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Lockport At Lincoln-Way West Football Preview

 By Randy Whalen

 This is a big one.

 After starting the season 3-0, the Lockport Township football team felt confident about making the playoffs.

 But after losing their last two games, the Porters know this next one takes on a whole new meaning.

 A 34-3 home loss to Sandburg that ruined Homecoming for the large contingent, the Porters look to rebound this weekend in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover against Lincoln-Way West in New Lenox.  

 "We've got to bounce back," Lockport coach George Czart said. "We're going to make sure we have a good week of practice and keep negative thoughts outside of our locker room. We need to keep positive thoughts."

 Yes, the Porters do. They have to generate more offense too, as they were held to 42 total yards against Sandburg. The back-to-back losses are something they haven't experienced since losing two in a row to Bolingbrook and Lincoln-Way East in Weeks No. 6 and No. 7 of the 2019 season. So they don't want to add to that. 

 "We know we might have to do something different to get results," Crazt said. "We are not used to doing things wrong. Not that we are, but it's my job as coach to figure it out. 

 "It's weighing hard on my mind what we have to do. I take the pats on the back when things are going well, so I have to take the arrows too when they're not."

 The good news for Lockport is the game is on the road. Since losing the opening game at Homewood-Flossmoor of the shortened season in the spring of 2021, the Porters are 11-0 on the road. That includes a 23-22 win at Bradley-Bourbonnais in Week No. 3 this year. That was the only road game of the season so far this season.

 Czart dubbed his team "The Road Warriors" last season as they went 8-0 on the road, including winning the final three there en route to the Class 8A State Championship. They were 5-1 at home last year and are 9-4 in Lockport the past three years. 

 "We haven't done well at home, we're like the White Sox," Czart said. "We've had injuries but we just focus on the guys we've got playing. But yes, we hope to get some guys back this week.'

 They would still be game-time decisions, but Czart hoped that junior middle linebacker Jameson Clark along with junior wide receivers Tanner Benaitis and Kevin Holland would return this week. 

 The next two games after this are SWSC Blue ones against powerhouses Bolingbrook and Lincoln-Way East. So a fourth win would be huge for the Porters.

 "This is a huge game for us and the one that we are playing this week," Czart said. "I'm not thinking East or the 'Brook, I'm just concentrating on Lincoln-Way West. They (the Warriors) are getting better every week. We can't look past this game, that would be stupid."

 The Warriors also come in at 3-2. After winning the SWSC Red Division last year, they also had high expectations for this season. But they gave up a lot of points in losses to Bolingbrook (46-6) and Bradley-Bourbonnais (39-32) in the third and fourth weeks of the season before bouncing back with a 36-0 victory over Stagg last Friday night in Palos Hills. 

 In the win over the Chargers, sophomore Austin Rowsell had four receptions for 72-yards, including a touchdown. That came from junior quarterback, Cole Crafton. Jacob Steffek had a 60-yard punt return for a TD in the second quarter. That and a safety helped Lincoln-Way West to a 22-0 halftime lead. 

 Junior Joey Campagna added third-quarter touchdown runs of 13 and 52-yards and the Warriors coasted to the victory. Since becoming a program in the fall of 2009, Lincoln-Way West has made the playoffs every year they've been held except the first one. The Warriors were Class 5A State Runner-up in 2015.  

 After being head coach at Lincoln-Way North for the eight years it was open (between 2008-16), Czart was the linebackers coach at Lincoln-Way West between 2016-18. Then he got the head coaching job at Lockport in 2019 but he is very familiar with how the Warriors operate. 

 "Lincoln-Way West is never out of it," he said. "I know those coaches and how they prepare their kids. We'd better be ready to play."

 This Friday's game is a sophomore and varsity one. The sophomores start at 5 PM and the varsity game is at approximately 7:30 PM. 

Sandburg At Lockport Football

By Randy Whalen

 One can come up with any cliche to describe the Lockport Township football result last Friday.

 "Toss out the records. Turnabout is fair play. On any given day," are a few that come to mind.

