 for Lockport. Both teams struggled just three years ago as Lyons went 1-8 and the Porters were 0-9.
Both teams had coaching changes for the 2019 season and both finished 4-5 then before the next fall season was pushed back to this spring because of COVID.
But the stats for the two teams are different this season. Of the Lion's five victories, none have come against a winning team. They scored 273 points but 168 of those were in three games against opponents who were a combined 4-23 on the season. All four of their losses were to playoff teams and they battled York (8-1) in a 14-7 loss in the fifth week that left the Lions with a 2-3 record at that time.
"They are big and run a lot of different formations," Czart said of Lyons. "They have a lot of multiple sets and have used three different quarterbacks."
One of those is returning all-conference quarterback Joey Antonietti. But the senior moved to running back and receiver in Week 6, and scored two second-half touchdowns to break a halftime tie in Week 9. Those helped Lyons past Downers Grove North 21-14 in a winner-take-all matchup to see who would qualify for the postseason.
Lyons is coached by Jon Beutjer, who as a senior at Wheaton Warrenville South threw for a then-national high school record of 60 touchdowns in a 14-game season in 1998. He won several Illinois High School Player of the Year honors in the process.
He played in college at the University of Iowa and then at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He also had stints in the Arena Football League and the Candian Football League. This is his second season as head coach at Lyons.
The Porters played four playoff teams, all from the SouthWest Suburban Conference, and won three of them, only losing 12-10 to Lincoln-Way East in the eighth week. Lockport has outscored its opponents 286-60 and has four shutouts on the season. Even more telling is that Lockport's first-string defense has only allowed 19 total first-half points and has shut out its opponents seven times in the opening half this season.
"Our defense has been rock solid all year," Czart said. "Even our bad games are solid."
Senior linebackers Ethan Gallagher, Mekhi Johnson Maura, and Dylan Schmutzler all had nice games against Andrew, as did senior defensive back Danny Martisek with another interception. Junior linebacker Jacob Duval left the game in the second half, however, with a possible torn ACL.
The Porter offense, which scored 41 or more points in four of their first five games, was back on track in a 45-15 regular season-ending win over Andrew last Friday. Hayden Timosciek was certainly back, literally, as he returned to the lineup and finished 12-for-16, for 275 yards and three touchdowns. All of those TD passes were to fellow senior Ryan Little, who had seven catches for 168 yards.
Counting the scoring pass that Little threw to Timosciek in the Lincoln-Way West game, the pair has connected for 11 touchdowns this season.
"It's a nice connection, a nice bond that they have," Czart said of the Timosciek to Little combo. "We are very fortunate and hope to have them do it this week again."
The running game got going in the second half as well for the Porters last week. Ty Schultz had 10 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns while fellow senior Andrew LoPresti added six carries for 43 yards and a TD. On the season they have combined for nearly a thousand yards and 13 touchdowns.
"They are both very reliable," Czart said of the duo. "Ty is getting stronger and stronger (after missing the spring season and first 2 games of this year with an ACL injury) and they complement each other very well."
Although Lockport lost a late-season game, its postseason seeding was hardly affected. The Porters are still the No. 4 seed in Class 8A, which means if the seeds hold up in the first three rounds, they will have home-field advantage in all of them.
But it also means they are in the same bracket as Bolingbrook for a possible quarterfinal meeting (the Porters won the SouthWest Suburban Conference clash between the teams 14-13 in overtime) and, if both teams get that far, would have to face top-seed Loyola in the semifinals.
"For me to sit here and project would be disrespectfully our opponents," Czart said of any matchups down the road. "All my focus is on beating Lyons. We don't talk about Loyola or anything. We have to stay grounded."
"But yes, it (the playoffs) feels great. We want to keep on playing. That's our plan."
By Randy Whalen
For the third straight season, the Lockport Township football team ended the regular season on a winning note.
Except this time it was different because the Porters are going to the playoffs.
Not only are they going to the playoffs, but they are also going as one of the top seeds in Class 8A. The Porters (8-1) are the No. 4 seed and will host Lyons Township (5-4) this weekend in a first-round playoff game.
It will be the first home playoff game for Lockport in 17 years.
That was clinched when the Porters got their offense back on track and ended one of their best regular seasons in school history on an upward note with a 45-15 victory or Andrew last Friday, Oct. 22 in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover at Lockport.
After scoring 45 points in their previous three games combined, the Porters put up 45 in three quarters against an Andrew team that had to win to make the playoffs. It is the first time since 2016 that the Thunderbolts (4-5) will miss the postseason.
That's because the senior dynamic duo of Hyden Timosciek and Ryan Little was back with a vengeance. They connected for a trio of touchdowns as the Lockport offense got rolling again.
Timosciek, who missed last week's 12-10 loss to Lincoln-Way East with an injury, finished 12-of-16 for 275 yards and Little grabbed seven of those passes for 168 yards and the three scores.
"I was 110 percent, I felt great," Timosciek said. "I wanted to come out and show that we're more than just a defensive team and can put up numbers.
"My connection with Ryan is one of a kind. We've been connecting like this for years. He can be double-teamed and I still feel confident in getting it to him."
Even with missing a game, Timosciek has 17 touchdown passes on the season. Of those, 10 have been caught by Little who came up big as usual with TD receptions of 27-yards, 38-yards, and 29-yards. The 29-yarder put the Porters up 24-0 with 9:46 to play in the second quarter and that was the halftime score.
But Little's highlight catch was a 19-yard one down the left sideline in the opening minute of the second quarter. He reached up, over his shoulder and hauled it in with one hand before going out of bounds. Three plays later he scored on the 29-yard catch.
"I do that in practice and Hayden just throws the perfect ball where only I can catch it," Little said. "We just wanted to come out and light up the scoreboard again. It feels great."
Especially after scoring 41 points or more in four of their first five games but being limited to 24 points total in their previous two games. But one of those was a win, 14-13 over Bolingbrook in overtime in week seven.
"Hayden played very well," Lockport coach George Czart said. "He and Ryan have been working hard together for many years. We have tried to do the same routes they have used and have them get even better at them. They are special but they put the time in."
Gabe Czako, who doubles as a top defender on the Lockport soccer team and scored a goal in a 2-0 win over Shepard for a Class 3A regional championship on Saturday, Oct. 23, hit all six extra points and connected on one of two field-goal attempts. He booted a 20-yarder for a 17-0 lead late in the first quarter and came up just short on a 43-yard attempt on the last play of the first half.
The Porters never passed the ball in the second half. Instead, senior Ty Schultz joined the party as he burst behind the offensive line of seniors Colin Kreczkowski, Jimmy Gannon, Anthony Devito, and Jake Ahrens along with sophomore Christos Alexandros, plus tight end Hyatt Timosciek and fellow junior Mike Doneski as a halfback, for a 67-yard touchdown on the opening play of the third quarter.
Schultz (10 carries for 126 yards, 2 TDs) added another touchdown run from five yards out with 9:03 left in the third quarter. Following an interception by senior Danny Martisek that gave Lockport the ball near midfield, senior Andrew LoPresti (6 carries for 43 yards, TD) scored from 16-yards with 2:59 left in the third quarter to cap the Porter scoring.
"It was pretty special," Schultz said of the Senior Night win. "We still have more to come but it was big to get the momentum back. After we lost the coaches all said 'do your job.' That was the philosophy.
"There's still more to come but this was big to get that winning mentality back."
T-Bolt backup quarterback Andrew Skarzynski had a 29-yard touchdown pass to fellow junior Joey Burke in the opening minute of the fourth quarter and added a 19-yard TD pass to senior Michael George with 3:38 remaining. Both came against the reserves but the 15 points were the most allowed by the Porters in a game this season.
The Lockport first-string defense was stellar as usual, never allowing the T-Bolts to get closer than the Porter 15. Following the Porters first touchdown, Andrew went for it on fourth-and-two from its own 34. But Cody Silzer was there to stuff the run for only a yard gain.
Following an illegal shift penalty, Timosciek hit Little with the 39-yard touchdown pass with 5:22 to play in the opening quarter and the rout was on.
Silzer's twin brother and fellow defensive lineman, Cole Silzer, had a sack of starting quarterback senior quarterback Dominic D'Ambrosio near the end of the first quarter. After Andrew reached the red zone with about four minutes left in the first half, outside linebacker Ethan Gallagher had a huge sack of D'Ambrosio.
Fellow senior linebackers Mekhi Johnson Maur and Dylan Schmutzler were also in on numerous tackles as the Lockport defense limited the T-Bolts to 48 yards on the ground, including just 18 yards until late in the fourth quarter.
"We came in knowing they had to win to make the playoffs," Lockport star defensive lineman Drew Blackburn-Forst said. "We wouldn't let that happen.
"We don't care who we play in the playoffs, we just want to play. We will be ready."
Lockport defeated Stagg 42-12 to end the 2019 regular season with a record of 4-5. The 2020 fall season was moved to this past spring because of COVID. There the Porters went 4-2 and smacked Stagg 56-6 in the final regular-season game but there were no playoffs.
This is the eighth time in school history that the Porters finished the regular season with at least eight victories. The others were 8-1 records in 1929, 1966, and 1980 (where Lockport placed second to Marian Catholic in the Illini 8 Conference and couldn't qualify for the playoffs). Then 1997 (9-2 final record) and 1998 (10-2 final record) each brought playoff berths and postseason wins.
In 2002 the Porters lost their opening game of the season 7-3 to defending Class 8A state champion, Downers Grove South. But they regrouped and won the final 13 games of the season to capture the first of back-to-back Class 8A state championships. In 2004, Lockport finished 9-0 for its only undefeated regular season. But lost 14-6 to Lincoln-Way East in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs.
The 2003 team went 7-2 in the regular season but handily won each postseason game by margins of 25, 22, 13, 21, and 21 points to capture their second straight Class 8A state championship.
"I'm looking forward to not only the playoffs but also to bringing up some younger kids and having them get a taste of this for the future," Czart said. "I'm very proud of the kids, the parents, the administration, everyone for their support."
By Randy Whalen
Time to hit the reset button.
While the Lockport Township football team lost last week for the first time this season, also missing out on an outright SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division title, the goal hasn't changed. The postseason is coming up and the Porters want to be in a position to win a state championship.
"We just have to remember who we are," Lockport coach George Czart said. "We are still a good team. We have good players and we are getting Hayden back."
That's senior starting quarterback Hayden Timosciek, who missed last week's 12-10 loss to visiting Lincoln-Way East with an injury. Thankfully, he's one of the few Lockport players who have missed time with an injury this season.
"We're doing pretty good," Crzart said of the injury front. "We've been healthy and that's very fortunate for us."
In Timosciek's place, junior Brady Pfeiffer filled in and went 14-for-30 for 184 yards. He threw a late touchdown to senior Ethan Gallagher and also threw an interception, the Porter's first of the season.
But, after averaging nearly 40 points in their first five games of the season, Lockport was limited to one touchdown in regulation for the second straight game.
"Absolutely, we have to get the scoring back," Czart said. "After we got down 12-0 to Lincoln-Way East, one of our goals was to not have them score anymore and we did that. We just couldn't capitalize but we are working on that."
Part of working on that was when the team got to get the Saturday morning following the loss to the Griffins.
"We had a little venom but we settled down and pointed out the positive things too," Czart said of the team meeting. "We did our regular routine and stayed positive. One goal has escaped us but we have many other things to work for."
First and foremost on that list is a win this Friday in an SWSC crossover against Andrew. The Thunderbolts come into the game with a 4-4 record and have to win to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season that they have been held.
The T-Bolts lost their first-place showdown with host Lincoln-Way West by a score of 35-6 last week. In the game before that, however, senior quarterback Dominic D’Ambrosio tied a school record as he accounted for five touchdowns (4 rushing, 1 passing) and finished with 174 yards rushing as Andrew beat Bradley-Bourbonnais 37-28 on Oct. 8 for their third straight victory in Tinley Park. The five touchdowns equal the record set in 1999 by Vince Massat at Bolingbrook.
"Andrew is playing for the playoffs," Czart said. "But we just have to go about our business like we always do. We are always talking about getting better and getting stronger."
An interesting thing is that Andrew is the team that the Porters turned their program around against. That was on Oct. 18, 2019. The Thunderbolts were sitting high after already clinching the SWSC Red Division and had a 6-1 record entering the game.
Lockport entered the game with a record of 2-5 and dating back to the last two games of the 2016 season, the Porters had gone 4-23 in their previous 27 games. But on that night in Tinley Park, the Porters pounded Andrew 24-7. That was the first of 13 victories in the next 15 games for Lockport.
"Definitely that was a great game for us," Czart said recalling the big win over Andrew in his first season as Lockport head coach. "It started our current role."
While that role hit a bump in the road with the loss last weekend, it once again doesn't change where the Porters want to be at the end of the season. In 2015, which was Czart's final season as head coach at Lincoln-Way North, since the school was closing the next year, the Phoenix went undefeated in the regular season and finished 11-1, losing 42-35 to Hinsdale South in a Class 6A quarterfinal game.
That season, the Phoenix defeated Lincoln-Way West 28-21 in overtime. But it was the Warriors who went on to play for the Class 5A state championship. So that shows it's better to lose and learn from a regular-season loss and reset in order to reach a goal.
It's also better to play at home, especially in the postseason. A Porter victory this Friday would guarantee an opening-round home playoff game, which would be the first time in 17 seasons Lockport would host one.
"The atmosphere against Lincoln-Way East was electric and very exciting," Czart said. "It would have been nice to have more for them to cheer about. But we hope the crowd is there again."
The game is varsity only and scheduled for a 6:30 PM start. Once again it's a digital ticket event with the tickets available from the Gofan website. Search for Lockport Township events and select the Andrew game. Lockport football coupon book tickets will still be honored.
It's also Senior Night. So the parents of the seniors in football, band, cheer, and dance will not need tickets to enter. There is no student registration this week but only students with IDs will be admitted. As always, no bags are allowed. The temperatures are expected to be much cooler and in the 40s at game time.
"It's going too fast," Czart said of the regular season. "It will be a nice day to honor the seniors and we've got to make the best of it and then go out and make the season last longer."
By Randy Whalen
Drew Blackburn-Forst stood there, disappointed but reflective following the first Lockport Township football loss of the season.
"None of the Lockport state title teams finished undefeated," Blackburn-Forst said of the Porter Class 8A state championships teams from 2002 and 2003. "So maybe this is a step in the right direction because we know what we have to do."
Or as fellow Lockport senior, wide receiver/defensive back Danny Martisek bluntly said.
"We've got to make plays."
In the most anticipated game of the season, the Porters didn't make enough of those and lost 12-10 to Lincoln-Way East in a SouthWest Suburban Blue battle on Friday, Oct. 15 before a huge home crowd and a local Chicago TV audience on WCIU.
"We're disappointed right now," Lockport coach George Czart said afterward. "It hurts, we had our chances."
The loss ends the Lockport (7-1, 3-1) bid for an undefeated season. The Griffins (6-2, 3-1) tied the Porters for the SWSC Blue championship, their 13th overall, fifth in a row, and seventh in the last eight years. But by virtue of the head-to-head victory, Lincoln-Way East will be recognized as the conference champion by the Illinois High School Association. The co-conference championship is the first for Lockport since winning the SICA Blue in 2004.
Coincidently enough, the last and only time the Porters had an undefeated regular season was going 9-0 in 2004. But, bidding for a three-peat, they were upset 14-6 by Lincoln-Way East in the opening round of the Class 8A playoffs that year. That started the current 18-game winning streak for the Griffins against Lockport.
This latest win, however, came with a key cog for Lockport on the bench. That was senior quarterback Hayden Timosciek, who was held out of practice during the week. He did, however, attempt a trio of punts in the game.
"It's a minor injury and that I'll be 100 percent for next week," Timosciek said. "I wanted to play. It's Lincoln-Way East and a conference championship. I would have given anything to be with my guys.
"We've just got to get back to practice, be 100 percent and click going into the postseason."
In Timosciek's place at quarterback was Brady Pfieffer. The junior had played often in the second half as the Porters were pounding opponents by a combined score of 196-7 in the first five games of the season. But playing against a program that has captured two of the last three Class 8A state championships is a whole different ballgame.
Still, Pfieffer did admirably as he completed 14-of-30 passes for 184 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
"It's a learning experience for Brady," Czart said. "He's a good player and Hayden couldn't practice all week so Brady took all the snaps. But the guys are just faster here."
They are but there were still opportunities for Pfieffer and the Porters, such as senior Keegan Roberson being open downfield early in the second quarter for a potential touchdown bomb but having the pass sail too long.
Blackburn-Forst, however, had nothing but praise for Pfieffer.
"Brady Pfieffer did an amazing job," he said. "He's one of our best backups and shouldn't have any regrets. We just missed a few."
Pfieffer led a frantic drive at the end of regulation and gave Lockport an opportunity at an amazing comeback. First Martisek had an interception in the end zone on a fourth-and-11 play from the Porter 24. Quarterback Brennan Stolarek injured his ankle on the play, which came with just 1:19 left and had to be carried off the field.
Starting at his own 20, Pfieffer was 3-for-5 for 65 yards and the Griffins committed a pass interference penalty as Lockport went 80 yards in 48 seconds. The drive was capped off by a nice catch in the left corner by senior Ethan Gallagher for a 23-yard touchdown. Senior Gabe Czako added the extra point and the Porters were within 12-10 with 31 seconds remaining in the game.
Czako, who booted the winning extra point in overtime the previous week in a 14-13 SWSC Blue victory over Bolingbrook then lined up for the onside kick. His attempt hit off a couple of players but was ultimately recovered by the Griffins. Lincoln-Way East, which had 16 nonseniors play in the game, then ran out the clock to clinch a playoff berth for the 20th straight season in which they have been a program and the playoffs have been held.
"The ball was bouncing around out there," Czart said of the onside kick. "But they snagged it."
Lockport got the ball to open the game and had a pair of first downs in reaching midfield. But had to punt from there and the Griffins set the tone with a long drive that took over six minutes off the clock. The 13-play, 82-yard drive was capped by a 19-yard TD pass from Stolarek to fellow senior Jack Tremblay with 2:38 left in the first quarter.
The touchdown came on a third-and-two play and was one of four third-down conversions in the drive. A bad snap on the extra point, however, left the score at 6-0.
The Porters caught a break early in the second quarter. With Timosciek back to punt for one of three times in the game, the snap came low and he wasn't able to corral it at the Lockport nine. Armed with a first-and-goal, the Griffins couldn't capitalize as Blackburn-Forst had one of his two sacks in the game on third-and-goal from the two. That went for a seven-yard loss and they missed a 26-yard field goal with 8:00 to play in the half.
After getting a first down, the Porters punted again and Lincoln-Way East once again put together a long drive, going 78 yards in seven plays and again scoring as Stolarek (10-of-16, 2 TDS, INT) found Tremblay (4 receptions for 92 yards, 2 TDS) for another touchdown, this one from 12-yards out. The two-point conversion pass was incomplete, leaving the score at 12-0 with 1:36 left in the half.