 But the bottom line is, the Porters just got outplayed.

 Sandburg came walzing in winless. But the Eagles left with a big victory after plowing over the Porters by a 34-3 score in a SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division matchup before a large Homecoming crowd on Friday night, Sept. 23, in Lockport. 

 It was the first win of the year for Sandburg (1-4, 1-1) and the second straight loss for the Porters (3-2, 0-2). Before last week's 35-20 setback to Homewood-Flossmoor, Lockport had lost once in its previous 19 games. 

 "I was worried all week," Lockport coach George Czart said of playing the Eagles. "They're a good team, we could see that on film. People were just going to look at their record and think this was going to be a pushover.

 "We didn't match their intensity, aggressiveness, toughness, and will to win. There's the result, up on the scoreboard. We have to live with ourselves."

 Things started poorly for the Porters and never really got better. Sandburg drove down the field on its opening possession and scored on its seventh offensive play, a 9-yard touchdown run by senior Katrell Thompson with 9:24 left in the first quarter. 

 But then the teams settled in and, following a punt, Lockport got the ball just past midfield midway through the first quarter. Aided by a couple of Eagle penalties on fourth downs, the Porters reached the Sandburg nine before stalling. They settled for a 28-yard field goal by junior Nate Blazewski with 1:20 left in the opening quarter to make the score 7-3. 

 But the next three Lockport possessions netted a total of minus nine yards. The Porters had a total of 18 yards in the first half. 

 In the meantime, the Eagles added to the lead when senior Lance Somerfield kicked a 26-yard field goal with 4:58 left in the second quarter. Then, in a backbreaker, sophomore quarterback Anthony Shelton had a 24-yard touchdown pass to senior Drew Selle, who made a great catch in traffic. That came with 5.3 seconds left in the second quarter and gave Sandburg a 17-3 halftime lead. 

 "You saw his maturation out there," Sandburg coach Troy McAllister said of Shelton. "Just seeing (on the TD pass) what was given in the game. They were in cover four and Anthony read it and Drew went up and made a great catch.

 "Lockport is really banged up and not the same team as it was at the start of the year or should be later in the season. But anytime we can get the momentum in our favor, we want to ride it."

 Shelton stepped in when senior Christian Evans was injured in the second week of the season. Shelton certainly has matured in that role as he finished with 195 yards, completing 18-of-22 passes, with a touchdown pass and a touchdown run.

 "It was everyone on the team," Shelton said of his success. "I don't get any credit for this. It was all the team, all the defense. It was all about momentum, all game.  

 "We believed in the team and the team believed in me."

 Things continued to go well for the Eagles as Somerfield smacked a 35-yard field goal that hit the crossbar and went through. That came midway through the third quarter and made it 20-3. 

 Then Thompson broke out of a pair of tackles and scored on an 18-yard touchdown with 3:11 left in the third quarter. Shelton scrambled for a 5-yard touchdown with 8:28 to play in the game to round out the scoring.

 "I think the team as a whole just wasn’t clicking," Lockport junior linebacker Chase Creed said. "Sandburg was like a wounded bear with nothing to lose and soon as their momentum started building up they were hard to stop. They showed up to play and we didn’t."

 For Thompson, who had 25 carries for 122 yards, it felt great for the Eagles to flip the switch. Lockport defeated Sandburg last year in the Eagle's Homecoming game in Week No. 5 by the score of 42-0, after leading 33-0 in the first quarter.

 "Yes, we did remember that," Thompson said. "We wanted to do to them what they did to us. This felt good. We always want to stack the momentum and the defense made big plays. We got it done."

 The Porters did not get it done. They lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions (made by seniors Harrison Meyer and John Thompson) in the second half and finished with 42 total yards in the game. Of Lockport's seven first downs, four of them came via penalty. 

 "We couldn't run the ball and we couldn't pass it," Czart said. "You obviously have to do those things in football."

 Perhaps the only good news for Lockport was the return of starting running back Giovani Zaragoza to the lineup after missing the past game and a half with an injury. But nearly a dozen players, including some starters, didn't dress because of injuries. Senior linebacker Rob Baranowski played well on defense and had a sack.

 "We didn't roll over on defense," Czart said. "They (the Eagles) just continually executed. We've got to get better. Yes, we have injuries and some inexperienced players out there. But they have to realize that the work we do year-round is what will show through on a night like this. 

 "We are not getting it done now."

 With upcoming games against powerhouses Bolingbrook and Lincoln-Way East, the Porters know they have to win this week against  Lincoln-Way West in New Lenox. 

 "As a team, we need to keep our heads up and continue to push," Creed said. "We need to come out like maniacs in the first quarter and stop playing scared and timid. We have to play like our season depends on it because now, it does. As a team, we are really going to start putting it together and keep getting better because as soon as we start to get momentum, I think we are really good at capitalizing on it. I think everyone is going to see a different intensity out of Lockport (this) week."

 

Sandburg At Lockport Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

In the previous two seasons, the Lockport Township football team only experienced a loss three times. 

Each time the Porters followed that up with a victory.

That is what they plan to do again this Friday.

Coming off their first loss of the season, that is the objective for Lockport on Friday as Sandburg comes to town.

Plus, it's Homecoming and another SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division game. 

"Homecoming is nice and it's nice to see former players show up," Lockport coach George Czart said. "We want to make sure the festivities are not a distraction to the kids and that they are focused.

"The conference is decided when the records are done. We are not taking them lightly at all."

The Porters (3-1, 0-1) don't want to take anyone lightly but they know they didn't play well in the first half last week in a 35-20 home loss to Homewood-Flossmoor (3-1, 1-0). Behind 27-0 at halftime and 35-6 in the fourth quarter, Lockport rallied with a pair of touchdowns and was five yards away from potentially closing within a single score in the waning minutes.

But the H-F defense stepped up and the Porters suffered only their second loss in their last 20 games. 

"We were having our problems on both sides of the ball," Czart said of the H-F game. "We settled in and played better but we, as coaches, have got to get the kids to come out better. We've got to be ready."

Last year Lockport went to Orland Park in the fifth week of the season and ruined the Eagle's Homecoming with a 42-0 victory. That was the Porter's fourth shutout in their first five games last season. It was also over very early as Lockport led 33-0 after the first quarter. 

"That was an extraordinary game," Czart said of last season's win over the Eagles. "That's the type of start we hope to accomplish again. We've got to have a good week of practice."

After Sandburg lost to Lockport last season, the Eagles vowed to turn their season around. That's what they did as they won their final four games, including a 30-27 victory at Lincoln-Way East in Week No. 6, to make the playoffs. They finished 5-5 and lost 41-15 to Hinsdale Central in an opening-round Class 8A playoff game but they got there. 

So Sandburg had high expectations coming into this season. With coach Troy McAllister, who turned Chicago Public League team, Phillips, into a 2-time state champion, back for his second season, things looked to stay on the upswing.

But an injury to senior quarterback Christian Evans in the second game of the season (a 15-14 home loss to Glenbrook South) was a big blow to the Eagles. They are winless at 0-4 and lost their SWSC Blue opener 41-14 at Bolingbrook last week. 

Sophomore Anthony Shelton has stepped in at quarterback and put up some numbers. Another sophomore, Charlie Snoreck, has stepped up at wide receiver and had six touchdowns in the first three games. Senior Katrell Thompson is also a threat on offense with sophomore Matt Marek one of the standout offensive linemen. 

Nathan Biskup at linebacker and Harrison Meyer at free safety, lead the Eagle defense, which has given up 154 points in the first four games.

"Their sophomore quarterback still throws the ball well enough and makes plays," Czart said of Shelton, who ran 32-yards midway through the first quarter for a touchdown and an early 7-0 lead over Bolingbrook last week. "We are going to have to play well. 

"They might be 0-4 but we know they are going to come out ready to play well. We have to do our assignments."