On a third-and-eight from the Porter 29 on the ensuing possession, Pfeiffer found Gallagher for a 47-yard gain to the 24. Gallagher, who had three receptions for 85 yards and the touchdown, nearly broke this one for a score but he was tripped up by senior cornerback Jacob Peterson.
Following three incomplete passes and the officials deciding that there was still one second remaining in the half, Czako came on and kicked a 41-yard field goal, which just made it over the crossbar, to cut the deficit to 12-3 at halftime.
After forcing two three-and-outs to start the second half, the Porters took over at their own 37. Thanks to a couple of completions by Pfeiffer, helped by a 15-yard facemask, and five carries for 27 yards by senior running back Ty Schiltz (11 carries for 51 yards), they moved to a second-and-goal situation at the four.
But trying to find senior wide receiver Ryan Little (4 receptions for 53 yards) in the right corner of the end zone, Pfeiffer's pass was intercepted by senior cornerback Jon Guch to thwart the Lockport scoring threat with 3:47 left in the third quarter.
"I felt good coming in but the first couple of drives didn't go our way," Pfeiffer said. "Then we made mistakes in the red zone. On the interception, I was just trying to throw it deep in the corner and give (Little) a chance.
"Now we just have to prepare and focus on what we can control."
The defense was still in control. The Porters, who have four shutouts on the season, haven't allowed more than 13 points in any one game all year and have only surrendered 45 points total.
"We turned the ball over in the red zone and just couldn't sustain drives," Czart said. "With our defense, we figure if we score three times in a game that we feel good about our chances."
In this game, the defense was on the field a long time though. The Griffins had a time of possession advantage of exactly 29 minutes to 19. Included in that was another long drive of 11 plays, that covered 71 yards and took 7:19 off the clock in the fourth quarter.
Fortunately for Lockport, it ended with Stolrek fumbling following a 10-yard gain and Martisek was there to recover it at his own 18.
"We've got to make plays, plays in the red zone," Martisek said. "It's as simple as that.
"We want to see them (the Griffins) again (in the playoffs). We just have to get ready and we've got to work harder."
A key to Lincoln-Way East having a 10 minute time of possession advantage was the bruising running of senior running back Trey Johnson, who finished with 33 carries for 114 yards. He helped the Griffins, who ran the ball 39 times, to 149 of their 292 total yards on the ground.
"He's a pretty good running back and he always fell forward," Blackburn-Forst said of Johnson. "We'd have them in some second-and-five situations and he'd get 13 yards to put them in third and short."
Lockport was limited to 220 total yards including 25 carries for 36 yards rushing.
"We had our chances," Czart said. "We just didn't make some plays when we needed to."
By Randy Whalen
The old say goes, "in order to be the best, you have to beat the best."
The Lockport Township football team has the opportunity to do just that this Friday.
That's when the Porters (7-0, 3-0) host Lincoln-Way East (5-2, 2-1) in the most anticipated game of the season. Over the past two decades, the Griffins have been the best.
"It's a big game, there's not a bigger one," Lockport coach George Czart said of the matchup. "Even though Lincoln-Way East has two losses, they are still Lincoln-Way East."
What does it mean to be Lincoln-Way East? Well, since their inaugural season as their own program, the Griffins have made the playoffs every season which they have been held during that time. They have a trio of Class 8A state championships (2005, 2017, 2019) and placed second in Class 7A in 2012.
Lincoln-Way East was also 6-0 this spring and had perhaps the best team in the state once more. Between 2017 and the spring of this year, its record was 46-1. Earlier this season, the Griffins got their 200th victory in program history. Currently, through seven weeks of this season, they are 202-41 all-time since 2001.
As a football league, the SouthWest Suburban Conference didn't begin play until the fall of 2006. But since then Lincoln-Way East has won or shared the league title 12 times. Included in that are four in a row and six of the last seven.
Being the only undefeated team left in the SWSC Blue, the Porters have assured themselves of a share of the conference title. That is their first one in the SWSC. Lincoln-Way East, however, can tie for the league title with a victory and would also be the conference champion as far as the Illinois High Schook Association was concerned for playoff pairings by virtue of a win over Lockport.
"We don't want a tie," Czart said. "Our kids aren't intimidated at all and either is Lincoln-Way East. Neither team steps out on the field with fear. They play with confidence and tenacity."
A week after being upset 30-27 by Sandburg, the Griffins had tenacity in a 24-6 victory over Homewood-Flossmoor last Friday. Senior quarterback Brennan Stolarek led the offense, completing 10-of-18 passes for 198 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.
The touchdown passes were a 46-yard one to junior Jayden Cook, for a 7-0 lead which was the halftime score. In the third quarter, there was a 36-yard TD strike to senior Jack Tremblay.
Following a Vikings fumble, Lincoln-Way East added a field goal to make it 17-0. H-F (4-3, 0-3) scored its only points of the game late in the third quarter. Then Stolarek added a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to junior Jimmy Curtin to put the game away.
On defense, the Griffins limited Viking quarterback Cameron Oglesby to one touchdown and picked him off three times. The interceptions were by seniors Jon Guch, Kamal Mukarram, and Jacob Peterson.
"Lincoln-Way East has young players and they have got better every game," Czart said. "They are coached up by great coaches and they are talented and rally to the ball on defense. We are expecting more of the same thing we saw the last two weeks."
What the Porters saw in the last two weeks were some big challenges. After outscoring their opponents 196-7 in the first five games of the season, they survived a second-half rally by visiting Lincoln-Way West and held on to win 21-13. Then last week, they trailed host Bolingbrook 7-0 until there were nine minutes left in the game. But Ty Schultz plowed in for a pair of touchdowns, including a 10-yard one on first down in overtime, and fellow senior Gabe Czako added the extra point as Lockport won 14-13.
The defense was its stellar self never allowing the Raiders in the red zone. There was a big sack from senior defensive lineman Paul Rasp, an interception from senior linebacker Danny Martisek, an incomplete pass on on fourth down in the fourth quarter, which was knocked down by junior free safety Troy Mutz, and senior linebacker Ethan Gallagher deflected a pass to force a punt from the 11 to set up the Porters first touchdown.
In the game, both senior Andrew LoPresti (17 carries for 105 yards) and Schultz (22 carries for 101 yards) had over 100 yards rushing. They flowed the blocking of seniors Colin Kreczkowski at left tackle, Jimmy Gannon at left guard, and Anthony Devito at center. Also sophomore Christos Alexandros at right guard, senior Jake Ahrens at right tackle along with blocks from juniors Hyatt Timosciek at tight end, and Mike Doneski at half-back.
"Both Andrew and Ty had extended series where only they carried the ball," Czart said. "When you have two backs like that you have to use them both. Our O-line did a great job extending the plays and moving the pile."
Senior quarterback Hayden Timosciek didn't throw a touchdown pass for the first time all season. The senior finished 5-of-16, for 48 yards. But his leadership of the team showed through at the end.
"Hayden is our leader and it's his job to do that," Czart said. "He made a great block on Ty's touchdown run in overtime. There was a defensive end coming around the corner and Hayden just lowered his shoulder into him for the block and Ty was able to score. Otherwise, he might have got tackled in the backfield."
Something Lockport can't do against the Griffins, however, is make mistakes like they have the last two games.
"We like the smorgasbord of football," Czart chuckled. "We've had all types of things, both good and bad."
While there have been many good things, there was also a trio of first-half turnovers against Lincoln-Way West, which helped the Warriors stay in the game. There were also four trips into the red zone, three of them in the first half, that produced no points against Bolingbrook.
"The last two weeks we've been our own worst enemy about finishing drives," Czart said. "The kids know that the other team is going to be coming at you and we have to be secure with the ball."
The losing streak to the Griffins is 17 straight, which started with their upset 14-6 Class 8A playoff win over undefeated Lockport in the opening round of the 2004 Class 8A playoffs. The Porters overall record against the Lincoln-Way East since 2001 is 3-18, including a 34-10 loss that was close for a half, in the spring on April 9 at Lockport. There has only been one close game in that time, a 28-25 Griffin win on Sept. 19, 2014, at Lockport.
This week's big matchup with Lincoln-Way East is a varsity-only game with a scheduled 6:30 PM start. It is also a digital tickets only event. Fans can purchase their ticket online through GoFan. There's a good chance for some rain and the temps should be in the 50s. In other words, it's fall football.
"It will be great and the stands will be packed on both sides," Czart said. "Whoever makes the least amount of mistakes will come out with the victory."
By Randy Whalen
As last Friday's football game headed into overtime, the Bolingbrook PA person made it feel epic as he announced that "this was overtime between two of the best teams in the state."
In the end, there was only one that remained on top of the Blue Division of the SouthWest Suburban Conference.
The Porters remained undefeated on the season and in sole possession of first place in the SWSC Blue with a hard-fought 14-13 win over Bolingbrook on Friday, Oct. 8, before a nice-sized homecoming crowd in Bolingbrook.
With the victory, Lockport (7-0, 3-0) sets up a winner take all matchup when Lincoln-Way East (5-2, 2-1), a 24-6 winner over host Homewood-Flossmoor, comes to town this Friday. There the host Porters, who reached the 7-win mark for the first time since finishing 7-4 in 2011, will bid to win their first-ever SWSC Blue title. Bolingbrook (5-2, 2-2) could have put the conference into chaos but is now done with its Blue Division games.
Ty Schultz scored on a tough 10-yard run on Lockport's first play in overtime and fellow senior Gabe Czako booted the extra point for the win. But, in the grind-it-out, low-scoring game, the Porter defense did what it's done all year, play excellent. The Raiders never reached the red zone in regulation.
"It was a battle with them but we have one of the best defensive lines in the state," said Lockport defensive lineman Paul Rasp of himself and fellow seniors Andrew Blackburn-Forst, along with Cody and Cole Silzer. "This win is kind of emotional. It's the first step towards the state playoffs."
It was an emotional win as there was so much riding on it. Not only for the conference but for the pride of staying undefeated.
"Yes, it was two good defenses out there," said Lockport coach George Czart, who appreciated that as he was a standout 3-year varsity linebacker for Bolingbrook in the late 70s. "They (the Raiders) made some incredible plays. It just came down to the first team that blinked."
That ended up being Bolingbrook but not without some drama at the end of regulation. The Porter's defense held on a fourth-and-five play by forcing an incomplete pass, which was knocked down by junior free safety Troy Mutz, from their 23 with 3:19 to play in the game. Lockport then drove to the Raider 19 but Czako missed on a 37-yard field goal attempt, hitting it low and wide left, with 11.1 seconds left in regulation. That kept the game tied at 7-7 and it went to overtime.
There, Bolingbrook got the ball first and senior running back Jaquan Howard (17 carries for 94 yards) ran to the two on first down. After no gain, senior quarterback Bobby Ervin scored from the two on third down. The extra-point kick, however, was wide right and the Raider lead was 13-7.
Schultz then slammed in from the 10-yard line, following his blocks to the left, on the Porter's first play in the overtime period, Czako calmly nailed his extra point and the Lockport players stormed the field in celebration.
"I just wanted to score on the first play," Schultz said. "The offensive line gets all the credit. It was just open on that side.
"This is a pretty big win. We're still getting better. We were down but I knew we'd come back to score. It was fantastic."
Schultz finished with 22 carries for 101 yards and scored both the Lockport touchdowns. Fellow senior running back Andrew LoPresti added 17 carries for 105 yards as the Porter passing game was held to 48 yards.
But the only ball flying through the air that mattered was the one from Czako that went between the uprights in overtime. His extra point made up for the earlier miss and made the 3-sport standout, who is also an outstanding defender on the Porter soccer team and one of the top hurdlers in the state, a hero in the victory.
"We got Gabe another chance," Czart said. "He delivered."
Czako was confident he would.
"I felt good coming out for the field goal, I just didn't get a good hit on the ball," Czako said. "But my teammates all came up to me and encouraged me. They told me to relax. I knew I'd be ready if I had another chance."
Trailing 7-0 most of the game, Lockport finally scored when Schultz plowed in, fighting and carrying defenders for the last two-yards, on a second-and-goal play from the five with exactly 9:00 to play in the game. The Porters pinned Bolingbrook at its own two thanks to an excellent punt by senior Hayden Timosiak and senior linebacker Ethan Gallagher deflected a pass to force a punt from the 11. So the scoring drive was 45 yards in 11-plays and Schultz carried on every single one of them.
Schultz was the Porter's leading rusher as a sophomore but suffered an ACL injury in his left knee and had to sit out not only the spring season but the first two games this fall. He's obviously back at full strength now and his grandfather, former Romeoville head football coach Dennis Schley was in attendance to watch him.
After taking over at its own 49, Bolingbrook overcame a second-and-20 situation and scored on its opening possession of the game. That came when Erivn (7-of-14 for 76 yards, TD, INT) threw a 36-yard strike on fourth-and 11 to Kyan Berry Johnson and the sophomore wide receiver sped down the right side and made a great catch. That came with 5:09 left in the first quarter.
That was the first time that Lockport trailed all season.
But Bolingbrook never reached the red zone in regulation. Senior Danny Martisek had an interception for the Porters, who clamped down on defense after that. The Raiders reached the Lockport 23 on the final play of the first half and then again late in the fourth quarter.
Lockport had a trio of first half drives stall in the red zone. Including being stopped a yard short of the end zone on fourth-and-goal midway through the second quarter and losing a fumble, which was recovered by senior defensive end Damarian Johnson at the 17 with 1:27 to play in the half.
"If this was the last game of the season I'd be upset," said Bolingbrook coach John Ivlow, who was honored before the game for getting his 150th win last week. "But it's not and I'm not. I told our guys there are games you have to be in and learn from. We lost to this team 42-14 in the spring (on April 3) and they have everyone back. So we've got better."
The Porters, who finished with a time of possession advantage of 26 minutes: 52 seconds to 19:08 had 250 of their 298 yards on the ground. Timosiak saw his six-game touchdown passing streak end but was calm and cool under center at the end. Bolingbrook finished with 208 total yards.
"It's amazing being on a team this good," Czako said. "There's a lot of hard work and a lot of fun."
This week's big matchup with Lincoln-Way East is a digital tickets only event. Fans can purchase their ticket online through GoFan.
"I'm happy we held them (the Raiders), they can score," Czart said. "There's a lot riding on (this) week's game."
By Randy Whalen
It's Homecoming at Bolingbrook when the Raiders host Lockport Township in a key SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division matchup this Friday.
With its long tradition of outstanding football teams, including the Class 8A state champion 10 years ago, the Raiders always take pride in their alumni.
One of them is special to Lockport football fans too.
Head coach George Czart.
So, a week after getting a hard-fought 21-13 victory over a school he previously was an assistant coach at for three seasons, Lincoln-Way West, Czart will get another homecoming as he leads the troops into a big conference matchup against the school he graduated from in 1980.
Does the fact it's Homecoming make this matchup more special?
"Yes, if you put it in that perspective," Czart admitted. "But it's not about me or my roots, it's about our kids getting the W. The fact that it's Homecoming, however, does add to the anticipation on my part."
There's a lot of anticipation for this game and that was added to because Lincoln-Way East was upset 30-27 by Sandburg last week. So Lockport (6-0, 2-0) has its SWSC Blue destiny in its own hands with wins the next two weeks.
"Where we finish is in our control," Czart said. "That's kind of nice."
It is especially since the SWSC formed in 2005, the Porters have never won a league title. Bolingbrook has four conference titles but the last one was in 2013. The Raiders didn't win the league in their state title year of 2011, Lincoln-Way East did.
This is the last Blue Division game for the Raiders (5-1, 2-1), who hope to knock off Lockport and then have the Porters turn around and defeat Lincoln-Way East next week. That would give Bolingbrook, which lost to Lincoln-Way East 21-13 in Week 5, the league title by virtue of a win over the Porters.
"There's no way we can look past Bolingbrook," Czart said. They can smash you in the face so we've got to take care of them. They haven't forgotten the game against us in the spring (a 42-14 Lockport road win on April 3) and know what's at stake. They have a shot at the conference championship too."
The Raiders put themselves in this position with a 20-6 victory over host Homewood-Flossmoor last Friday.
Senior running back Jaquan Howard helped bring Bolingbrook the big win with 14 carries for 143 yards and a pair of five-yard touchdown runs. Bolingbrook senior quarterback Bobby Ervin didn't pass much, going 6-for-8 for 27 yards. But he scored on a six-yard run in the third quarter to put the Raiders ahead 20-0.
When the Raiders do pass, Kyan Berry-Johnson is a main target. The sophomore also doubles at defensive back. Senior defensive back Anthony Harris is also a leader of the defense that denied the Vikings (4-2, 0-2) any points on two first-quarter trips to the red zone last week.
What did Czart see when he watched the film on the Raiders?
"I see a lot of speed," he said. "They are not very big at running back (Howard is 5-foot-7 and 169 pounds) but they have big blockers. They are very fast on defense too."
The Porters are coming off their first challenge of the season in the Homecoming win over Lincoln-Way West before a packed house in Lockport last Friday.
"Yeah, they gave us all we could handle and came close to taking it away from us," Czart said of the Warriors. "But the defense came through when we needed them to and the offense made enough plays even if we were sloppy (with 3 first-half turnovers)."
Hayden Timosciek was 13-for-24, for 152 yards, and threw a touchdown pass for the sixth straight game, which was a 28-yard strike over the middle to Andrew LoPresti in the first quarter. Ty Schultz added a 39-yard TD run in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. But the most memorable play for the Porters was when Ryan Little took a handoff on a flea-flicker late in the first quarter and threw a 38-yard touchdown pass back across the field to Hayden Timosciek.
Czart credited Drew Blackburn-Forst and Ethan Gallagher, who had two sacks at the end of the first half to hold the Warriors out of the red zone, for making big defensive plays. Blackburn-Forst was named Lockport Athlete of the Month while Gallagher and junior defensive back Troy Mutz were both named to
the Friday Night Drive Team of the Week.
This Friday's game is varsity only and kicks off even earlier at 6 PM. The sun will still be up then but barely as it sets earlier now and will continue to do so as the playoffs approach. Which the Porters are in for the first time in five years after the win last weekend.
"It's getting dark out earlier, the leaves are falling, it's getting cooler, and we're in," Czart said of the playoffs. "That's a good feeling."
By Randy Whalen
The Lockport Township football team hadn't faced any of that in a game this season, outscoring its opponents 196-7 in the first five weeks.
But this past Friday night, Oct. 1, the Porters had to buckle down and fight off their first challenge of the season. They did as they hung on for a 21-13 victory over a feisty Lincoln-Way West team in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover before a packed homecoming crowd on a beautiful night in Lockport.
Despite the close game, there were still plenty of highlights for the Porters, including a pair of interceptions from junior free safety Troy Mutz, and senior quarterback Hayden Timosciek not only throwing a touchdown pass for the sixth straight game but being on the receiving end of one too.
The victory keeps Lockport (6-0) undefeated on the season and officially clinched its first playoff berth since 2016 and second since 2011. Plus, the Porters got good news as Sandburg shocked Lincoln-Way East 30-27. That means, with big games against league opponents Bolingbrook and Lincoln-Way East the next two weeks, the Porters (2-0) are the only undefeated team left in the Blue Division.