Lockport is still banged up. Senior defensive back Joey Manzo is still out. Junior linebacker Jameson Clark is hurt and others are injured as well. But there is good news. It was hoped that senior running Giovani Zaragoza would be back in the lineup and his backup, junior Aidan Preciado, is also expected to be OK.

"We're hurt and we've got to get guys better," Czart said. "But the next wave of guys have to be ready to come in."

With it being Homecoming, there should be a huge crowd for Friday's game. It is a varsity-only one, with kickoff scheduled for 6:30 PM.  

 

Homewood-Flossmoor At Lockport Football

By Randy Whalen

It had been a while since the Lockport Township football team found itself in this situation.

The Porters fell behind big early and simply couldn't catch up in a 35-20 loss to Homewood-Flossmoor on Friday night in Lockport. 

It was only the second loss for Lockport (3-1, 0-1), which trailed 27-0 at halftime and 35-6 in the fourth quarter, in the last 20 games. H-F (3-1, 1-0) turned the tables after a 22-0 loss to the Porters last season and put itself in a position to compete in the Blue Division of the SouthWest Suburban Conference.

After all, there are only five teams in the SWSC Blue, so that means only four league games. So each one takes on big meaning.

There was also a trio of Class 8A state-ranked teams in the SWSC Blue entering the fourth week of the season. Bolingbrook, Lincoln-Way East, and Lockport. So each one of these teams knows that every league game is huge. With the loss, the Porters are now behind the 8-ball.

"The conference isn't on my mind," Lockport coach George Czart said afterward. "How we play, execute and the growth and composure of our team are on my mind.

"H-F was the real deal. They have some good athletes and we had a hard time tackling them."

The last time the Porters experienced a double-digit loss was a 34-10 setback to Lincoln-Way East on April 9, 2021, during the COVID season. They also lost 41-14 to H-F in the opening game of that season. They won their final two games of the spring 2021 season to finish 4-2, went 13-1 last year in winning the Class 8A state Championship, with only a 12-10 loss to Lincoln-Way East, and opened this season 3-0. 

"It just came down to execution," Lockport senior quarterback Brady Pfeiffer said. "The first half was no surprise. We knew what they were going to do and we didn't execute our plays."

Pfeiffer threw for 249 yards and a trio of touchdowns. He was 23-of-39 total with an interception total but in the second half he was 15-of-21 for 198 yards and all three of his TD passes. 

But it was his counterpart, senior quarterback Cameron Oglesby, who accounted for all of the Viking's scoring in the first half. He had a 7-yard touchdown run to cap the game-opening 9-play drive. The Porters came right back and took only two plays to get into H-F territory. But then a fumble happened on a short pass completion and senior Kyle Murray recovered for the Vikings at his own 40.

Six plays later, Oglesby found John Gore on a short pass, and the senior broke two tackles to complete a 37-yard TD catch for a 13-0 lead midway through the first quarter. 

Oglesby (16-of-20, 192 yards passing, 2 TDS, 8 carries for 24 yards rushing, 2 TDS) capped a 14-play, 83-yard drive in the second quarter with another TD pass to Gore (5 receptions for 62 yards), this one from 8-yards. Lockport blocked a second extra point kick attempt, leaving the score at 19-0 with 3:54 left in the first half.

The Vikings quickly got the ball back and added another score as Oglesby bounded into the end zone on a 9-yard TD run with 1:25 to play in the first half. They converted the 2-point conversion and it was 27-0, which held up for the halftime score. 

"I don't think we expected H-F to be as good and quick as they were," Lockport senior wide receiver Mike Doneske said. "Ater we beat them last year, we slept on them." 

Pfeiffer had an 8-yard touchdown pass to fellow Hyatt Timosciek with 1:46 left in the third quarter to finally put the Porters on the board. That capped an 18-play drive, which started at the  H-F 18-yard line. But it also took 7 minutes and 28 seconds off the clock and made the score 27-6 with 1:46 left in the third quarter. 

Then H-F answered right back as senior running back Kamrin Cox (14 carries for 109 yards, TD) had a 25-yard touchdown run and the 2-point conversion was good for a 35-6 lead with 9:49 to play in the game.