But they didn't stay undefeated overall without a challenge. Star defensive player, Drew Blackburn-Forst is glad the Porters had to stave off a rally and overcome some challenges.
"This is a game that was gratefully needed," Blackburn-Forst said. "They call them trap games and this is one of those that was a test. If things go down in the dirt, we have to be ready to go back up."
Lincoln-Way West (2-4) had high expectations entering the season but started off with three straight losses. Through Week No. 6, the combined record of the four teams the Warriors have lost to is 22-2.
"We dodged a bullet," Lockport coach George Czart said. "We tried to tell the kids all week that we were going to be in for a dog fight. (From being an assistant coach with the Warriors) I know those coaches, I know those kids and I could feel it. Lincoln-Way West was hungry. But our kids had to answer the bell and we did."
Lockport led 14-0 at halftime, and it could have been more. But after only turning the ball over twice in their first five games, the Porters had a trio of lost fumbles in the first half.
"There was a little bit of frustration but no panic," Czart said. "We need to clean up the turnovers. Win or lose we know we have to make corrections and get better."
Still, the Warriors didn't score in the first half, marking 21 out of the first 22 quarters of the season that the Lockport defense had pitched a shoutout.
But that changed in the third quarter. Behind eight straight carries from senior running back Justin Harris (27 carries - 114 yards) Lincoln-Way West moved from its 48 to a third-and-12 at the Porter 19. Then sophomore quarterback Cole Crafton threw a perfect strike to senior Jason Harris for only the second touchdown allowed by Lockport this season.
The extra-point kick was wide left, however, leaving the score at 14-6 with 6:41 to play in the third quarter.
Lincoln-Way West nearly added another touchdown on the second to last play of the third quarter. Crafton (8-for-22, 2 INT, 135 yards) had a receiver wide open on a deep pass over the middle, but he dropped it. Senior defensive lineman Cole Silzer had a sack on the next play and the Warriors had to punt.
Lockport set up shop at the Lincoln-Way West 44. Ty Schultz (17 carries for 86 yards) gained five yards on first down and on the next play the senior running back broke through and rumbled in for a 39-yard touchdown. Senior Gabe Czako added the extra point and the Porters led 21-6 with 11:07 to play in the game.
"The offensive line did most of the work and I just saw it open and followed the block,” Schultz said of the scoring play. “I had a couple of plays before that where I thought I would break it, but I didn’t make the right cut.”
"Clinching the playoffs feels good but we didn't play our best game. Still, we knew if we just stayed calm, we'd be good."
Crafton was crafty on the next drive as he completed three passes in a row for 48 yards. The last one of which was a 20-yard TD to senior wide receiver Caymen Bulthuis, who came away with the ball after a brief simultaneous possession. The conversion kick was good by senior Ryan Shelton and it was 21-13 with 7:11 remaining in the game.
The Warriors got the ball back twice more after that. The first time Blackburn-Forst was in on a couple of tackles of Justin Harris before Crafton fired incomplete on third-and-nine from his own 15 with four minutes to play.
Getting the ball back at midfield, Lockport couldn't run out the clock, however, and turned the ball over on downs at the Warrior 24.
Needing to go 76 yards, Lincoln-Way West converted a fourth-and-seven play as Crafton found Justin Harris on a 15-yard strike to the Warrior 42. But the Porters, who forced Crafton into incomplete passes on seven of his last eight attempts, put the pressure on and there were four straight incompletions to hand Lockport the ball back with 13 seconds to play.
“It kicked in that we couldn’t let them score anymore because it was too close of a game,” Mutz said. “We had to shut them out right there. The D-line was getting pressure in there.
“We gave up some scores, but you have to have a short memory.”
They did and came through as a unit.
"They missed the conversion kick and that helped us a lot," Blackburn-Forst said of the Warrior's missed conversion kick. "The defense still won the game. I was double-teamed a lot and myself along with Cody and Cole (Silzer), and Paul (Rasp) battled the whole game."
Things started well in the game for the Porters as Mutz picked off Crafton on the first play from scrimmage as Lockport had a first down at the Warrior 25 just seven seconds into the game.
But facing second-and-goal at the one, the Porters fumbled and Lincoln-Way West recovered at the six.
All seemed right on the next Porter possession as spurred by a 43-yard pass to Ryan Little on the initial play they went 83 yards in six plays for a touchdown. That score came on a 28-yard strike over the middle from Timosciek to senior running back Andrew LoPresti and it was 7-0 with 2:36 left in the first quarter.
Following an exchange of punts, Mutz was at it again, with an interception at the Warrior 38.
"Troy Mutz is a good player for us," Czart said. "He makes more plays than he doesn't. "
Not bad for someone who is 5-foot-9 going up against much taller receivers.
“The first pick, I read it like a book,” Mutz said. “The second one, the ball was in the air. I just went up and got it.
"Coming into the season, I didn't expect us to be this good but here we are. We have to be solid in the playoffs. We know there will be close games and we will need efforts like this."
The Porters will also need plays like the one that they pulled off right after Mutz's second interception. That was called "supreme upload."
What happened was Little (4 receptions for 65 yards) got the ball on a double reverse and threw it back to Timosciek (13-of 24 passing, 152 yards, TD) who was wide open down the right side. The 6-foot-7 inch quarterback then lumbered in for a 38-yard touchdown as the crowd went wild and Lockport led 14-0 with 1:04 left in the first quarter.
“We practice that play every day,” said Little, who saw his five-game touchdown receiving streak end. “We haven't been able to use it in a game because we were always up by so much. We were waiting for the right opportunity.
“Hayden is a good target. We were laughing in the end zone and it was a great moment."
The play was also special as it was designed by receivers coach Adam Decaire, who was celebrating his birthday.
“It was our birthday present to him,” Little said.
The Porters, however, lost fumbles on their next two possessions, including one with 1:01 left in the first half which gave Lincoln-Way West the ball that the Lockport 36. But senior outside linebacker Ethan Gallagher had a pair of sacks as the Porter defense snuffed out any opportunity from there.
"Oh, no, there was no panic," Little said. "Our drives on offense weren't great. But we know we have a great defense."
By Randy Whalen
Always a special event and game no matter what the season. But this year it's taken on more prominence.
That's because when what is expected to be a packed house, shows up this Friday for the football game they will have an opportunity to see a Lockport Township team that has turned in perhaps the best start in its long, illustrious history.
The Porters are 5-0 and have outscored their opponents 196-7 with four shutouts so far this season.
"Homecoming, it is special," Lockport coach George Czart said. "We've been the road warriors so far this season, so it's a homecoming in many ways.
"It's always pretty special if you can win that homecoming game."
Indeed, Lockport had four of its first five games on the road and won all of them via shutout. This week's opponent for homecoming in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover is Lincoln-Way West. It's also a homecoming of sorts for Czart, who lives in the Lincoln-Way West school district, and has two daughters who graduated from there.
After Lincoln-Way North closed in the spring of 2016, Czart took a teaching and coaching job at Lincoln-Way West. He was a defensive assistant coach on the football team before becoming Porters head coach in 2019.
"I was safeties coach the first year and linebackers coach the next two," Czart said of his three years as an assistant coach for the Warriors. "Luke Lokanc was the defensive coordinator there at the time and is now the head coach.
"There are good people and good friends there."
And, despite a 2-3 record coming in, a good team.
"They are very well-coached on both sides of the ball," Czart said of the Warriors. "They play great defense and that's going to keep them in the game. Yes, they started 0-3 but their opponents through that time were 9-0. If they made a few more plays, they could be undefeated.
"They have the capability to make big plays."
Lincoln-Way West lost to still undefeated Hersey (28-7) and Oswego East (28-14) to start the season and then gave Bolingbrook a heck of a game before losing 23-17. The last two weeks have brought victories over Bradley-Bourbonnais (16-14) and Stagg (42-6).
Coming off a 5-1 abbreviated spring season and an SWSC Red title in the spring, the Warriors expected big things this fall. Even if they lose to Lockport and Homewood-Flossmoor in their final two SWSC crossovers, they could still win the Red with wins over Lincoln-Way Central and Andrew and qualify for the playoffs.
Similar to the Porters, the leaders for Lincoln-Way West are seniors. The offense is led by quarterback/wide receiver Jason Harris, running back Justin Harris, wide receiver Eric Nowak, and lineman Jake Ziemniarski.
On defensive, Justin Harris doubles as a defensive back and joins Mason Neville and Matt Wallace there. John Orrico is a key lineman and Harrison Scroggins is a standout linebacker.
The last time the two teams met was in the fall of 2016. That was a 14-7 Porter victory, which helped them clinch which was at the time, their first playoff berth since 2011.
Czart was in his first season as an assistant for the Warriors then. Now, back as a head coach, he appreciates the assistant coaches for the Porters very much.
"Whatever I say, it's not enough," Czart said of how valuable his assistants have been this season. "They have done a great job. They had a great challenge and met it."
The listed varsity assistants are Erik Carlson, Mark Carmen, Adam Decaire, Cory Dillard, Mark Doran, Derek Freiberg, Pete Kishline, Dave Pammer, Ryan Russell, Robb Schultz, and Mike Taylor.
They have helped the players excel on the field. That was evident in the 42-0 win at Sandburg last week as quarterback Hayden Timosciek had his best game yet, going 16-for-21 passing for 309 yards with four touchdowns. Fellow senior Keegan Roberson broke out with eight receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Little (4 receptions for 50 yards. TD) caught a touchdown pass in the fifth straight game.
Lockport's starting running backs, Andrew LoPresti and Ty Schultz (TD), hardly touched the ball, combining for five carries for 15 yards. Even without Cole Silzer, who was out with a stomach ailment, the Porter defense was steller again. Andrew Blackburn-Forst and Dylan Schmutzler had big games and Ethan Gallagher, who also blocked a punt that was recovered by fellow senior Danny Martisek for a touchdown, and Joey Manzo added interceptions.
Although five wins nearly assure a playoff berth, six does for sure. So the Porters hope to officially clinch the postseason with a homecoming win.
"We're thinking we are already in (because of strength of schedule)," Czart said of the playoffs. "But our goal is to win every game. We've done a good job of playing them one at a time and not looking ahead. But we do look forward to this week and the big homecoming crowd."
Friday is a varsity-only game with kickoff scheduled for 6:30 PM.
By Randy Whalen
After finishing second in the state at 138 pounds in Class 3A on June 26 at the Illinois Wrestling Coaches And Officials Association State Tournament, Keegan Roberson seemed to have his mind made up.
"I'm not playing football," he said shortly after the state finals. "I'm looking for a D-1 wrestling scholarship."
Roberson is still looking for that D-1 wrestling scholarship. But he's also doing something else. He's playing football for Lockport Township.
Last Friday, Sept. 24, Roberson had a season-high eight receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown as the Porters pummeled Sandburg 42-0 before the Eagles Homecoming crowd in a SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division matchup in Orland Park.
With the victory, Lockport (5-0, 2-0) moved a win away from clinching its first playoff berth since 2016. It was the fourth shutout in five games for the Porters, who have outscored their opponents 196-7.
After limiting their previous two opponents to a combined 24 points, the Eagles (1-4, 0-2) surrendered 33 points in the first quarter.
Hayden Timosciek fired four touchdown passes and threw for a season-high 309 yards as Lockport scored early and often. The first of his touchdown passes was a 21-yard strike to Roberson just 2:40 into the game.
Roberson, who is now a senior, is a wide receiver but also usually carries the ball at least a couple of times per game. Is he glad he's decided to come out for football and experience this special season?
"It's awesome just to be part of this great team," Roberson said. "There was no letup (against Sandburg), there never is."
On the game's opening drive, a 7-play, 80-yard march, Roberson caught four passes for 46 yards including the TD. He added three carries for 34 yards in the game. What got him to decide to come back for football?
"I was at work and the guys all group texted me," Roberson said of a day at the beginning of July. "They all wanted me back. I had to make sure it was OK with my club wrestling team and I wouldn't be missing any big tournaments and it was.
"We've been playing together ever since we were kids. This is a talented class and there's more of them after us. I'm just proud of all the guys."
Lockport coach George Czart is certainly happy Roberson decided to come back.
"Keegan is a very neat and quality kid," Czart said. "He's got strength, quickness, and good hands. This shows we're not a one-man team. We have more than one guy (at wide receiver)."
Timosciek was 6-for-6 passing for 78 yards on the opening drive, which had one run, a 2-yard carry by him. The senior completed his first eight passes in the game and now has 13 touchdowns with no interceptions on the season.
"Just spreading the love," said Timosciek, who threw his four touchdown passes to four different receivers. "The game plan was just to move the ball, score, and do this as many times as possible."
That's exactly what the Porters did as they went 66 yards in five plays on their next drive, which was capped by a 2-yard TD burst from senior Ty Schultz for a 13-0 lead with 5:46 left in the first quarter.
A second straight three-and-out forced the Eagles to punt, which proved costly for them. That's because Ethan Gallagher swooped in and blocked the punt sending the ball back toward the end zone. That's where fellow senior Danny Martisek fell on it for a touchdown with 5:18 to play in the first quarter. The extra point was good by sophomore kicker Nathan Blazewski, who was kicking in place of senior Gabe Czako, a 3-sport athlete who was held out with a minor injury.
"That was my second one of the year," said Gallagher, who later added his second interception of the season, of blocking the punt. "I just rush in, see the open field, and my eyes light up when I see the football."
Coming off a 22-0 victory against host Homewood-Flossmoor the week before, there was no letdown for Lockport.
"We don't believe in letdowns," Gallagher said. "We just come out every game and show what we've got. (Offensive coordinator Mark) Doran said in our pregame speech that the word for this game is 'intensity.' we had that and we couldn't have drawn it up any better."
"Coach told us, 'all gas and no breaks, we're not stopping,'" Timosciek said. "I was going big in the first quarter and then just role right through the game."
He kept rolling by completing a screen pass to senior running back Andrew LoPresti, who picked up an awesome block by junior tight end Hyatt Timosciek (Hayden's younger brother) and raced 68 yards for a touchdown and a 27-0 lead with 3:54 to play in the first quarter. It was the Porters third touchdown in less than two minutes.
Following an interception by junior defensive back Joey Manzo, Lockport added another one just over two minutes later. That's when Hayden Timosciek found senior Ryan Little (4 receptions for 50 yards) on a 15-yard TD pass. It was the fifth straight game that Little has caught a touchdown pass and it made the score 33-0 with 1:41 left in the opening quarter.
"We've got to be able to take advantage of throwing the ball to loosen up the run," said Czart, whose team passed 21 times and ran 11 times in the first half. "Hayden is a talented kid and we have talented receivers. This just shows we're a well-balanced team."
For the second straight game, the Porters opponent had a bad snap on a punt and saw the ball go out of the back of the end zone for a safety. This one came with 4:06 left in the second quarter and made the score 35-0.
Lockport, however, fumbled the ensuing free kick, for its first turnover of the season. The Eagles reward for recovering the ball at the Lockport 45? An incomplete pass, senior running back Jake Maziarka losing six yards on the next play and going out of the game after aggravating an injured hip, and junior quarterback Christian Evans getting sacked for a 4-yard loss by senior defensive lineman Andrew Blackburn-Forst.
So Sandburg punted and the Porters got the ball back at their own 31. Four plays later Timosciek dumped that pass off to Michael Doneske, and the junior fullback rumbled 66-yards down the left sideline for a touchdown with 1:40 left in the half.
Gallagher added his interception to end the half and the 42-0 score held up as the halftime score and also for the rest of the game. The second half was played with a running clock and junior Giovani Zaragoza finished as the Porters leading rusher with six carries for 49 yards, all in the second half.
Both teams had opportunities to score in the second half. A Brady Pfeiffer to Hyatt Timosciek 31-yard pass got Lockport got to the Eagles eight midway through the third quarter. But the Porters fumbled the ball away on the next play for their first offensive turnover of the season. Sandburg had a first-and-goal at the Porter three in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter but fumbled as well and junior linebacker Jake Duval recovered it.
Evans was 13-of-30 with a pair of interceptions for 122 yards for the Eagles, who finished with 160 total yards, 110 of those in the second half. As always, the Lockport defense was steller, including senior linebacker Dylan Schmutzler registering a 2-yard tackle for loss on the Eagle's second play from scrimmage.
Plus the Porters did all that on defense without one of their top players. That was senior defensive lineman Cole Silzer, who felt terrible all week leading up to the game with a bad case of gastritis. He was feeling better and in attendance but not in uniform.
But there were no excuses for the Porters.
"That's what we talked about, that we had business to take care of," Czart said. "We can't have a letdown. We just want to get better every day so it's hard for us to imagine a letdown. We are going to give our all, give a full effort, and show that we're pretty good."
Lockport will get to show the home crowd just how good it is this Friday, Oct. 1 with a 6:30 PM kickoff in a SWSC crossover against Lincoln-Way West. It's also Homecoming so it will be packed as past and present Porter Nation should be out in force to see one of their best football teams in school history.
By Randy Whalen
Coming off its biggest win in years, the Lockport Township football team has to guard against a letdown.
Probably the best way to do that is to play Sandburg.
That's what the Porters will do this Friday as they travel to Orland Park to face a school that, because of the proximity to Homer Glen, has become an arch-rival over the years.
Lockport (4-0, 1-0) enters off a strong 22-0 blanking of host Homewood-Flossmoor last week, while the Eagles (1-3, 0-1) lost 24-6 to undefeated Bolingbrook as both opened play in the Blue Division of the SouthWest Suburban Conference.
"They pay good defense," Lockport coach George Czart said of the Eagles. "They're not a bad team. I know their record isn't where they want it to be but they are physical.
"We're not going to be overconfident or anything. But our kids are focused and ready. We plan to keep it that way."
Just like Lockport in the last decade, the Eagles have had some tough times. They last had a winning season in 2015, also the last time they qualified for the IHSA playoffs. Their most recent postseason victory came in 2010.
Also, just like the Porters, Sandburg turned to an established coach to take over the program and return it to prominence. That is Troy McAllister, who had a historic 11-year run at Phillips that included undefeated state titles in Class 4A in 2015 and in 5A in 2017 - the first two in Chicago Public League history
The Eagles offense is led by junior quarterback Christian Evans, who had a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jake Maziarka that clinched their only win of the season, a 12-0 victory on Sept. 10 over Andrew. Senior Sanad Alshubak who hit a pair of field goals in the game as well and also had two field goals in the loss to Bolingbrook is able to put points on the board for a team that hasn't scored many. Sandburg has 32 points in its first four games.
The defense, however, has kept Sandburg in the game. There was the shutout of Andrew and 23 and 24 points given up to undefeated teams, Glenbrook South and Bolingbrook. Seniors Nathan Gibbons, Joe Shelton, and Alex Szczesniak lead the Eagle defense.
The Lockport senior-dominated offense of quarterback Hayden Timosciek who once again connected with wide receiver Ryan Little for two TDs in last week's win, and running backs Andrew LoPresti and Ty Schultz, has to be ready.