Pieffer tossed a pair of TD passes to Doneske, from 13 and 2-yards out. The first one came with 8:25 to play but the drive came with a cost. That's because junior running back Aidan Preciado (22 carries for 113 yards) was injured on the drive after a 17-yard run. He was starting for senior running back Giovani Zaragoza, who went out in the first half of the 23-22 win last week at Bradley-Bourbonnais and missed his second full game. 

His status was not known after the game. Many Porters are still banged up and were out, including senior defensive back Joey Manzo.

The Porter's last touchdown was set up when senior Danny Stevens, who had a pick-6 in the win at Bradley-Bourbonnais, had another intersection. That score came with 5:40 to play. After a big tackle by senior defensive lineman, Niko Frcek on the Viking's next possession, Lockport has an opportunity to score again. But after having first-and-goal at the 5, the Porters couldn't convert and turned the ball over on downs with 1:13 to play.

"It felt good to get those TD passes," Doneske said. "I was hoping we'd score there at the end too, but it was a tale of two halves. We have to take every team seriously, practice hard, and be ready every week as all the games are big the rest of the season."

Pfieffer agreed.

"Our receivers did a great job getting open in the second half and we just need to keep playing like that," Pfeiffer said. "We need to change our intensity and come out to start the game like we did in the second half."

Last season, Lockport and Lincoln-Way East tied for the SWSC Blue title with 3-1 records.  It was the first time since the SWSC formed in 2005 that the Porters won at least a share of the league title. The Porters will have to win the rest of their conference games to do that again this season.

"We're not where we want to be," Czart said. "We have to decide if we are the team that came out in the first half of the second half. Then our record will take care of itself." 

 

Homewood-Flossmoor At Lockport Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

3-0.

That's what the Lockport Township football team is following last week's exciting 23-22 win at Bradley-Bourbonnais.

While many expected the defending Class 8A State Champion Porters to start like this, it's only the eighth time in the past 30 years that they have opened with that record.

The previous seven times (1997, 1998, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2016, 2021) in that span that Lockport had three wins to start the season, it made the playoffs. So that's the good news about the good start.

"3-0, yes it does feel good," Lockport coach George Czart said. "We're 3-0 and now we're working on the next one. We went over the (Bradley-Bourbonnais) film with the kids. We've learned from it and put it behind us."

Unfortunately for the Porters, the injury bug continued. After missing the previous game, starting running back Giovani Zaragoza went out in the first quarter and fellow senior, linebacker Sean Marshall also went out with an injury. Plus, senior defensive back Joey Manzo sat out for the second straight week and junior wide receiver Kevin Holland was banged up and didn't play.

"That's what it is," Czart said of the injuries. "There's no chance to cry, it's part of the game, we've got to deal with the injuries. 

"I know the guys want to play, but we want them at 100 percent."

Once again, other players stepped up where needed in last week's win. That included senior Danny Stevens coming in at safety in the second half and making an interception return for a touchdown to give Lockport a 16-14 lead.

"Our defensive coaches, including secondary coaches Erik Carlson and Mike Taylor, do a great job and we've got some depth," Czart said. "We had some guys struggling in situations and we thought it would be good to get someone like Danny in the game. 

"(Junior) Jameson Clark (along with senior Troy Mutz) did a good job getting in position to tip the ball on the interception."

Aidan Preciado, a junior, also came in once again at running back and had 114 total yards (31 rushing, 83 receiving). Plus, he did the little things too.

"Aidan had a special block on the (winning) touchdown pass to Hyatt (Timosciek)," Czart said. "And (senior quarterback) Brady Pfeiffer made some nice plays and did a great job avoiding some sacks."

Czart also credited his kicker, junior Nate Blazewski, who is also on the Porter soccer team, for putting through the deciding extra point against Bradley-Bourbonnais.

"We know he's a good kicker," Czart said. "He's also dedicated to us and comes over to football practice to work after soccer."