So does the defense, which usually gets accolades for its front four of Andrew Blackburn-Forst, Paul Rasp, and Cody and Cole Silzer. But linebackers and fellow seniors, Ethan Gallagher and Dylan Schmutzler have also been huge. So has the secondary as seniors Nicky Franciskovich and Shane McEntee added interceptions against H-F.
The Vikings had 19 plays go for zero or negative yards.
"Yes our defense was physical and played very well against H-F," Czart said. "But another big thing is that Hayden did a great job punting the ball and pinning them deep. We had a lot of short fields."
Timosciek's great punts pinned the Vikings deep and the defense took over, forcing a third-quarter safety on a bad snap. Schultz then slammed in from five yards out to cap the scoring in the 22-0 win.
"Our ball control and holding onto the ball has been a key," Czart said. "They just go hand-in-hand and allows our defense to stay off the field.
Last week's big win, their first over H-F since 2009, got the Porters noticed on the field.
"Yes, I think anytime you beat a ranked opponent like that, it lets you get noticed," Czart said of beating H-F. "Especially with the record ( Between 2010-19, they were 94-24, including 76-14 in the regular season with 10 straight playoff appearances and finished as Class 8A runner-up in 2014) they've had in the last decade."
Czart says the Porters, "Hope to shut everyone out," In the spring season they shutout Sandburg 23-0 on March 26, and so far this fall they nearly have, outscoring their opponents 154-7. This begs the question, is this the best defense Czart, who was the defensive coordinator for the state champion teams, has ever coached?
"It's hard to tell this early," Czart said. "But up to this point, the results of the games say that. But to be fair, we will wait until the end of the season."
Friday night's game is one of just two this season (Metea Valley was the other one) where the sophomore game is before the varsity. The sophomore kickoff is scheduled for 5 while the varsity will follow at approximately 7:30 PM.
By Randy Whalen
Maybe now they'll believe.
"I've been telling people we're a pretty good team," Lockport Township football coach George Czart said. "Maybe now people will believe in us."
They certainly should since the Porters went out and once again dominated on defense and had a very workmanlike 22-0 victory over Homewood-Flossmoor on Friday night, Sept. 17 in the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division opener for both teams in Flossmoor.
"We proved to the whole conference that we are a baller in this league," Lockport defensive lineman Andrew Blackburn-Forst said. "We are the most aggressive team in the state."
That showed in the fact that 19 of the Vikings (3-1, 0-1) plays went for zero or negative yards. Blackburn-Forst had a sack and five tackles for loss. Cole Silzer had a pair of sacks and he and his twin brother Cody were in on numerous tackles at the defensive line. Dylan Schmutzler had a sack and he and fellow senior linebacker Ethan Gallagher were in on numerous tackles.
In the secondary, seniors Nicky Franciskovich and Shane McEntee added interceptions as the Porters (4-0, 1-0) defeated Homewood-Flossmoor for the first time since 2009, ending a 12 game (including a second-round playoff loss in 2011) losing steak to H-F.
The 4-0 start is the best for a Lockport team since the undefeated regular season in 2004. The Porters have outscored their opponents 154-7 so far this season and, dating back to the last two games of the 2019 season, they have now won 10 of their last 12 games.
"This shows we're a top-tier team," senior wide receiver Ryan Little said. "People doubted us but our mindset this season is different. We're not letting up."
Little wears a different number (4) on his road jersey than the one (2) on his home jersey. That had some reporters, who weren't familiar with the team asking who number 4 was? They know now.
"I guess they didn't have a number 2 in the white (away) jersey because they never got the previous one back," Little laughed at the number confusion. "They were supposed to order another one in white but I don't know what happened. So I just wear 4 on the road."
People should know who little is now as he's been Lockport's leading receiver since the second week. Through the first four games, he has 15 receptions for 242 yards and six touchdowns. He's caught at least one TD pass in every game, including two against H-F.
"All thinks to this guy," Little said as he nodded to fellow senior Hayden Timosciek. "If I didn't have a quarterback like this, it wouldn't happen."
The theme of the game was set right away. The Vikings had a four-yard loss on their opening play from scrimmage. But then connected on a 21-yard pass play from junior quarterback Cameron Oglesby to senior Jyles Walton on the second. That, however, was H-F's biggest play of the day and one of its 13 first downs in the game.
The Vikings went backward from there and had to punt from their own 23. Junior Joey Manzo returned the punt 25 yards to the H-F 30 as the Porters had good field position. They took advantage of that as Timosciek (7-for-17, 100 yards. 2 TDs. NO INT) tossed his first TD pass to Little (4 receptions for 72 yards. 2 TDs) from five yards out on the left side. Senior Gabe Czako added the extra point and Lockport led 7-0 midway through the first quarter.
A trio of shifts by the offensive line resulted in the Vikings jumping offside three times in the opening Lockport drive and the five-yard scoring pass was the Porter's longest of their seven plays in the march.
Midway through the second quarter, another nice punt return by Manzo set Lockport up at the Viking 17. On third and goal from the nine, Timosiek fired a perfect pass to Little in the left corner and it was 14-0 with 4:39 to play in the half. That held up for the halftime score.
"The first one I just went up and caught it," Little said. "The second one was a beautiful ball, right over the defensive back, and I was able to get it."
The pair have a special connection that goes back a few years.
"I really think it's just playing with each other for years," Timosciek said of connecting with Little. "He's my red zone guy, I just throw it.
"It was big to go up 7-0 because our defense is spectacular. I wish we could have put up 40 plus points again (the Porters scored 41, 48, and 43 in their first 3 games) but it feels good to know the defense can put up that zero."
The defense did that for their third shutout of the season. In order to do that, the Porters had to turn away a huge threat in the second quarter. H-F put together its best drive, holding the ball for seven minutes, picking up five first downs and going from its own 15 to a first-and-10 at the Lockport 12.
Then, on a third-and-11 play from the 13, senior strong safety Nicky Franciskovich intercepted Oglesby's pass in the end zone for a drive-thwarting touchback.
"We were in man coverage on the pick my guy stayed in to block and I read the quarterback's eyes and picked it off," Franciskovich "Our defense is dominant we all have been playing together for all while we have good chemistry together."
That has shown all season.
"That was a big interception and it really helped," Czart said of Franciskovich's pick. "I'm excited, it's a great win. We played very physically against a physical team. We have to keep showing it so people believe."
There was lightning detected right at the end of halftime that delayed the second-half kickoff by 30 minutes. But when it did kick off the Porters picked up where they left off. Following a Blackburn-Forest sack, H-F faced a fourth-and-20 from its four on its first possession of the third quarter. The Vikings went to punt but the ball bounced in and rolled right through the punter's legs and out of the end zone for a safety. Lockport led 16-0 with 8:28 to play in the third quarter.
The field position game continued after that as the Vikings were pinned deep on their next possession and punted. The Porter's started their next drive at the H-F 12. Even a penalty for aiding the runner as Timosciek tried to score from the one, couldn't stop them. Two plays later, senior Ty Schultz (10 carries for 15 yards, TD) barreled in from five yards out for a 22-0 Lockport lead with 4:18 left in the third quarter.
Lockport was limited to 83 yards rushing but didn't need any more with the field position. Senior running back Andrew LoPresti finished with 13 carries for 48 yards.
H-F had no first downs on three third-quarter possessions and were limited to five in the second half. They had a trio of first downs in a final last-ditch drive at the end as the Porters substituted. But fittingly on the last play of the game, from the Lockport 38, McEntee snared an interception.
"We stayed loose," Blackburn-Forest said of the lightning delay. "We came out in the third quarter and we were still loose. We just kept playing well and this was a fun game. It's the first time Lockport has been 4-0 since 2004."
That was also the last time the Porters were conference champs. The league games continue this Friday with a matchup at Sandburg. It's a doubleheader with the sophomore game at 5 PM and the varsity one at approximately 7:30.
By Randy Whalen
These are the ones you look forward to.
When the Lockport Township football team visits Homewood-Flossmoor on Friday night it's not only the opening game of the Blue Division in the SouthWest Suburban Conference, it's a matchup of two undefeated teams who are ranked in the Top 25 in the Chicago area.
H-F is also ranked No. 9 in Class 8A in the latest statewide poll, while the Porters are in the "others" and essentially tied for 12th.
"I'm ready," Lockport coach George Czart said. "We weren't looking past the first three games but this is one of the teams that beat us (in the spring season). So we want to get back on the field and show our improvement. They're a different team and so are we."
Lockport traveled to Flossmoor to open the spring season and fell to the Vikings 41-14. The Porters rebounded from that to finish with a 4-2 record while H-F, which didn't play its last two games because of COVID, finished 2-2.
That was the first non-winning season for the Vikings since 2009. Between 2010-19, they had a 94-24 record, including 76-14 in the regular season. They had 10 straight playoff appearances and finished as Class 8A runner-up in 2014.
H-F also has a 12-game winning streak against the Porters, including a second-round playoff win in 2011. Lockport's last win in the series was 27-6 in 2009.
All of those were with Craig Buzea as head coach. But he has now the head coach at Crown Point, Indiana. Terrell Alexander, who was an assistant coach at H-F for 10 years before leaving in 2011 to take the head coaching job at Rich Central, is now the head coach.
Through three games, the Vikings and Lockport are not only both 3-0, both have an amazing point disparity. The Porters have outscored their opponents 132-7 while H-F has outscored its opponents 112-8, including a 44-2 win over visiting Lincoln-Way Central last week.
"Offensively they have some big offensive linemen," Czart said of the Vikings. "I believe four of their five linemen are over 300 pounds. The guys at running back are fast and elusive. On defense, they are fast to the ball. They are a solid team and I wouldn't expect anything else."
The H-F running attack is paced by seniors Kyle Lawson and Jaedyn Price along with junior Kamrin Cox. Myles Walton is a senior wide receiver and his twin brother, Jyles Walton, is a top defensive back. Khadari Kurns is another senior defensive back that is also looked to. Seniors Malyk Jones at linebacker and Justin Thomas at defensive end have also come up big.
The Porters defense has obviously been a strong suit. Upfront, seniors Drew Balckburn-Forst, Paul Rasp, and twins Cody and Cole Silzer have terrorized offenses. But in last week's 43-7 win over visiting Bradley-Bourbonnais, the secondary was huge too. Senior Danny Martisek, who also had two receptions, had a pair of interceptions. Juniors Troy Mutz and Jacob Duval also joined the pick party.
Offensively, Lockport was boosted by the return of Ty Schultz at running back. He had 10 carries for 60 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back from an ACL injury, which sidelined him in the spring. He and fellow senior Andrew LoPresti, should form quite a tandem the rest of the season. Toss in junior Giovani Zaragoza and you have a triple-ground threat for the Porters.
Quarterback Hayden Timosciek didn't have to do much in the last game, finishing 11-of-19 for 128 yards. But he still threw for a touchdown, to fellow senior Ryan Little (4 receptions for 76 yards) and ran for another.
While it was inevitable that the Porters would give up a touchdown at some point, as they did to Bradley-Bourbonnais in the third quarter last Friday, what was bothered Czart were the penalties that led up to it. Lockport knows it can't have that against the Vikings.
"What I was disappointed with was our penalties and lack of discipline," Czart said. "We had moments of a lack of mental focus. We'd jump offside or make another error. We know what we are supposed to do, we just have to do it."
But there has been plenty to like in the team's first 3-0 start since the last playoff appearance in 2016.
"I like how physical we play," Czart said. "Even when the execution or discipline hasn't been there, I've liked our physical play. There's been no letdown in our intensity out there."
All-in-all this should be a heck of a game and one that could really propel the Porters if they can get a victory.
"We like being in this position," Czart said. "When you're good you want to show people that you are good and you want to do it against a program like H-F. This is a great chance to see how good we are."
It is varsity only and the game time is 6 pm. Tickets for the game can only be purchased through the Lockport Township security office at door 4 or the Athletic office Monday-Friday 7:45 am-3:15 pm Tickets will not be sold at the gate.
By Randy Whalen
Ty Schultz waited nearly two years for these moments.
As a sophomore, Schultz led Lockport in rushing yards. He was looking forward to an outstanding junior season but two things happened. COVID postponed the season last fall and moved it to this past spring. Then Schultz suffered an ACL injury in his left knee and had to sit out not only the spring season but the first two games this fall.
This past Friday, Sept. 10, he returned to the field and scored a pair of touchdowns as the Porters remained undefeated with a 43-7 bashing of Bradley-Bourbonnais before a huge crowd in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover which was also the home opener in Lockport.
How did it feel to be back out there?
"It felt amazing," Schultz said.
Schultz saw his first action midway through the first quarter. His first two carries netted a total of one yard. But when Lockport got good field position at the Boilermaker 33 with 9:01 left in the second quarter, he carried the ball five straight times and scored on a 3-yard touchdown burst with 7:09 left in the first half.
Gabe Czako's extra point made it 16-0 and it was the first of three touchdowns the Porters would produce in the quarter.
"At first I was a little rusty and then I was fine," Schultz said. "When I scored I just wanted more, I just wanted more touchdowns."
Schultz is used to scoring touchdowns. He capped off his sophomore season with 20 carries for 192 yards and four touchdowns in a year-ending 42-12 win over Stagg on Oct. 25, 2019.
He added his second touchdown, scoring from 11-yards out and dragging a defender into the end zone with him. That made it 23-0 with 3:48 left in the opening half.
"Ty is a fantastic, strong kid," Lockport coach George Czart said of Schultz. "It was obviously tough what he went through but I thought he looked good and was able to cut well out there."
Schultz was taken out following his second touchdown. He finished with 10 carries for 60 yards. He was actually the Porter's third-leading rusher in the game. Fellow senior Andrew LoPresti finished with 16 carries for 74 yards and a TD. Junior Giovani Zaragoza came in at cleanup time and added nine carries for 70 yards and a touchdown as Lockport scored five times on the ground in the game.
Ever since LoPresti burst on the scene in the spring season, the paring of the two top running backs is something the Porter faithful looked forward to. So did Schultz.
"If we're both on, I don't think anyone will stop us," Schultz said of the combo.
So far no one has stopped the Porters at much of anything. Although their shutout streak ended, they scored 40-plus points for the third game in a row. That hasn't happened since weeks two through four in 2004, in which Lockport finished the regular season 9-0.
But this is a more dominating overall stretch as the Porters have outscored their opponents 132-7 so far this fall. They are 3-0 for the first time since 2016, which was their most recent playoff appearance.
"Things are going good," Czart said.
They are going so well that the Porters took a couple of fourth-down gambles in the opening drive that paid off. Facing a fourth-and-three at the Bradley-Bourbonnais 36, LoPresti lumbered for nine yards and a first down.
Three plays later Lockport faced a fourth-and-11 situation. From there Hayden Timosciek hit his favorite target, fellow senior Ryan Little, on a 12-yard pass to the 16. LoPresti then carried the ball three straight times, the last of which was a 4-yard touchdown run, and the Porters were on top to stay with 7:18 left in the first quarter.
Timosciek finished 11-for-19 for 128 yards passing with a touchdown and added four carries for six yards and a score. Little caught four passes for 76 yards and a touchdown.
"We took the opening kickoff and drove down," Czart said. "Absolutely we were going to go for it in those situations. Given where we were on the field I thought it was too far for a field goal and we wouldn't have gained much by punting it. So logically I thought we should go for it. We have good playmakers."
They also have intimidating playmakers on defense. The all-senior defensive front of Drew Blackburn-Forst, Paul Rasp, who returned from an ankle injury, and twins Cody and Cole Silzer put the usual pressure on throughout. They probably intimidated the Boilermakers into a couple of bad snaps.
In the final minutes of the first quarter, Bradley-Bourbonnais (2-1) reached the Porter 24. But facing a third-and-four from the 28, a snap sailed over the head of senior quarterback Caige Williams, who went back and fell on it for a 20-yard loss.
Following a second straight Porter punt early in the second quarter, Bradley-Bourbonnais took over at its own 30. Facing a fourth-and 10 from there, the snap went over the punter's head and eventually was kicked out of the back of the end zone for a safety and a 9-0 lead with 10:33 left in the first half.
Schultz scored his two touchdowns and then the Porters got the ball back at their own 48 with 1:01 to play in the half. Timosciek then threw two strikes to Little. The first was a fade to the left, which Little snared for 30 yards before going out of bounds and high-fiving former Lockport standout Tony Pashos, who had a 10-year NFL career and was on the sideline for the game.
Then Little hauled in a laser of a throw at the goal line. It was ruled that he was in and went for a 22-yard touchdown with just 49 seconds left in the half. Czako's extra point made it 30-0.
Danny Martisek added his second interception of the half for the Porters near midfield with seven seconds left in the first half. The senior had two catches on both offense (for 19 yards total) and defense.
"I just see the ball and make a play," Martisek said. "I just love football. Offensively I run the route and Hayden gets me the ball. It's as simple as that. I'm always open.
"We have a great defense. We will see what happens when we are tested. But they can't run or throw on us. We just have to keep it up."
Williams finished 14-of-28 for 133 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions. Junior free safety Troy Mutz and junior linebacker Jacob Duval also had interceptions and senior linebackers Ethan Gallagher and Dylan Schmutzler were everywhere for Lockport.
"I felt one of our strong points was defense," Czart said. "That includes our secondary, they made plays."
After 10 scoreless quarters and 127 minutes and 33 seconds without allowing any points to start the season, the Porters did give up a score. That came when it was ruled that junior wide receiver Caleb Barclay was in bounds as he made a diving catch for a 14-yard TD on the right side of the end zone with 4:27 left in the third quarter.
Lockport had some reserves in at defense but what got Czart upset was a personal foul penalty that moved the ball to the 14 right before that play.
"We have to clean up our penalties," he said. "I didn't like our lack of discipline."
What he did like was that his team came right back to score just over two minutes later. That was a quarterback keeper by Timosciek with 2:12 to play in the third quarter for a 36-7 lead. Timosciek exited the game at that point and junior Brady Pfeiffer was under center in the fourth quarter.
Zaragoza zipped in from seven yards out with 4:01 to play to cap the scoring and put the Porters above the 40-point mark for the third straight game. On the night, Lockport had 44 carries for 232 yards and five rushing touchdowns.
Not bad for an offensive line that has four new starters on it.
"It was hard at first with the new starters," said senior Colin Krzeczkowski, who is the only returning starter on the line from last season. "But now we are establishing an identity and heading in the right direction."
The offensive line is Krzeczkowski at left tackle, senior James Gannon at left guard, senior Anthony Devito at center, sophomore Christos Alexandros at right guard, and senior Jacob Ahrens at right tackle. Junior Rocco Rigoni also came in when needed.
"I'm super happy to see him back and scoring touchdowns," Krzeczkowski said of Schultz. "Now we have a three-headed monster of running backs with Andrew (LoPresti), Ty (Schultz), and Giovani (Zaragoza). Any one of them can score.
"We just have to keep practicing hard and keep getting better."