It could come down to another Blazewski kick against Homewood-Flossmoor again this week in the SouthWest Suburban Blue opener for both teams.

Last year Lockport defeated H-F 22-0 in Flossmoor, for its first win over the Vikings since 2009.  It ended a 12-game (including a second-round playoff loss in 2011) losing steak to H-F. 

Now the Porters want to make it a 2-game win streak.

"H-F is a good team and we know going into the game that we can't make mistakes," Czart said. "They are big, fast, strong tough on defense, and good at skill positions. On offense, some of their younger kids might have some inexperience but they can play."

The Vikings will look to quarterback Cameron Oglesby to have another big game. The senior completed 11 of 14 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns in a 53-12 second-week win at home over Cahokia. H-F opened the season with a 40-21 road loss to Naperville North. Last week the Vikings won 32-20 over Lincoln-Way Central in New Lenox.

There are different captains every week for the Vikings. Last weeks were seniors Tyson Beck at defensive end, Kamrin Cox at running back, Christian Medlock on the offensive line, and Kyle Murray at defensive back/wide receiver.  

H-F lost its last four games a year ago to finish 4-5 and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Vikings are 2-1 so far this year and both teams know this is huge when it comes to getting off to a good start in the SWSC Blue.

"I'm happy we're 3-0 but not happy we're hurt," Czart said. "I wish the kids had a chance to play their senior year but other guys have got a chance to step up. So there are positives and negatives."

The Porters plan for positives this week as the game is back home on Friday, Sept. 16, and is a varsity-only one with kickoff scheduled for 6:30 PM.

Lockport At Bradley-Bourbonnais Football

 

By Randy Whalen

As Ringo Star once sang, "it don't come easy."

Especially on a full moon Friday night in Bradley-Bourbonnais.

The Lockport Township football team survived its first big test of the season. It rallied for a heart-pounding 23-22 victory over the host Boilermakers in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover on Friday, Sept. 9 in Bradley.

Hyatt Timosciaek hauled in a 37-yard touchdown pass from Brady Pfeiffer with 5:12 to play in the game and Nate Blazewski kicked with proved to be the decisive extra point. The Porter defense then made it stand up as they improved to 3-0 and won for the 22nd time in their last 25 games.

The Boilermakers (1-2) have outscored their opponents 89-37 this season. But after losing 14-10 to Kenwood at home the previous week, they dropped their second straight close game.

"At no point did we think this was an easy game," said Lockport coach George Czart, whose team beat Bradley Bourbonnais 43-7 in Week No. 3 last season at Lockport. "It's always tough to play here."

Yes, it is and on a beautiful September night, the Boilermakers and their fans ensured that.

Trailing by two points midway through the fourth quarter, and facing a second-and-11 situation at its own 37, Bradley-Bourbonnais went for it all and got it. That was a 63-yard TD strike from quarterback Ethan Kohl to fellow junior Luke Allen, who hauled it in down the left sideline and took it to the end zone.

It looked like Allen might have celebrated a bit early and spiked the ball just before the goal line. But that wasn't ruled and Kohl (23-of-31, 248 yards, 2 TDs, INT.) connected with Allen again for a 2-point conversion, and the Boilermakers led 22-16 with 6:06 to play in the game.

But back came the Porters. They went 79-yards in four plays in less than a minute. On the drive, Pfeiffer was 4-of-4 and accounted for all the yards through the air. The first pass, of 15 yards, went to fellow senior Niko Mastoras (8 receptions, 57 yards). The next three went to senior Timosciek, with the final one going to the right side for a 37-yard touchdown pass. 

That came with 5:12 to play and was made possible because Timosciek (8 catches, 138 yards, TD), a senior, recognized the coverage.

"We were a little surprised," Timosciek said of the Boilermaker's strategy. "But I told Brady that I just had to do a fake block and go. I just had to catch it and score. 

"They came out different than we expected. So we had to do some different plays and we adjusted."

Pfeiffer (27-of-34, 297 yards, TD, Int. 13 carries, 42 yards) played for the first time since going out with a shoulder injury late in the first half of the opening 28-6 win against Joliet West.

"I mean obviously a win is a win, but nobody is satisfied," Pfeiffer said. "We had way too many drives where we came up short. Then Hyatt told us what he saw on the field, we put our trust in him, and he came up big when we needed it. We were able to get the job done tonight but we still have a lot to clean up."

Still, the touchdown just tied the game. The extra point had to be converted. Blazewski, a junior, was entrusted to do that but he had missed the previous point after attempt. This time, Blazewski banged it through the uprights and Lockport led 23-22. 

"No, I wasn't nervous," Blazewski said. "It’s just like every PAT in practice but just a little more noise."

Czart had confidence in his team.

"Brady is an awesome leader and he led the team to victory," Czart said. "And that is also Hyatt doing what he can do."

The Boilermakers, who have a good placekicker in senior Josh Clifton, appeared to get to midfield with a few minutes to play. But holding was called on the play. Then, on a second-and-20 situation from their own 30, they snapped the ball over Kohl's head for a 23-yard loss. 

A 13-yard pass put Bradley-Bourbonnais in a third-and-30 predicament. Kohl was able to fire a long pass to midfield but senior Troy Mutz was there to break it up. Lockport took over with 1:42 remaining and three kneel-downs ran out the clock.

Lockport started the game with a good drive that reached the Bradley-Bourbonnais 16 but stalled there. Blazewski knocked through a 32-yard field goal to put the Porters on the board with a 3-0 lead.  

Their next drive, however, reached the Bradley-Bourbonnais 18. But a third-and-one play was stopped for no gain and then on the first play of the second quarter, a fourth-and-one play lost four yards. 

Unfortunately on the drive, starting senior running back Giavani Zaragoza (6 carries-16 yards) went out with an injury on a 7-yard run. Zaragoza, who sat out the 44-10 win over Metea Valley the previous week, didn't return. 

Senior linebacker Sean Marshall also went out with an injury and didn't return. The status of both, as well as senior defensive back Joey Manzo, who was still out after missing last week, wasn't known immediately after the game.

The Boilermakers grabbed their first lead of the game when Kohl capped an 80-yard drive by finding senior Neal May (6 receptions for 71 yards, TD, 4 carries for 16 yards, TD) for a 22-yard touchdown with 2:34 left in the first half. 

Now, trailing 7-3, Lockport had another good drive stall. After reaching the Bradley-Bourbonnais 17, a sack and a holding call moved the Porters back to the 28. Then Pfeiffer threw an interception as senior Vernon Malone III made a very nice snag in the right corner to thwart the opportunity with 28.7 seconds left in the first half. 

A long kick return by May set the Boilermakers up at the Lockport 40 to open the third quarter. Eight plays later, including converting a fourth-and-three, they were in the end zone on a 5-yard touchdown run by May. That made it 14-3 with 7:55 left in the third quarter.

Facing their first double-digit deficit since trailing 12-0 to Lincoln-Way East in the first half of what would be an eventual 12-10 loss, their only one last season, the Porters came right back with a 74-yard drive. Pfeiffer was 4-of-4 on the march and also added a 27-yard scamper.

Just as he had done last week, junior Aidan Preciado filled in for Zaragoza and scored on a 17-yard touchdown run with 5:44 left in the third quarter to narrow the deficit to 14-10. Preciado had seven carries for 31 yards and eight receptions for 83 yards. 

Then, a huge play happened for the Porters on defense. That was a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior Danny Stevens. The extra point was wide right but Lockport had regained the lead at 16-14 with 4:29 to play in the third quarter. 

"Troy Mutz and (junior) Jameson Clark both tipped it," Stevens said of his teammates making the play develop. "I was just waiting back and it came to me. I could see it coming to me and I knew there was no one in front of me so I knew it would be a touchdown.

"It felt unreal. But I didn't take it all in until I got to the sideline and the team was there to greet me."

Stevens didn't start the game. But after some defensive breakdowns, he was put in at free safety in the second half and Mutz was moved.