This week brings the first big challenge of the season as the Porters go back on the road for the SWSC Blue opener to face undefeated Homewood-Flossmoor (3-0), which is coming off a 44-2 win over visiting Lincoln-Way Central.
"We're 3-0," Schultz said. "We've got the better teams ahead of us but we've got a lot of guys contributing."
By Randy Whalen
Home is where the heart is.
It's also where the Lockport Township football team will be this Friday for the first time this season.
There is a big crowd expected as the Porters look to continue their best start since going 3-0 in 2016. That was also that last time they made the playoffs.
"I think we will have a huge crowd," Lockport coach George Czart said. "We had a big crowd for Maroon & White Night (on Aug. 20) and that was just a scrimmage. So this will be nice. They want to come out and know what the Porters are all about."
So far the Porters are all about winning, as they have not only started the season 2-0, they have outscored their opponents 89-0 in the process. This season they expect to not only make the playoffs but to make noise in them too.
Lockport knows, however, that to do that the team has to stay focused on the here-and-now. The opponent this week is Bradley-Bourbonnais, which also comes in undefeated at 2-0. The Boilermakers, however, have only played one game. That was in the opening week and was a 52-0 home win over Proviso East. The score was 38-0 after the first quarter.
In week two, Tilden from Chicago was supposed to make the long trip down to Bradley. But the Blue Devils forfeited the game and Bradley-Bourbonnais received a 2-0 victory.
"I've seen film on Bradley but there's not much to see," Czart said. "So I don't know much about them. They substituted a lot of players out in the Proviso East game. It wasn't a very competitive game."
Just like Lockport, the Boilermakers haven't made the playoffs since 2016. But also like the Porters, they are expecting big things this season. According to the Kankakee Daily Journal, there are "a ton" of playmakers back from the Bradley-Bourbonnais team that finished 3-3 this past spring.
At the top of that list is quarterback Caige Williams. Fellow senior Nathan Murphy is back at running back. and a trio of standout receivers in senior Mark Robinson and juniors Neal May and Caleb Barclay out wide, all back as well. Senior receiver Mekhi Brown and junior tight end Matt Allen are expected to contribute, while senior Grayson Dexter is also back to anchor the offensive line from his left tackle position.
Their defense is led by senior linebacker Detric Dee and sophomore linebacker AJ Mancilla, who head coach Mike Kohl (11th season, 57-40) said could end up being the best backer in school history, and Barclay at safety.
All the Porters want to do is continue what they did last week in their 48-0 win at Metea Valley.
Quarterback Hayden Timosciek was 5-for-8 for 117 yards. with two touchdowns. Both touchdowns were to fellow senior, Ryan Little, who had four catches for 75 yards. Senior running back Andrew LoPresti (20 carries for 186 yards) and junior running back Giovani Zaragoza (15 carries for 119 yards) both scored a pair of touchdowns.
"Hayden is going to throw the ball and we are going to continue to run the ball," Czart said. "The offensive line really stepped it up. We had guys going downfield, knocking people over."
The offensive line is seniors Colin Krzeczkowski at left tackle, James Gannon at left guard, Anthony Devito at center, sophomore Christos Alexandros at right guard, and senior Jacob Ahrens at right tackle. Junior Rocco Rigoni also came in when needed.
The offensive line will have someone else to block for this week. That is senior Ty Schultz, who was the team-leading rusher as a sophomore. But he was out in the spring with an ACL injury in his left knee. This will be his first game back.
"He'll be limited but he'll be back," Czart said of Schultz. "Both he and Andrew (LoPresti) are very good. We want to be able to have both guys on the field at the same time."
The defense was stellar again in the second week victory. They did it without a key defensive lineman, senior Paul Rasp, who was injured in the first half.
"He hurt his ankle and we put home in a boot as a precaution," Czart said of Rasp. "He seems OK, and we expect him back for Friday."
Rasp's injury let senior defensive tackle Michael Holland join in on the fun as he had a sack toward the end of the first half. The Silzer twins, Cody and Cole, along with fellow senior Drew Blackburn-Forst, continued to wreak havoc on the defensive line as well.
So did senior Ethan Gallagher, who blocked a punt and added an interception in a short span in the third quarter.
The last time Lockport played the Boilermakers was on the road in the final game of the 2018 season. Bradley-Bourbonnais won 34-27, with a couple of controversial calls going against the Porters. The loss left Lockport 0-9 that season.
But that was then, this is now.
Basically, if the Porters continue to do what they have done, things should continue to go well. Czart summed it up best.
"We're onto something good," he said.
By Randy Whalen
In case anyone hasn't noticed, the Lockport Township football team is good.
Really, really, really good.
Just how good remains to be seen. But the Porters certainly grabbed some attention with their second-week result. That was a 48-0 shutout of host Metea Valley on Friday, Sept. 3 in Aurora.
"It was overall domination, Lockport senior Ethan Gallagher said. "It felt sweet."
Andrew LoPresti and Giovani Zaragoza both rushed for over 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Hayden Timosciek threw two touchdown passes, both to fellow senior Ryan Little, to spur the offense.
Lockport (2-0) has outscored its two opponents this season by a combined total of 89-0. The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) listing of results only goes back to 1996. This is the first time since they had two in 1996 that the Porters have put up a pair of shutouts in a season.
As far as two shutouts to start a season? Who knows if that's ever been done. Even if it has, one thing is for certain. It wasn't as dominating as this. That's because the 48-point margin of victory ties for the sixth-largest in Lockport history.
The other top margins of victory in Lockport history are, Morris (108 points in 1912), Bolingbrook (56 points in 1977), Proviso (54 points in 1929), Joliet Township (50 points in 1999), Stagg (50 points in spring of 2021), and this ties a win over Morris (48 points in 1953) for sixth.
"We talked about how we wanted to improve on some things," Lockport coach George Czart said of what he wanted after a 41-0 win at Joliet West to start the season. "I thought we did that. We were crisper, especially Hayden and the offensive line."
Timosciek didn't have to throw much. But when he did, he was on, finishing 5-for-8 passing for 117 yards. He took the Porters 92 yards in their opening drive, including a 42-yard connection to senior Danny Martisek, and capped it off with a 17-yard TD to Little.
On Lockport's second possession, Timosciek was at it again, finding Little wide open for a 30-yard score with 1:59 left in the first quarter. Little was flanked out to the right before the play and put his hand up to alert Timosciek. Sure enough, there was no one near him and he caught the pass and cruised into the endzone.
"We saw that on film, "Little said of how he got so wide open on the play. "Geneva did the same thing (in a 20-15 opening season win over Metea) so we just saw what defensive formation they were in and took advantage.
"Hayden and the offensive line played outstanding. This feels great. We have all the potential we just have to keep the ball rolling. The sky is the limit for this team."
After being limited to 35 yards rushing in the opening week win, senior running back Andrew LoPresti surpassed that total by the end of the first quarter against the Mustangs. He scored a pair of touchdowns, the first one which was off left tackle, put the Porters ahead 21-0 with just over seven minutes left in the first half.
That stood up as the halftime score. LoPresti quickly added to that as he galloped in from 23-yards out two minutes into the third quarter for a 28-0 lead. He exited the game at that point, after having 20 carries for 186 yards.
"I was just seeing the opening, getting the cut and hitting the holes," LoPresti said. "The offensive line did great and showed a lot of improvement.
"That's wild (that the team has outscored its opponents 89-0). We knew coming in that we had a good team. We were working hard all summer and had to bring it at the start."
The offensive line is seniors Colin Krzeczkowski at left tackle, James Gannon at left guard, Anthony Devito at center, sophomore Christos Alexandros at right guard, and senior Jacob Ahrens at right tackle. Junior Rocco Rigoni also came in when needed.
Even with the reserves in, the Porters continued to dominate. Zaragoza, a junior who finished with 15 carries for 119 yards, scored on touchdown runs of seven and 13 yards. Junior backup quarterback Brady Pfeiffer also joined the party with a 13-yard TD run just before the end of the third quarter. That made it 48-0 and it could have been more but Lockport took a knee a couple of times at the end of the game after reaching the Mustang 13 yard line.
Let's not forget senior Gabe Czako. He converted on six of seven extra-point kicks and had numerous long kickoffs.
In all the offense had 485 total yards, including 44 carries for 368 yards and the five rushing touchdowns.
But, of course, the defense was there again. A challenge this game was to stop Metea wide receiver, Jalen Johnson, who has committed to Northern Illinois University. He did have a 64-yard kickoff return in the second quarter and finished with four catches for 48 yards. But after having five receptions for 100 yards and a TD in the opening game, Johnson was pretty much neutralized.
"He was the game plan, we had to take him away," said Gallagher, who was often guarding Johnson from his linebacker/safety position. "It all starts with our defensive line putting pressure on them and making them uncomfortable."
Gallagher did his part to make the Mustangs uncomfortable too. In the third quarter, he swooped in and blocked a punt which gave Lockport the ball at the Metea eight with 8:18 left. Two plays later, Zaragoza zipped in for the first of his touchdowns.
Zaragoza's second TD was set up when Gallagher intercepted a pass and returned it to the Mustang 20 midway through the third.
"We want to come out every week and just keep getting better," Gallagher said. "Every week we're just looking to improve."
Metea senior quarterback Logan Frederick finished 10-of-20 for 42 yards and the interception. He completed three passes for negative yardage including one on the game's strangest play midway through the second quarter. Frederick attempted to pass but had the ball batted back by senior defensive lineman, Drew Blackburn-Forst.
Frederick actually caught the deflected ball, so he completed a pass to himself. Problem was he passed it again and actually completed it to Johnson for what would have been a nice gain, which gave the Mustang fans a chance to cheer. But none of it counted as it was an illegal forward pass. So it was a 12-yard loss on the pass to himself, plus a loss-of-down penalty.
The Porter defense showed their fortitude at the end of the first half as well. Metea had reached the Lockport 27, which was the furthest it got in the game. But on second-and-10 from there, came a trio of sacks. Senior defensive tackle Michael Holland had the first one, Blackburn-Forst bashed in for the second one, and Cole Silzer, who teamed with his senior twin brother Cody on numerous tackles from their defensive line position, had the last one on the final play of the half. The three sacks totaled minus 25 yards.
"Ethan is around everywhere on defense and has shown what he can do," Czart said of Gallagher. "We're hoping schools get more interested in him. The defense played great all around."
The Porter show comes home for the first time this season on Friday as they host Bradley-Bourbonnais in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover at 6:30 PM.
By Randy Whalen
"One down one to go. Another town and one more show."
Pardon the lyric from the song "Leve It" by the rock group Yes, but that sort of sums up what the Lockport Township football team is looking to do this season.
While the Porters are doing the age-old adage of "taking them one at a time," they also have to do something else. Win them on the road.
Lockport has five of its first seven games on the road. The first one was a resounding 41-0 victory at Joliet West this past Friday. The Porter defense was outstanding, limiting the Tigers to negative yardage through the first three quarters.
This week the Porters take their defensive show on the road again as they travel to Aurora to face Metea Valley in another nonconference matchup. It's the first-ever football meeting between the two schools. But the Mustangs have only been playing since 2010.
"Yes, it was absolutely a good signature win for the defense," Lockport coach George Czart said of the opening win. "The defense getting two scores was also excellent."
The 41-0 win was the largest opening season victory by a Lockport football team in at least the past 25 years. It may have been the biggest in school history but the Illinois High School Association yearly football scores only go back to 1996.
In its brief history, Metea Valley has never had a winning season. The Mustangs did qualify for the playoffs and finish 5-5 in 2014, losing 21-14 to neighboring Waubonsie Valley in the postseason. But the past four seasons have not brought many wins. Their record since the fall of 2017 is 3-28, including a listed record of 0-3 in the spring of this year.
In this season's opener, the Mustangs put up a good fight before losing 20-15 to Geneva last Friday night in Aurora.
"They looked pretty good," Czart said of seeing the Mustangs on film. "They have a good receiver, number 11, who is going to Northern Illinois University. He's a good track performer too. They get the ball to him a lot."
That is Jalen Johnson, who hauled in a 53-yard bomb down the right sideline at the end of the second quarter to give Metea Valley a 9-7 lead at halftime. Johnson, who also had an interception on defense, finished with exactly 100 yards on five receptions from fellow senior Logan Frederick.
John Flynn, another senior wide receiver, caught a 12-yard TD pass from Frederick on fourth down to briefly give the Mustangs a 15-14 lead. But the Vikings scored a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter and later got an interception to clinch the win.
The Porters had three interceptions against Joliet West. Cole Silzer had the highlight one as he snared a batted ball by fellow senior lineman, Drew Blackburn-Forst inches from the ground at the goal line and scored a TD on the pick. Senior Drew Gallagher and Shane McEntee also added interceptions for the Porters, who also received a fumble recovery for a touchdown from senior defensive lineman Paul Rasp.
Although the first-week score doesn't show it, an area of improvement for Lockport is the offense.
"Our defense played well but we have to step it up on offense," Czart said. "But I also thought the Joliet West defense played well. They (the Tigers) made things difficult for us.
"But the biggest improvement we want to see is the offensive line. We have some new guys there and we want to see them get better. We want to be able to run the ball."
Hayden Timosciek threw for four touchdown passes and accounted for most of the offense through the air. The senior finished by completing 15 of his 22 passes for 161 yards with four scores and no interceptions.
Including three sacks of Timosciek, however, the Porters had 21 carries for just 27 yards on the ground.
The leading receiver was Timosciek's little brother, a 6-foot-6-inch junior tight end, Hyatt Timosciek. He finished with six receptions for 79 yards and a TD.
"Hyatt also had some nice blocks out there," Czart said. "We hope he keeps developing. We should have another tight end/fullback, Mike Doneske, back for this week too. So we hope to get guys open."
This will be one of two games (at Sandburg on Sept. 24 is the other) on the Porters schedule where the sophomores, who are scheduled to start at 4:30, will play before the varsity. This week's varsity game will start at approximately 7 PM.
By Randy Whalen
Cody Silzer summed it up best.
"I feel a week one win is most important," the Lockport Township senior defensive lineman said. "Half the teams start 1-0 and the other half goes 0-1. We wanted to come out, punch them in the mouth and get off to a good start."
The Porters certainly did that, especially on defense, as they dominated in shutting out Joliet West 41-0 in the season opener on Friday night, Aug. 27 in Joliet.
How big was the victory? It was the largest margin of victory by a Lockport team in a season-opener in at least the past quarter of a century and one of the biggest opening wins in its over 100-year history. In fact, it was the first opening season win for the Porters since a 14-0 victory over Downers Grove North in 2017.
But that season, coming off their most recent playoff berth in 2016, the Porters finished 2-7. They expect at least seven regular-season wins this year.
For good measure, senior quarterback Hayden Timosciek threw four touchdown passes as Lockport took advantage of good field position throughout.
"I had some first-game jitters," Timosciek said. "But the win felt great. We started out the season right and our defense was phenomenal."
Yes, it was, and with eight players who saw significant time on that side of the ball this past spring back for this fall, the Porters played like it. Lockport scored twice on defense, had five sacks, forced four turnovers, had numerous tackles for loss, and held Joliet West to negative yards through three quarters.
Silzer and his twin brother, Cole set the tone on the game's first play as they swarmed in to drop the Tigers for a three- yard loss. But it was Cole that had an interception for a touchdown in the highlight play of the game.
That happened at the end of the first quarter. Already trailing 14-0, Joliet West got its initial first down of the game but was backed up again by a holding call. Senior quarterback Carter Baranski dropped back and under a heavy rush, his pass was batted by senior lineman Andrew Blackburn Forst. It looked like the ball would fall to the ground but in swooped Silzer to snare it inches from the turf at the goal line and dive in for the touchdown and a 21-0 lead with 15 seconds left in the first quarter.
“It was awesome," Blackburn-Forst said of the play. "I thought I had just deflected the ball down but Cole came in and got it just before it hit the ground for the touchdown. That catch was insane, it was just crazy.
"For our defense to start out the game by scoring a TD is the sign of a good season. We just have to play all four quarters."
Besides being in on that play and numerous tackles, Blackburn-Forst also forced a fumble and had a sack.
"It was like in slow motion," Cole Silzer said of the play. "It just fell right in my hands and it's the first time I've scored a touchdown in a high school game.
"We just knew we had to come out here and play well on defense."
Indeed that's what the Porters did as backed up to its own one on its second possession, Joliet West fumbled in the end zone and senior defensive lineman Paul Rasp, who also had a sack, recovered the ball for the games initial TD midway through the first quarter.
On the Porter's second offensive possession, Timosciek hit senior wide receiver Ryan Little for a seven-yard touchdown pass. Later in the first half, he hooked up with senior running back Andrew LoPresti on a dump-off pass and the senior took it 26-yards to the house and Lockport led 28-0.
LoPresti had three receptions for 39 yards with the touchdown and added nine carries for 35 yards.
That held up as the halftime score and was also still the score after three. But Timosciek hit senior Ethan Gallagher, who also had a sack from the linebacker position on defense, for an 18-yard TD pass in the right corner. Following an interception by senior Shane McEntee, Timosciek capped the scoring with another touchdown pass 29 seconds later.
The last one, from 12-yards out, went to his brother, junior tight end Hyatt Timosciek, who led the team with six catches for 79 yards.
"That's my first-ever touchdown pass to him," Hayden Timosciek said of the connection with his brother. "When we were younger we played together in youth football on the defensive line. So to do that felt good."
Hayden Timosciek finished 15-for-22 for 161 yards with the four touchdowns and no interceptions. But he was sacked three times and under pressure on others. Lockport finished with 188 total yards. But didn't need anymore because of the defense.
"We had new people on the offensive line," Lockport coach George Czart said. "There's room for improvement and we will be as good as the offensive line."
Also having sacks for the Porters were senior strong safety Nicholas Franciskovich and junior defensive tackle Owen Skentzos. Junior defensive end Niko Frcek added a fumble recovery.
The Tigers had minus two yards through the first three quarters. Junior running back Dante Morrow had a 53-yard burst in the fourth quarter. But he was caught at the Lockport 27. Joliet West, which finished with 67 total yards, got as close as the 13 but couldn't score.
Senior defensive lineman Arthur Hrvatin had two sacks and senior linebackers Bryan McCoy and Josh Koser combined on one for the Tigers.
"Our defense played very well," Czart said. "They played within themselves, they let the plays come to them and they finished."
By Randy Whalen
For old-timers that have followed these football programs over the years, the matchup definitely is old school. Ever since Joliet West opened in the fall of 1964, the neighboring town schools have had a natural rivalry.
Now it is renewed as Lockport will travel to take on the host Tigers in the season opener this Friday, Aug. 27 with kickoff slated for 6:30 PM.
While the matchup is old school, the ticket policy in place at Joliet West is very modern. Tickets CANNOT be purchased at the gate for the game. Please visit the link GOFAN.CO/APP/SCHOOL/IL50184 or http://lths.org under the athletics tab for your chance to purchase.
There were no websites to purchase tickets on back in the late 70s when Czart was a linebacker at Bolingbrook and playing against both Joliet West and Lockport in the days of the old Illini 8 Conference. The other teams in that league were Joliet Catholic, Joliet Central, Joliet East (which closed as a school in 1983), Marian Catholic, and Romeoville.
"Yes, them being close to Lockport makes them a natural rival in all sports," Czart said of the Tigers.
It does, but the two programs haven't played each other in six seasons. Plus, the fact that this is the season opener and neither team has played at all, thus has no current video available, makes it harder for both teams going into the game.
"It would have been nicer if we could have seen them," Czart said of the Tigers. "We don't really know what to expect. We just have to be ready for a hard-nosed football team and know they have done things well in their (Southwest Prairie) conference.
"We are preparing for them as best we can and preparing to make changes if we need to."
This is now the 12th season that the Tigers have reverted back to their own program. Between the fall of 1993 and the spring of 2010, Joliet Central and Joliet West combined their sports programs as Joliet Township.
From the fall of 2010 until the fall of 2015, the Porters and Joliet West were back in the same conference. That's the current one for Lockport, the Blue Division of the SouthWest Suburban Conference. But the Tigers left in the fall of 2016 to join their current conference, the Southwest Prairie.
Lockport won five of the team's six meetings between 2010 and 2015. Those were by the scores of 37-14 (2010), 35-14 (2011), 49-31 (2013), 46-28 (2014), and 35-6 (2015, which knocked the Tigers out of a possible playoff berth). Joliet West's lone win in that span was a 28-7 one in 2012.
The move to the Southwest Prairie has paid dividends for the Tigers. They made three playoff appearances between 2016-19, including winning the Eastern Division of the league with an overall losing (4-5, but 4-1 in the conference) record in 2019. This past spring they were 3-3.
Skylar Crudup, who is a run/pass threat, returns as quarterback for Joliet West. Another key offensive returner is fellow senior Ena Dorcoo at running back. He has speed if he gets in open space.
On defense, the Tiger's best player is senior outside linebacker Bryan McCoy, who has offers from Army and Navy. Senior defensive backs Robert Satterwhite and Jerry Richards are both very solid.
"We need to be able to keep them in front of us and contain their playmakers, " Czart said. Their coach (Bill Lech) does a good job."
The Porters defense should be a strong suit. They return eight players who saw significant time last season. That includes the entire defensive line of twins Cody and Cole Silzer, Drew Blackburn-Forst (6-3, 235), and fellow senior Paul Rasp.
Hayden Timosciek literally looks to do big things at quarterback. Andrew LoPresti broke out at running back in the spring and looks to keep that going, and fellow seniors Ryan Little and Keegan Roberson will be among many options at wide receiver for Lockport.
"Yeah, they're chomping at the bit," Czart said of his squad being ready to go for the season. "We are coming off a shorter offseason but we want to make sure the kids are fresh.
"We just want to make sure we look at one at a time and don't get too far ahead of ourselves. (The week leading up to the game) we stepped back on practices a little but we know we still have to make improvements. We don't want to go too fast but we also don't want to go too slow."
One thing is for sure, there is excitement for the Porter team this fall that hasn't been around since perhaps the back-to-back state championship days.
"I love the excitement," Czart said. "At the (Maroon & White) scrimmage, just to see how many people were there. Just to see how excited everyone is at the prospect of this season. That's what Lockport football should be."
By Randy Whalen
That is what the Lockport Township sophomore football team has produced in the past three seasons.
The Porters have gone 6-3, 9-0, and 5-1 in a shortened season this past spring. That's a very nice 20-4 mark and they don't plan to change that success this season. Even with a new head coach.
That is Kevin Bolling, who takes over for Jason Frieri to head up the sophomore team this season. But Bolling is far from new to Porter football.
"This is my 28th year at Lockport," Bolling said. "I had a stretch at Lockport where I was the head sophomore coach from 2001-09. More recently I have been the quarterback and receivers coach at this level."
So he's been here for the success, just as he was back in the fall of 2002 when Jake Christensen quarterbacked the sophomore team before leading the Porter varsity to the second of back-to-back Class 8A state championships in 2003.
"We've been pretty successful, especially the past two seasons," Bolling said of the sophomore team which was undefeated and stopped a long Lincoln-Way East winning streak in the fall of 2019. "(Head) Coach (George) Czart knows our main job on the sophomore level is to develop players. But we have a solid amount of talent and should have a successful season."
Drew Gallagher will be the starting quarterback. The younger brother of senior defensive back/linebacker/wide receiver Ethan Gallagher, he has the complete package.
"He's a run/pass threat," Bolling said of Gallagher. "He's been working to get his arm strength better and has been really up to the challenge."
Also being looked to on offense will be Tanner Benaitis and Kevin Holland at wide receiver. Twin brothers Christos Alexandros and Nicolas Alexandros were going to be key on the offensive line but both could see time on the varsity too. Joe Picciola will be counted on the offensive line and Aidan Preciado will be a key at tailback.
Another person at tailback will be Elijah Beltran, who will double on defense at defensive back. Also being looked to on defense is linebacker Jameson Clark, Dallas Gorski should be a force on the defensive line, and Nick Zahara will be counted on as a defensive back.
"We're out there, ready to go for coach," said Gorski, whose first name of Dallas is after the Cowboys. "I expect improvement all around. I expect that after a disappointing freshmen season."
The Porter freshmen "A" team finished 2-3-1 in the spring. So they are looking for a winning record.
"Yes, we were 2-3-1 last year," Preciado confirmed. "Honestly getting more reps, more prep, more play (with a longer, non-COVID protocol season) will give us better play. We've got a new offensive line but we're piecing it all together."
Even though it happened before he got to high school, Clark knows what he wants this group to duplicate.
"We want to try to go 9-0," he said. "We were 9-0 two years ago. We just have to keep working in practice. We've got a good group now."
"We just have to practice our butts off," Zahara said. "We've just got to keep working and keep it up."
Nathan Blazewski is the sophomore team kicker. But just like senior varsity kicker, Gabe Czako, he plays on the varsity soccer team as his main sport. So it's possible he might miss some games.
Something that started this past spring and will pretty much continue this fall, is that the sophomore games will no longer be played on Friday nights. The exception to that is the second-week game, on Friday, Sept. 3, at Metea Valley. There the sophomore game is scheduled for 4:30 PM and the varsity afterward at about 7 PM.
Otherwise, all the sophomore games are scheduled for 9 AM with the same home and away locations as the varsity. Which does not make everyone happy.
"It does suck because you know, the Friday night lights are awesome," Benaitis bluntly said. "But we are playing and have got a season. I'm happy for that."
Bolling was always around the Friday night sophomore games too. So he would have liked it to also remain that way.
"I prefer the Friday nights," he said of the sophomore schedule. "But the positive thing is there is consistency."
The Porters plan that the consistent schedule helps to keep them winning.
By Randy Whalen
"Don't get mad, get better!"
As the Lockport Township freshmen football team kicked off the annual Maroon & White Night on Friday, August 20 with a scrimmage, one of the Porter defensive players missed a tackle. He was visibly upset with himself but he got that simple yet excellent advice from freshmen "B" coach Rotell Calmes.
"I love it," Calmes, who is in his seventh season at Lockport, said of coaching. "I love to make the kids better. I also love to tell them to be a team, not an individual. And to also have fun."
By the time they get to high school, most of the freshmen have played football. But they can always be tuned-up on the fundamentals, and most of all, what is expected of them at Lockport.
"The focus for the freshmen is that we want everyone to love football," Lockport freshman "A" head coach Troy Holder said. "We want to cultivate the guys to love the game."
This is Holder's first season as the freshmen "A" head coach, although he's been on the staff ever since George Czart took over as head coach in the fall of 2019. Holder knows Czart quite well, as he played for him as a quarterback and free safety at Lincoln-Way North, graduating in 2013.
"Since I played for him, I know what to expect," Holder said of Czart. "When I heard he was coming back here to coach I was super excited to come here and coach for him."
The feeling is certainly mutual.
"Troy was a hard-nosed football player," Czart said of Holder. "So I'm happy he's in the position that he's in. He knows what to expect and what we expect of his teams."
A couple of the freshmen players are looking toward a good season of learning and hopefully winning.
"That's our goal, our goal is to go 9-0," Lockport running back/middle linebacker Johnny Wesolowski said. "We want to keep the program going well.
"Just dressing (for Maroon & White Night) in our actual game jerseys made me feel like I was actually out there playing, not just practicing."
Conley Pfeiffer is the "A" team quarterback. He is the latest in the line of Pfeiffer quarterbacks at Lockport. Riley, who has now graduated, was the starting varsity quarterback last season. Brady was the starting quarterback on the sophomore team this past spring and is now a junior and the varsity backup QB.
"It's nice to be the latest one and I've learned a lot from them," Conley Pfeiffer said of his older brothers. "I've watched them the last couple of years and I'm ready to go. We just want to get better and step up as a team."
Some other players to watch for on the freshmen level include Bryson Melgoza at offensive guard, Tyler Pospisil at middle linebacker, Tristan Potete at free safety, Payton Roberson, who is the younger brother of varsity senior wide receiver Keegan Roberson, at outside linebacker and running back, Malik Salah at both offensive and defensive tackle, and John Sherrod at fullback.
With the Porter program back on the rise there's a good amount of kids out for the teams.
"We have nearly 75 kids out for the team, we call them one's and two's," Calmes said of who will be on the "A" team or "B" team. "Most of the time the kids separate themselves. but we always want to keep the competition going and tell them to have fun."
By Randy Whalen
The foundation is in place.
Now the Lockport Township football team looks to build it to heights not seen in at least a decade.
Coming off a winning season this past spring, only their second since 2011, the Porters plan to not only continue their winning ways, they plan to take it deep into the postseason.
They tuned up for that on Friday, Aug. 20 with the annual Maroon & White night festivities. All three levels, freshmen, sophomore, and varsity participated. Rather than have an actual all-out complete scrimmage game, however, the varsity ran some series of plays. There were actual officials out there though, so it was a game-type atmosphere. It was just done with a lot of substitutions in a short amount of time.
"It's been a long time waiting," Lockport football coach George Czart said. "We are anxious and the kids are doing all they can to prepare for this moment. Here we are and we are hoping things go well."
While this football offseason was actually the shortest in school history, with a COVID shortened spring campaign ending with a 56-6 victory over Stagg on April 23 in Palos Hills, it set the expectations for this one. So the squad has been itching to get back out there.
Especially since the Porters return 15 players that saw significant time on the field last year in helping the team to a 4-2 record.
"We've got a great thing going," Lockport senior middle linebacker Dylan Schmutzler said. "If we keep working, keep grinding, we're going to do well."
Schmutzler (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) is one of eight defensive players who return.
Included in that is the entire defensive line. Twins Cody (6-3, 250) and Cole (6-3, 245) Silzer are both back and are also both going to Eastern Illinois University together next season. Fresh off a Class 3A wrestling state championship and a national runner-up finish in Greco-Roman, both at 220 pounds, Drew Blackburn-Forst (6-3, 235) is looking forward to bring havoc on the D-line. So is fellow senior Paul Rasp (5-10, 170) at defensive end.
The secondary has some key pieces back too. They include seniors Nick Franciskovich (5-9, 160) at strong safety/outside linebacker, Ethan Gallagher (6-3, 187) at free safety/outside linebacker, and Danny Martisek (6-0, 175) at cornerback. Gallagher and Martisek may also see time on offense at wide receiver.
"We've been working on culture and the level of competitiveness we hold ourselves to," Gallagher said. "We are all playing together and there's not a thing that we don't hold to a high level on the playing field.
"We are just going to prepare for each opponent. We've got to beat Joliet West (on the road at 6:30 PM on Friday, August 27 in the season opener) before we play Metea Valley."
Actually, there are only six players back on offense that saw time on the field last year. The seventh is Ty Schultz (5-11, 197) who was the Porters leading rusher two years ago as a sophomore. He, however, suffered an ACL injury in his left knee and missed the spring season. He is hopeful to be back by the third game this fall.
Once he is, Schultz hopes to double with fellow senior running back Andrew LoPresti (5-11, 180), who literally burst on the scene in the spring to lead Lockport in rushing, to form a potent two-headed attack.
It also helps to have experience back at the key cog of quarterback. The Porters certainly do there as Hayden Timosciek (6-7, 235) returns after playing a lot at that position in the spring. The senior, who missed a game and a half with an injured shoulder last season, was behind Riley Pfieffer. But since all of Lockport's wins were blowouts (by an average of 34.3 points) he got to see a lot of time.
"I got injured with my AC joint in my left shoulder but I'm 100 percent now," Timosciek said. "Last season helped me a lot. It helped me to be acclimated to being in the pocket.
"We just have to stay consistent. No matter how many games we end up playing, we have to win the turnover battle and maximize our opportunities. I'm more than ready. Beginning to end, it's going to be an exciting season."
Also returning on offense are seniors Ryan Little (6-4, 190) and Keegan Roberson (5-9, 165), who was the state runner-up at 138 pounds in wrestling, at wide receiver. Junior Rocco Rigoni (6-2, 210), who played a fullback and tight end in the spring, moves to offensive guard this fall. The only actual returning starter on the offensive line is senior Colin Krzeczkowski (6-5, 265) at left tackle.
"As linemen, we've been telling each other that we've got to give Hayden time in the pocket," Krzeczkowski said of protecting Timosciek. "He can do so much with the ball and we've just got to hold the defense and be physical.
"As a group, we have been together since we were little. We just have to stay as one team, be together, and we can go far."
Plus, returning on special teams is kicker Gabe Czako (6-0, 140). The senior is quite the accomplished athlete at Lockport, also doubling as the leader of the soccer team this fall and being considered as the top hurdler in the state, after placing second in the 110 and 300-meter hurdles in Class 3A this past spring, heading into next years track and field season.
A schedule change that began this past spring because of COVID is staying in place this fall. That is not playing the sophomore game before the varsity one. Well, with the exception of one game, the second week at Metea Valley, there will be what now looks like a permanent change in the football schedule.
The sophomore games have been moved to Saturday mornings. In most cases that leaves a single varsity game on Friday nights. The exception is on Friday, Sept. 3 at Metea Valley, where the sophomore game is slated for 4:30 PM, and the varsity game to follow at approximately 7 PM.
While the sophomore players aren't too happy with the lack of Friday night games, Czart certainly likes the change.
"It's like preparing for a playoff game," he said. "You can approach it like that with a more regular routine. I know (the sophomores aren't happy) but this gives them something to strive for. Not everyone gets to drive the Cadillac."
Five of the Porter's regular-season games are on the road and they are all in the first seven weeks of the season. If they are going to compete for their first conference championship since winning the SICA Blue in 2004, they will have to defeat SouthWest Suburban Blue opponents Bolingbrook (Oct. 8, 6 PM), Homewood-Flossmoor (Sept. 17, 6 PM), and Sandburg (Sept. 24, 6 PM) on the road.
Then, of course, there is Lincoln-Way East. Lockport led the Griffins, who have won 46 of their last 47 games, 10-7 late in the first half this spring. But Lincoln-Way East, which was 6-0 last season and won undefeated Class 8A titles in 2017 and 2019, scored right before the end of the half and went on to win 34-10.
"We've played Lincoln-Way East tough in the past," Schmutzler said. "We've got hard workers and hopefully we can finish the job against them this season. No matter what we are going to have a fun time this season. We have good chemistry."
At least the game against the Griffins is once again at home. That's scheduled for Friday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 PM. It will be the second to last regular-season game and the only SWSC home one.
"A champion is a champion until someone beats them," Czart said. "In order to do that we've got to put a whole game together. Last season they stepped up in the second half and we couldn't answer. But everything is in increments. Someone has to get them, why not us?"
The Porter's other three home games are all SWSC crossovers. The first one is the home opener on Friday, Sept. 10 at 6:30 against Bradley-Bourbonnais. The next is a tough match-up with what should be a very good Lincoln-Way West team at 6:30 PM on Oct. 1. Finally, the regular season will conclude on Oct. 22 with a 6:30 game against Andrew.
Then hopefully on to the playoffs, where Lockport has not won a postseason matchup since 2011 and has not hosted a playoff game since being upset by Lincoln-Way East in the opening round in 2004.
If there is a weakness to the team, it could be depth. So hopefully there won't be any major injuries and if there are, someone will have to step up.
In the meantime, it's go time.
"I'm looking forward to each and every game," Czart said. "Just meeting with the team and the times we can communicate. Then I look forward to Friday nights and seeing them put it all together out there."
By Randy Whalen
Keegan Roberson is a senior at Lockport Township. He's a wide receiver on the football team and a state champion caliber wrestler after finishing as state runner-up at 138 pounds in Class 3A this past summer season.
Here we are. The team is playing for the Class 8A state championship this weekend. Can you put into words what it's been like to go on this amazing run?
"I think this is going to be the first of three state championships this season (football, individually for him in wrestling, and team wrestling). Coming into the season we all knew how good we were. We've always been this talented so it's not surprising."
When I talked to you at the end of wrestling season, you said you weren't going to play football. How happy are you that you changed your mind?
"I'm definitely glad I came out. It's been a great experience. At first, I wasn't going to risk it (wrestling career) by coming out. But I realized it wasn't going to make it any worse for colleges looking at me and some seemed happy I was part of the team. I've never been through something like this as a team."
Of course, I have to ask. Which sport do you like better?
Wrestling. That's my future and I've gone to wrestling practice also this month when I can. This is my 14th year of wresting and 10th playing football. I actually started playing football with the Orland Park Wolves, then went to the Lemont Hornets and finally to the Homer Stallions.
You are part of an amazing sore of receivers on the football team with Ryan Little and Danny Martisek. What's that been like?
"We all knew that we were good but we all push each other and pick each other up. That's what makes us better. We don't compete against each other, we all support each other and (quarterback) Hayden (Timosciek) gets us the ball. After every practice on Tuesday, the three receivers all go out together to Jersey Mike's."
I was impressed that the team went for it on fourth down often (going 3-for-3) in the 35-21 semifinal win over Loyola. Included in that was you catching a 15-yard pass on fourth-and-7 to the 20 to keep the opening drive alive in the third quarter and the team eventually scored to take the lead for good. What was the mentality to make those plays?
"It was great. It's all Hayden trusting all of us this year. We all have this connection and we've all become a lot closer with Hayden. He makes the adjustments and it's all like family this year."
Was there a game or a moment during this season that you knew this could all happen?
"The Bolingbrook game (in Week No. 7) was a huge one. We won (14-13 in overtime) and we knew as a team that we could do this. Losing (12-10 in Week No. 8) to (Lincoln-Way) East humbled us a bit. We knew after that we couldn't mess around as much. We had to focus."
What have you learned from head coach, George Czart?
"He's always told us to take responsibility for our own actions. Also, it's something where he will yell at you but it will be to open up a teaching opportunity. He's definitely experienced a lot and I think he's a great coach."
If you could be any animal what animal would you be and why?
"A snake. Because they're fast and strike hard. That's like me. I'm not the biggest but I can lower my shoulder and run you over."
I know you plan on wrestling in college. But have you committed yet?
"No, I haven't committed. I've gone on some visits to Campbell University in North Carolina. That's where (former Lockport wrestling state champion) Anthony Molton goes and he showed me around. I've also gone to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. I'm looking for D1 offers but the season is starting and I will still be looking then."
What is the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"I feel like they take care of us. They make us feel like we, as the athletes, are part of something. Every teacher I have congratulated me on going to state. Our administration is great too from the top down. (Principal Dr. John) Greenan is a very supportive guy."
By Randy Whalen
Nicky Franciskovich is a senior strong safety and outside linebacker at Lockport Township.
The team is playing in the state semifinals this weekend and no matter what happens you guys have left your mark as one of the top football teams in Lockport history. What has been the key to this amazing run?
"It's just been good. We all know each other and have been playing together since pee-wee football with the (Homer) Stallions. We've all grown up together and that's a big part of it."
Did someone get you started playing football?
"I started playing flag football when I was six. I'd say my parents, Andrea and Nick, got me going in it. I just kept moving up and kept playing."
Do you play any other sports and if not, what makes football the sport for you?
"I played baseball through freshman year but stopped after that. I love football because I like playing a team game, and I like to play defense because I like to hit people. It's really just the bond we all have playing together."
What's been your favorite moment of the season so far?
"There are too many. It's hard to think of just one. Actually just coming to practice every day and being around the team and the coaches. That's been the best."
Lockport first won a pair of football state championships in 2002 and 2003. Do you guys ever look into the history of those teams?
"It gets brought up a little bit. We look at the banners inside of our stadium and that motivates us. We want our own. To leave our own legacy."
No one wants to lose. But personally, I thought the (12-10) loss you guys had to Lincoln-Way East (at home on Oct. 15) has motivated the team to be better. What are your thoughts on that loss?
"We could have won that game. But yes, it lit something under us. We have to work, we're not there yet."
What have you learned from head coach, George Czart?
"Just to work and keep getting better every day. The game plan he puts in every day is great. He gets the best out of you, that's for sure."
If you could be any superhero what superhero would you be and why?
"The Hulk. Because he's super strong. He'd be able to destroy and rip right through everyone out there (on the football field)."
Do you plan to play football in college?
"I don't know yet. We will see after the season. Right now I'm undecided and just thinking about the next game at Loyola. But I do want to go to college and become a teacher."
What is the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"The support from the town and all the fans. We, as a football team, have become a big deal when it comes to sports in Lockport."
By Randy Whalen
Danny Martisek is a senior defensive back and wide receiver at Lockport Township. He leads the football team in interceptions with six and also has 22 receptions for 300 yards.
Here we go into the quarterfinals. No matter what happens from here this is one of the best teams in Lockport football history. What's been the key for you guys?
"I think, as a team, we improve every week. We work hard on defense to make plays and no one has scored more than two touchdowns on us in a game because of that hard work."
You play on both offense and defense. So which do you like better?
"I get asked that a lot but I just like them both. I just like playing football so I like them both."
How long have you been playing football?
"I started in the third grade for the Homer Stallions and we won the championship in my first year. My mom, Monica, got me involved in it. I played running back and defensive line to start. As I got into junior high I played running back and safety and in eighth grade, I switched to wide receiver."
Do you play any other sports and if not, what makes football the sport for you?
"I played basketball and baseball but not in high school. I love football because of the team aspect and the preparation for the game. It's just working so to prepare for one game and have the same common goal."
What's been your favorite moment of the season so far?
"I'd say this past week (a 34-0 second-round victory over Glenbard West). I made an interception on a comeback route. It was on a third-and-10 play and we knew that the comeback route was coming so I intercepted it. We scored another touchdown right after that to go up 14-0. That jumpstarted the team."
Yes, that was just another huge play by the defense. What is it that has made this defense, which has only allowed 70 points in 11 games and has five shutouts, so good?
"I think everyone just does their job and does what they have to do. We all do our job and get coached well at it. We know what's going to come and most of us have all been playing together since sixth grade. We just want to help the team win together."
What have you learned from head coach, George Czart?
"He gets everyone to buy in and play as a team. He makes it a point of emphasis that it's a 'we' game, not an 'I' game. He also says 'if they don't score, they can't win' and as a defense, we love that."
If you could be any animal, what animal would you be and why?
"A lion. Because the lion is the king of the jungle. They get to run, hunt, and I just think it would be cool to be a lion."
Do you plan to play football in college?
"Yes, I will be but I'm not sure where yet. I don't care what position it is either. Offense or defense, I will play where ever they want me to. I've had some small offers but I will be visiting Butler soon. I will finish this season and figure it out from there."
What is the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"Just everyone, from the teachers to the students and the community, all want to see you do well. It's fun to know the whole town is rooting for you."
By Randy Whalen
Mekhi Johnson Maura is a senior at Lockport Township and among the leaders on a defense that has four shutouts and has only allowed 70 points in the first 10 games of this season.
You got injured late in the third quarter of last week's opening-round win over Lyons Township. What's your prognosis for this week's game against Glenbard West?
"It's a minor sprained ankle. Right now I've been rehabbing it and trying to get it back as much as possible. But it's up to coach (head trainer) Joe Cunnane to make the final call. We haven't had many injuries this season and pride ourselves on being healthy for the games."
The defense has been amazing this season. Even better than the fact that you have only surrendered 70 points is that you gave only given up 22 points in the first half. What makes this defense so good?
"It all started with those Monday practices. I feel like if we get in a groove we are unstoppable. When we get together like that and get in that mode, it's hard to turn off."
Your front four defensive guys (Drew Blackburn-Forst, Paul Rasp, Cody & Cole Silzer) get a ton of credit. But how do they affect the linebacking crew of you, Nicky Franciskovich, Ethan Gallagher, and Dylan Schmutzler?
"I would say having those guys in front, moving as a team, makes everything so much easier for us."
How long have you been playing football?
"I started playing at age 12 for the Summit Rebels. I tried playing running back too but I liked hitting people more than I liked being hit. So it was defense for me. I moved to this area in seventh grade and went to Homer Junior High."
Do you play any other sports and if not, what makes football the sport for you?
"I play pick-up basketball but just as more of a hobby. I'm not on a team and just do it to stay in the action. I love football because of the intensity side. I play it more to take out my aggressions and to be my best self."
George Czart is not only the head coach but is also your position coach as a linebacker. What have you learned from him?
"I've learned more from him technique-wise than anything else. He's showed me a lot of things I never thought of, like how to read guards and the offensive line. He's really opened my eyes to a lot of things. He's one of the best coaches I ever had."
Hopefully, you and the team will be playing until the end of November. But what is a highlight so far this season?
"The game against Homewood-Flossmoor (a 22-0 win on Sept. 17 in Flossmoor). We showed our defense can be special. H-F is known for its speed and we showed how good of a team we could be."
If you could be any superhero, what superhero would you be and why?
"The Hulk. Because of the power he has and when he and (alter ego) Bruce Banner come together, it's like me playing football. I can go crazy but also be smart and read defenses."
Do you plan to play football in college?
"Yes, that's what I am aiming for. But I'm waiting for the offseason and see what offers come in."
What is the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"The recognition and support we get from everybody. We love the student body and everyone gives their all at Lockport."
By Randy Whalen
Ty Schultz is a senior at Lockport Township and has the most rushing touchdowns (9) for the Porters this season.
The football team finished 8-1 for its best regular season in 17 years. How would you describe the season so far?
"We just kept getting better. Then we hit a dip for a little bit but everyone is getting better again. We just want to hit another high and take off from there."
After leading the Porters varsity team in rushing as a sophomore, you missed the spring season and the first two games this year with an ACL injury in his left knee. How did that happen and how hard was it to sit out?
"I went to a combine in Indiana and in one of the drills, I overextended my leg and tore my ACL. It was pretty hard to sit out those games but it was nice to see our team take off and get wins."
You transferred here before your sophomore year, from Herscher after playing on the JV team there as a freshman. What has it been like playing for the Porters after starting out at a small (500 enrollment) school like Herscher?
"I'm very glad I'm here. There are a lot more experiences here. Herscher is a nice school but there are a lot more opportunities here. I never played organized football until my freshman year. My dad (Rob Schultz) played football at Herscher, so he helped get me started."
For the regular season, I have you and Andrew LoPresti combining for 977 yards and 13 touchdowns, with you having nine of those TDs. What has it been like to have a double-threat rushing game and do you have a personal highlight this season?
"I think Andrew and I have been pretty equal. We can both score but it's nice to know that the team entrusts me in those (scoring) positions. As far as a highlight. I just think that every game has been a highlight for me and the team."
Do you play any other sports?
"I used to play hockey but stopped after my freshman year. I went out for the track team here at Lockport my sophomore year. But I only got to do a couple of indoor meets before COVID shut us down. I don't know yet if I will do track and field this spring but most likely."
Your grandfather on your mom (Julie's) side is former Romeoville head football coach, Dennis Schley. How has he influenced you?
"He and my grandma (Cathy) come to all my games and give me a lot of support. He has given me a lot of good advice and I can learn from what he's done and been successful at. He accomplished things at Romeoville (coaching the Spartans to 6 straight winning seasons between 1982-87, including going 10-1 in 1984) and has given me good info about football and life in general."
What have you learned from Lockport football coach, George Czart?
"He's a very good football coach. He's all about football but tells us to have relationships, especially with our families. He's really an excellent coach and I'm glad he's at Lockport."
If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?
"A lizard. Because they're fast and quick and can run from a lot of things."
Are you planning on playing football in college?
"Yes, but I don't know where yet. I'm just going to wait until after the football season and see what happens."
What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"Just the whole atmosphere. Everyone going to the games and everyone cheering you on. Everyone wants you to have success."
By Randy Whalen
Ethan Gallagher is a senior 3-sport standout athlete at Lockport Township. He caught the only Porter touchdown in last week's 12-10 loss to Lincoln-Way East.
What does the team have to do to rebound from the loss to Lincoln-Way East?
"We just have to make more of the big plays. We just didn't make enough of them so we have to finish. But it's a bump in the road. Once we start the playoffs, it doesn't matter."
Since you're a 3-sport athlete you know I have to ask. What is your favorite?
"It's a tie between football and basketball. I've played both forever. For as long as I can remember I played football for the Stallions and basketball for the Homer Heat. This past season was the first time that I ever did track and field and I had more success than I thought. I will probably run the 400 and be in the 4x2 and 4x4 relays this coming season."
Back to football, you play both offense, as a wide receiver, and defense, as an outside linebacker. So which position do you like better?
"Offense is fun but I like to stick my nose in and play defense. Basically, I like to hit people more than I like being hit. Plus, I'm in the box more this fall than back in coverage, as I was last season."
The team defense as a whole this season has been great, only allowing 45 points and having four shutouts. What's the key to your defensive success?
"It's not one specific thing or another. We've got talent spread all over and people to make the plays all over the field. We are well-rounded."
What's been the best moment so far this season?
"I'd say the whole Homewood-Flossmoor game (a 22-0 win on Sept. 17). They put a whipping on us last (spring) when we lost (41-14 on March 19). So it was nice to see that our team had improved and to shut them out was awesome."
Even though you lost this past week, if you win this week you will have eight wins, which will be only the eighth time in Porter's history that the team has reached that mark. So how much does the team discuss your place in Lockport lore?
"There have definitely been talks about it. It's nice to acknowledge success, especially when you're in the midst of it. But we will let that all figure itself out in the end."
What have you learned from Lockport coach George Czart?
"The most important thing is that you win games during the offseason. They are also won in the week before the game. It's all in the preparation."
If you could be any superhero, which superhero would you be and why?
"The Flash. I think that would be the most applicable one I could choose because of his speed."
Are you planning to play a sport in college and if so, which one?
"Yes, I am. I'm going to take the first opportunity that fits me. Whether that be football or basketball. Plus, I haven't ruled out playing both in college. It's been a little bit of both for recruiting too so far."
What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"The culture. That includes everyone in the school, from teachers to coaches to students. Plus the community. It's just everyone who is involved with Lockport. Then, to go out and play in front of thousands of fans is special."
By Randy Whalen
Gabe Czako is a senior 3- sport standout athlete at Lockport Township. He kicked the game-winning extra point last Friday as the Porters defeated Bolingbrook 14-13 in overtime.
Can you describe your emotions as you had a roller coaster within a few minute span, first missing the potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation and then making the extra point to defeat Bolingbrook and keep the undefeated season going?
"The emotions were all over the place. It came down to me at the end and I admit, I was pretty nervous. I had missed the field goal opportunity but my teammates picked me up and on the second opportunity, I made it. That was such an amazing feeling, winning it for the team. Even afterward, all the emotions were still in my head."
You are a member of not only one of the top-rated football teams in the state but also one of the top soccer teams as the Porters are excellent (13-1 through Oct. 9) in soccer too. What is it like to be a part of both these teams?
"We won (3-2) in overtime in soccer (last) Saturday morning at Sandburg. I admit I was really tired after that but it was an amazing feeling. Right now I sometimes don't realize how crazy and amazing this is. But if I take a step back I realize that it's a once in a lifetime experience."
You know I have to ask. You play football, soccer, and are going into next season as the top hurdler in the state in track and field. So which is your favorite sport?
"Do I have to answer that? Let's just say I'm pursuing track and field in college. I love all my sports but do the best in track and field (being state runner-up in Class 3A in both hurdle events last season)."
Which sport have you been playing the longest?
"I've been playing soccer the longest. I don't remember exactly when I started but I was young. It's going to be sad to not play it in college. I didn't start playing football until sophomore year. I first ran track when I was in sixth grade at Oak Prairie but didn't try doing hurdles until seventh grade."
There is a pretty famous kicker/track athlete from Lockport in (1999 graduate) Nick Setta. Have you worked with him at all?
"Yes, I have and I've learned a lot from him. He's very knowledgeable about kicking. When I was starting out I went to his training and he used to play soccer too so he knows what I'm going through and the difference between kicking a soccer ball and a football. He was a really good athlete."
This is the best Lockport football team since the state championship years of 2002 and 2003. Do you guys ever talk about that history?
"It comes up a little bit but not too much, mainly because it was a long time ago. We talk more about the success we've had, going from an 0-9 varsity record three years ago to the current team."
What have you learned, not only from football coach George Czart but soccer coach Chris Beal?
"Coach Czart has worked with me and my soccer schedule. So I appreciate that flexibility. From coach Beal, I've learned to be a leader and to raise people up. As one of the captains I've got to be positive and make people better."
"If you could be any animal, which animal would you be and why?"
"A cheetah because they are fast. But people have called me an antelope because they say I look like one when I run."
You plan on doing track and field in college, but have you committed yet?
"I have not. As of now, I have visited two schools, Duke and Princeton. I'm visiting a third (Cornell) this weekend. I plan to study engineering but that could change."
What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"The support you get. The school spirit. The teachers, the students, the staff all ask how you are and how you did in the games or events. That's the best part."
By Randy Whalen
Jimmy Gannon is a senior left guard on the Lockport offensive line.
This season has been fantastic. The team is 6-0 and has clinched the playoffs. What's can you say about that?
"It's been special, especially here at Lockport. We have an incredible fan base and coming off a couple of rough seasons a few years ago this is just incredible."
How long have you been playing football?
"Six years. I played in the fourth and fifth grade with the Homer Stallions but then I focused on baseball. Then freshman year I just got rekindled for football. Just the draw of playing freshmen football for Lockport. We always had fan support with the big crowds and I loved it."
Do you still play baseball?
"No, just football now. When I did play baseball I played catcher and third base."
What is it about the sport of football that makes it the game for you?
"As an offensive lineman, it's like 'who wants it more?' It's whoever works harder out there. Every single play you have to be on top of your game."
As an offensive lineman, you don't get a lot of credit or publicity. Does that ever bother you or your teammates on the line?
"Honestly, we don't care at all. We just love doing our jobs. It's a selfless position but we love to see the other guys succeed."
What have you learned from coach George Czart?
"He's a guy who focuses on you doing your job. He teaches us that the games are won during practice week. It's that affirmation and mentality he brings that teaches us a lot."
I've often asked what opponent you guys look forward to facing the most. But there are only three left (Bolingbrook, Lincoln-Way East, and Andrew) and they're all big. So instead, since this team is having the best regular season since the Porters went 34-4 in the glory years of 2002-04, what would it mean for you to make a run to the state title game this season?
"It would just be the greatest. The coaches all tell us to 'leave the program better than you came into it.' So for us to get that far in the playoffs, it would be incredible for this organization."
"If you could be any superhero, which superhero would you be and why?"
"I have to say The Hulk. Could you imagine The Hulk on the offensive line? (Andrew) LoPresti and (Ty) Schultz would have 300 apiece each game!"
Are you planning to play football in college?
"I am not. I thought about it but I'm just going to pursue an academic career, probably something in marketing. If a college was interested after this season I'd still consider it under the right circumstances or scenario."
What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"Definitely the fans. Our fan base is incredible. The amount of people that show up for a game is just remarkable."
By Randy Whalen
Dylan Schmutzler is a senior middle linebacker and one of the leaders of the Porter football team that has four shutouts in their first five games.
This season has been fantastic with the team outscoring your opponents 196-7 so far through four games. What's been the key to the success?
"I think we just have great teamwork. Everyone showed up to the offseason workouts and coach (George) Czart put together a great work schedule. We're used to winning and love playing. We plan to keep coming and playing our hearts out."
How did you start playing football?
"My parents (Betty and Richard) introduced me to football at the age of five. They started me playing the sport in flag football for the Stallions and I love it."
Do you play any other sports?
"Yes, rugby. I play in the spring for the South Suburban Rugby Club Cobras. I've been playing a couple of years but only one full season because of COVID. It definitely helps for football. But yes, football is my favorite sport to play."
What is it about the sport of football that makes it the game for you?
"The competitiveness and it's a very physical sport. It's very competitive and I love to play defense and hit people. I also love the close bonds out there. We are like a family."
Your defensive front gets a lot of much-deserved publicity. But the linebackers have been awesome too. What is the key to playing the linebacker position?
"It's me and (fellow seniors) Mekhi Johnson Maura at middle linebackers and Nicky Franciskovich and Ethan Gallagher at outside linebacker. As a middle linebacker, I'm the leader of the defense. We are all on the same page, all play aggressively and run to the ball."
This season's squad has a lot of people talking about the history of Lockport football. How much does the team look at that?
"Everyone knows the state championship teams and that they used to be dominant. We're bringing that back every time out and know that hasn't happened in a while."
Speaking of that history, coach Czart was the defensive coordinator on those state championship teams. Now he's back as head coach. What have you learned from him?
"I've learned a lot, especially since he's also the linebackers coach. So he's taught me technique and he's taught the team good sportsmanship and how to be hard workers."
If you could be any animal which animal would you be and why?
"A lion. Because they're one of the strongest animals and a leader. As a middle linebacker, I have to be a leader of the defense."
Have you committed to playing football in college yet?
"No, I have not. I'm looking at a few schools and I'm keeping my options open."
What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"The guys I'm playing with. It's just a great atmosphere. We just want to be the best and we have great facilities and coaches."
By Randy Whalen
Ryan Little is a senior and has been the top receiver for the Porter football team this season.
1. The team just had a big 22-0 win over host Homewood-Flossmoor and you are now 4-0. What does that win do for you guys?
"Obviously we took care of business and shut down the doubters who said we were going to lose. When you have a defense like we do, your offense only has to do so much."
2. Speaking of offense, you and Hayden (Timosciek) have quite the connection since you are the leading receiver on the team with at least a touchdown reception in every game and six total through the first four games. What's the key to that?
"Oh I love being the go-to guy for Hayden and we have a special connection and I'm glad he's my quarterback. We've known each other for a long time but we've started that in high school. We really started the connection sophomore season when we went undefeated (9-0)."
3. What's the key to playing the position of wide receiver?
"The key is getting past the defense and giving Hayden that area to throw to me. Then there's the hand-eye coordination and just getting into the zone to get open. Also our defense is so tough. Going against them in practice makes us play so much better. Plus me going up against Danny Martisek in practice definitely makes me better. He's tough."
4. Do you play any other sports?
"I didn't but last season I did track. I mostly did the 100-meter dash. It's like running a football field and it helped me a lot to get ready for this season. I got faster and I plan to do it again next spring to help me get ready for college football."
5. Out of the rest of the regular season, what opponent do you look forward to playing the most?
"Lincoln-Way East. It's been too long to count since we've beat them. (2004). So to play them and beat them would be amazing."
6. I've talked to numerous players this season and you all seem to have a sense of history for the program. How important is that history to you?
"It's definitely important. We are going to try to be the first team to beat Lincoln-Way East for a long time. We also want the shutouts. When all is done, we want to be one of the best teams that Lockport has ever had. That's our goal."
7. Coach George Czart has been part of that history since he was defensive coordinator on the 2002 and 2003 state champion teams. So what have you learned from him?
"Discipline. He's turned the program around. Plus, he has a relationship with all the players and that's great."
8. If you could be a superhero, what superhero would you be and why?
"The Hulk. Because he's big and strong. But if I looked like that I'd have to be a defensive tackle."
9. Have you committed to playing football in college yet?
"No. I'm not worried about it. I know that after the success this season I will have offers come my way. So I'm just going to wait until the end of the year and enjoy this."
10. What is the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
Definitely the atmosphere. The coaches, the fans, the students. They all support you and have your back. The coaches are all just there for you and that's great."
By Randy Whalen
Cody and Cole Silzer are identical twins and top defensive linemen for the Lockport Township football team.
1. The team is off to a great start at 3-0 and you have outscored your opponents 132-7. What has been the key to the terrific opening?
Cody: "It's just the game management. We just go after it every week with the game plan that coach Czart puts in and we don't get too ahead of ourselves."
Cole: "It's been that we've played together for so many years. We've been together since the (Homer) Stallions pee-wee days, so the chemistry is there."
2. How did you guys get involved playing football?
Cody: "My dad (Jim, a 1990 Lockport grad) put us in football. We were playing it for quite a while and after freshmen year we put in a lot more time. As freshmen, we played offensive line and Cole played tight end. Then we switched positions to the defensive line. We found our positions and loved them."
Cole: "We started early but we didn't really play. We rode the bench in youth football. We were what they call '5th quarter kids.' That's where you go out at the end and play a game with a running 10-minute clock. We went out freshmen year but it all changed sophomore year. We wanted to go to the D-line and coach (assistant coach) Ron Kulwinski helped us make the transition."
3. What do you love most about playing defense?
Cody: "Just getting the first hit. Going to the ball. We all get hyped up a lot and have a lot of chemistry on the defense."
Cole: "Just making the big plays. Getting sacks and fumbles. Just getting after it."
4. Do you guys play any other sports?
Cody: "We both wrestled and worked our butts off. It was all about technique. We wrested our freshmen and sophomore years. Sophomore year, Cody and I wrestled on varsity and I was an alternate for state. With the season change, we didn't wrestle junior year. I might go back to wrestling. I don't know yet."
Cole: "We also used to play baseball through sophomore year. Cody is a lefty and I'm a righty. We used to both pitch and Cody played first and I played third base. This past spring we were on the track and field team and threw shot and discus. I made it to state in shot put."
5. You guys are really identical twins, looking exactly alike. How often do you get mistaken for each other?
Cody: "It happens every day. My dad even gets it wrong. We even look more similar now as we get older."
Cole: "Yes, when someone says 'Cody, ' I look. All the coaches just call us 'Silzer.' They don't even try. But we work well together, both on and off the field."
6. This week is a huge game against Homewood-Flossmoor. What opponent do you look forward to playing the most?
Cody: "Yes, H-F is a big opponent. We haven't beat them on the varsity for a long time (27-6 in 2009) so they're a big opponent."
Cole: "I think H-F is a good game and a really good proving point. If we get a big win it will show how good the Porters are. It will be the same when we play Lincoln-Way East (on Oct. 15). If we beat them it'll be really big."
7. What have you learned from Lockport football coach, George Czart?
Cody: "I just love his game plan. We go in every week with that hoping for big things. He's really turned the program around."
Cole: "It took a lot to turn the program around from 0-9 from three years ago. He has a lot of dedication and I hope he gets Coach of the Year."
8. If you could be any animal, which animal would you be and why?
Cody: "I want to be a dog because those trenches are hard. So you have to be a dog and wreak havoc."
Cole: "A lion. Because they are always hunting for prey and are also a leader."
9. Both of you have committed to continue playing at Eastern Illinois University. Was that planed that you would attend college together?
Cody: "It was just that every college coach talked to us about going together. We would have gone alone if need be, but we were recruited together."
Cole: "At first we didn't know that we were going together. We planed for anything but the pieces fell together and Eastern wanted us both."
10. What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
Cody: "I feel like we have one of the best coaching staffs in the state. We also have great support from the community. To have a large crowd, like we did last Friday night (in the 43-7 win over Bradley-Bourbonnais) was awesome."
Cole: "Our community is all-in on us, especially with the football program. It was crazy with all the fans last week. That was the most fans I'd ever seen at one of our games. It was awesome."
By Randy Whalen
Andrew LoPresti is a senior at Lockport Township. He was the leading rusher for the Porters in the spring and is off to another great campaign this fall as he had 20 carries for 186 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 48-0 win at Metea Valley last Friday.
The football team is off to an amazing start, outscoring your opponents 89-0 in the first two games. What has been the key to the great start?
"Yes, our start has been awesome. Our defense works very hard and has amazing players. On offense, we have focused on little things, figured it out and we are doing really well together."
You were the team-leading rusher in the spring and also in the big win at Metea Vally last Friday. But now Ty Schultz, who was the leading rusher on the team as a sophomore in 2019, returns this Friday against Bradley- Bourbonnais. What's it going to be like to have both of you out there?
"It's going to be awesome. But along with Ty, we have (junior running back) Giovani Zaragoza (15 carries for 119 yards and 2 TD'S against Metea). The great thing is we all have different styles. So it will keep us fresh and keep the defense on their toes."
How did you get involved in playing football?
"When I was young, I needed to find a sport to play. I found football and started playing it. I got much better at it as time went on. I started playing when I was seven and the funny thing was that I used to have to block (current Lockport quarterback) Hayden Timosciek when I was a fullback type and he played defensive end when we both played youth football for the Stallions."
You also run track and field, correct?
"Yes. I started doing that in eighth grade at Homer Jr. High. I was playing football and I did I to stay in shape. I was fairly fast and went to state in the 4X100 relay. It was pretty cool to go to state in my first year in the sport. I went to state this past spring at Lockport in the 2X200 relay. I also run the 100 and 200-meter races individually."
So which do you like better, football or track and field?
"Football is more fun. It's a lot more interactive. But running track is good to compare yourself and how you are doing in that event, that day."
What opponent are you looking forward to playing the most this season?
"It's between H-F (Homewood-Flossmoor) and Lincoln-Way East. But I'd say H-F (on Friday, Sept. 17 in Flossmoor). We played them last year in our first game and didn't play up to our potential. So we want to see how we do against them this year."
What have you learned from Lockport football coach George Czart?
"He's really done a good job of bringing a winning culture and team concept here. But he also makes it fun and competitive, where we can show up and enjoy it. He's just something special."
If you could be any animal, which one would you be and why?
"A dog. I know, it's basic. But they are always playful and having fun. Plus there are a lot of varieties of dogs."
Do you plan to play football in college?
"I haven't decided anything yet. But I'm keeping the door open. I've got my academics, which I'm good in. I don't know what I will major in yet. That depends on a few things, so I'll keep my options open."
What is the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"We are really starting to get a good student section going. We just have a winning culture at Lockport. Everyone respects the athletes at Lockport and encourages each other."
By Randy Whalen
Drew Blackburn-Forst is a senior at Lockport Township. He won the Class 3A state championship in wrestling at 220-pounds this past season and also was the national runner-up in Greco-Roman wrest at 220-pounds at the USA Wrestling Junior and 16U National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota at the end of July. He is currently a top defensive player, at defensive lineman, for the Porter varsity football team, which he's been on for 3-seasons.
The Porter defense was dominant in the 41-0 opening season win. You guys allowed minus 2-yards through the first three quarters and pitched a shutout. What can you say about the defensive performance?
"To win 41-0, that's pretty crazy. We were working as a whole unit and doing all the things we practiced, on the field. I believe we have a Top 3 defense in the state."
How long have you been playing football?
"I've been playing for nine years. I first started playing football when I was eight for the Homer Stallions. I started wrestling at age three and was first on a wrestling team at age five."
Got to ask the question, which sport do you like better, football or wrestling?
"I prefer football. A lot of people say I'm a better wrestler. But I prefer the team aspect of football."
To elaborate on that, let me ask you this. You have been a state champion in wrestling and a national runner-up too. But what would you rather have, an individual state championship, or a team one in football?
"Everything I've done in wrestling is amazing. But to win a state championship with my team would be remembered forever at Lockport. We would go down in history and we would be remembered as that team and those 22 guys together. That would be the ultimate."
Have you always played defense in football?
"Growing up, I played both offensive and defensive lines. As a freshman, I was a tight end and a fullback on the team but that was the last time I played offense. Also in my eighth-grade year, I moved to linebacker but that didn't work out. I don't like it. I don't like to sit back and read the plays, I'd rather just go fight in the trenches."
What opponent are you looking forward to playing the most this season?
"We want to take every week, every game seriously. We don't want to overlook anything, anyone, because anything can happen. Sure, we want to look ahead but know we can't."
What have you learned from Lockport football coach, George Czart?
He's taught the whole team a lot of lessons. We have to stay as a unit and do our jobs. He's taught us how to to make our defense work and be more fluent."
If you could be one animal, which animal would it be and why?
"A shark. The reason is that a shark can move fast and can smell blood in the water. I feel the same way in competition. I can sense a weakness and I get after it. So it's like I smell blood in the water."
One more question along these lines. Which sport are you going to play in college, football or wrestling?
"I don't know yet. A lot of schools want me for both. That would be ideal. I still have time so we will see after the football and wrestling seasons."
What is the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
The atmosphere. You are looked at as an example as an athlete. The best part is when you are looked at as a member of a great team here. All the sayings of 'Porter Pride' and 'once a Porter, always a Porter' are true. You are part of the tradition and the tradition of being together."
By Randy Whalen
Hayden Timosciek is a senior at Lockport Township and is the starting quarterback on the football team.
1. Here we are, the season gets underway this week. What are your expectations?
I want an undefeated season and I want to win state. It's just a matter of not taking our foot off the gas. We have the talent to do it.
2.You weren't even born yet when the Porters won the back-to-back Class 8A State titles in the fall of 2002 and 2003. What would it be like to quarterback the team that does it again?
It would really mean a lot. Bringing back a state championship would mean so much to the school. We want to bring back that sort of winning culture and we have been.
3. How long have you been playing football?
I've been playing ever since the first grade. I played for the (Homer) Stallions and growing up I always played offensive and defensive lines. I never played quarterback until my freshman year of high school. It was just me wanting to try something new. I used to play baseball. I was a pitcher, first baseman, or catcher, and I knew I could throw.
4. Since you're 6-foot-7, how often do people ask if you play basketball?
Yes, anytime I go anywhere, people ask if I play basketball. I played it my freshman year here but not after that. I quit playing baseball after my sophomore year. I also played volleyball at Homer Jr. High in the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades. But now it's just being a quarterback in football.
5. What is it about football that makes it the sport for you?
It's really just the pressure I feel. I'm a very competitive person. That's why I like the quarterback position. I feel like I'm in control."
6. What opponent are you looking forward to playing the most this season?
Lincoln-Way East. But that's an obvious one. But besides East, Homewood-Flossmoor. We lost to them in the opener in the spring but if we would have hit them later in the spring, we would have been more ready.
7. What have you learned from Lockport football coach, George Czart?
Just dedication, dedication, dedication. He preaches to do it right or don't do it at all. Also, he's really personable.
8. If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?
Superman, because he's perfect. You have all these superheroes, with all their kinks and flaws, and then he's just perfect.
9. Have you committed to playing football at a college yet?
No. Right now I'm open. I'm hoping for the right place and also hoping for a D1 school. I'm striving to do well this season and see from there. But I am going to graduate early from Lockport.
10. What is the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
The brotherhood. Not only the brotherhood on the field but also in the hallways, in the classroom, and in the community.
By Randy Whalen
Marcos Voulgaris attnded them all.
The former Lockport Township quarterback went to just about every youth camp offered at Lockport as a kid.
"I came here all the time," Voulgaris said of the youth camps. "Football, baseball, volleyball, every one of them, I was there."
So when Lockport held its annual football youth summer camp between Monday, July 19 and Thursday, July 22, Voulgaris was there to help out his old team.
"I did them all as a kid and it was great to come back now," said Voulgaris, who graduated in the spring of 2020. "So it was great to come back here now."
When he was at Lockport, Voulgaris played varsity football and baseball, but really excelled at football as the starting quarterback of the team his junior and senior seasons. So he was more than glad to help out at the camp.
"I looked up to them when I was here," he said of the Porter football players that helped put on the camp when he was a youth. "So it was great to come back here and show that Porter pride.
"My family has a long history here (his dad, Spiro, was the football team quarterback and led the Porters to their first-ever playoff win in 1985, and his late father-in-law Dick Dystrup, was a teacher and coach at Lockport and also mayor of the city). So I'm all in on the community here and whatever will help the town and the school."
After attending Butler University this past school season and playing tight end on the abbreviated football season in the spring, Voulgaris has transferred to Augustana University starting this fall.
There he said he is "excited for things to come." But he was also excited about helping out at the youth camp.
"They get to see everything," Voulgaris said of the youth campers. "It's a great learning experience for them and they get to meet new people, do what it takes to be on a team, and learn a lot of new skills."
The camp is specifically designed for all youth players to practice and develop skills at offensive and defensive positions with drills led by Lockport coaches and varsity football players.
It was a non-padded, no-contact camp that ran for two hours between 5:30 and 7:30 PM on those four days. The $60 cost included a Porter football camp T-shirt.
"We didn't get to do the camp last year because of COVID," Lockport football coach George Czart said. "But we had some good numbers (on Day 1, Monday, July 19). We had 60 some people registered but also a lot of walkups."
The kids, all in grade school, enjoyed the experience. They got to move to different stations with different drills throughout the camp.
"We had one second-grader here," Czart said. "We divide the groups by age, all the way up to eighth grade. We rotate and we introduce every skill to every kid. We teach them all the aspects of the game. As they get older they grow into their position."
A main thing is that the camp not only teaches skills to the younger kids, it introduces them to Porter football with players and coaches there. The team went 4-2 this past spring and is expecting to do well this fall.
"We want to promote the game of football the right way," Czart said. "It's about teamwork, hard work, and discipline. We want the kids to learn what Lockport football is all about and reap the benefits of the game."
By Randy Whalen
There was normality to the Lockport Township football offseason.
As the Porters prepare for this coming fall season, they had the usual summer practice sessions during July. But still, due to this past football season being moved to spring due to COVID-19, it was the shortest offseason in school history.
"Last year wasn't the same as this," Lockport senior running back Andrew LoPresti said of the Porters practices last summer, which were held with masks outdoors and limited contact. "It's really good to get the team together. We all mesh, get the guys into the varsity system, and get refreshed."
LoPresti burst on the scene for the Porters this past spring. Ty Schultz, who suffered an ACL injury in his left knee before the season and was out for this past campaign, was the team-leading rusher as a sophomore. But with him out, LoPresti shouldered the load.
Schultz, who is also a senior, will hopefully be healthy this fall and that should lead to a two-tier rushing attack.
"Ty should be back at 100 percent and that's exciting," LoPresti said. "It's going to be interesting. But we will have four new offensive linemen and a new starting quarterback. Still, we should be good."
Hayden Timosciek, who played a lot as a junior this past season, is expected to be the starter. But everything will be decided when practice opens on Monday, August 9.
But coming off a 4-2 season in the spring, their first winning record since 2016, the Porters should be strong. There are many returners on defense, including senior twin defensive lineman Cody and Cole Silzer.
Not only are the two teammates in high school but they will be in college too. They have both committed to continuing their football careers at Eastern Illinois University.
"That was not planned but they wanted both of us," Cole Silzer said of both he and his twin brother going to Eastern, "We've done a lot of lifting this summer and when practicing now it's fast-paced."
Cole Silzer, who will play defensive end, was glad to get back on the field and get ready for this season.
"We've been out on the field for a couple of weeks now," Cole Silzer said on Wednesday, July 21. "We will be just doing lifting and running (in the final practice) week. I know my position well and will get stronger. We've got a lot of new guys on the team too and they're learning."
The bottom line is Cole Silzer knows the Porters can be really good this fall.
"I expect everyone to play hard and for us to get a lot of wins," he said. "We're going for a 9-0 record. We beat (Lincoln-Way) East our sophomore year (on the sophomore level) and we want to do it again."
Lockport was hanging with Lincoln-Way East, which is 32-1 in the past three seasons, this past spring. The Porters led 10-7 late in the first half, before losing 34-10. The Griffins are obviously the gold standard in not only the SouthWest Suburban Conference but the state.
So competing with them begins in the summer workouts. Lockport coach George Czart knows that but was also thankful that the team could resume the usual routine this summer.
"Last year we all had to divide into groups," Crazt said of the distancing protocol that was in place a year ago. "Now the only thing (that was the same as last summer) is that we have to wear masks inside."
With the Porters doing a lot of weight training in regard to their preparation, Czart likes to see the results of that and knows there is more to come by the time the season starts.
"We've got to work on our skills and showcase the gains we've made in the weight room," he said. "Now (during the practices) we work on our football-specific skills and implement them. We want to regain that timing.
"This (week of July 19-23) was a busy week (due to youth camp) but well worth it. We're settling in. I'm optimistic, anxious, and excited."
Because of the coronavirus pandemic moving last season to this spring, there were 511 days between the end of the 2019 campaign in the start of this past one. This time there are only 126 days between seasons as the Porters will open play this fall on Friday, Aug. 27 with a 6:30 PM game at Joliet West.
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