"I knew we had to do it on defense," Stevens said. "We had to make some adjustments. Troy was moved to strong safety and I got in at free safety. I was just on kickoff duty in the first half but we have a lot of depth on this team. It felt good to win a game like this in the fourth quarter. We had to make a stop and we did."

Once again, the Porter's depth showed and they were able to make the plays.

"We moved Troy to strong safety and that allowed Danny to come into the game and make a play," Czart said. "I'm so happy for him to have an opportunity like that." 

Mutz made a lot of plays throughout the game. He's one of only a handful of guys back that had a lot of experience from last year's Class 8A State Championship team. 

"Overall we gotta work on our fundamentals and tackling but it was a battle all game and we needed a game like this," Mutz said. "From here on out the competition just gets better so it was nice to have a close game like this. They needed me there (at strong safety) and I’ll play wherever they need me to."

Mutz had a big tackle for a 3-yard loss on a third-down pass early in the fourth quarter as both teams punted twice on their next two possessions before the exciting final six minutes. 

“Our kids are really blessed to play in a conference like this because every week is going to be like this one,” Bradley Bourbonnais coach Mike Kohl said. “It’s going to come down to the last possession and I’m really proud of our guys for competing against the defending Class 8A state champions. We had them down to the end, but couldn't make enough plays.” 

But the Porters did.

"The pick-6 turned it around," Timosciek said. "At halftime, we knew we had to become more physical. We had some good drives that just came up short. (The Boilermakers) were a good air team and our first test of the year. But we knew we could get it." 

Lockport At Bradley-Bourbonnais Preview

By Randy Whalen

 Depth.

 The Lockport Township football team has it this season. That showed last week when the Porters didn't miss a beat with four starters out as they cruised to a 44-10 home win over Metea Valley.

 Quarterback Brady Pfeiffer, running back Giovani Zaragoza, along with fellow seniors Joey Manzo and Troy Mutz at defensive back, all sat out the game. 

 Lockport coach George Czart expects Pfeiffer to be ready for this Friday's SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover game at Bradley-Bourbonnais. But he wasn't sure yet about everyone else.

 "Everyone is on the mend but it's not wise to play kids if they're not 100 percent," Czart said. "Why risk it?

 "We've got guys ready to go. We have 87 kids. Why play someone who is hurt?

 The Porters still obviously hope to be healthy as they take a jaunt south for their first road game of the year. Last season, they beat Bradley-Bourbonnais 43-7 in Week No. 3 at Lockport. Those were the only points allowed by the Porters in the first five games. 

 The last time Lockport traveled to play the Boilermakers was for the final game of the 2018 season. The Porters played their hearts out, but ultimately lost 34-27 and ended up winless on the season. 

 There was a holding call with less than five minutes left in the game that cost Lockport an opportunity to tie.

 But as the saying goes, that was then, this is now.

 "I don't know anything about that," said Czart, who took over as Lockport coach the next season, of the holding call and loss that year. "We just have to focus on ourselves now."

 Helping the Porters do that is their 'Road Warrior' mentality. Czart used that term often last fall as it seemed the Porters were always on the road, especially to start the season. 

 This year, the schedule flipped and the Porters have been at home for the first two games and are home for four of their first five. But the one game in that span that is on the road happens this week. That is a 50-mile trip each way to play at Bradley-Bourbonnais.

 "We are focused on our opponents," Czart said. "We just focus on getting the job done. We've got a procedure to follow and that's what we do. We just do it and get it done."

 Last week, the Boilermakers lost a close game at home, 14-10, to Chicago Public League team Kenwood 1-1), which is ranked No. 10 in the state in Class 6A. The Broncos, who scored a touchdown with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter to beat Bradley-Bourbonnais, lost their opener 21-18 to Glenbard North. 

 Junior Ethan Kohl finished 8-for-16 passing for 68 yards with one rushing touchdown. Senior Neal May led the Boilermaker receivers with four catches for 45 yards against Kenwood. 

 "That was a good, competitive game," Czart said of the Kenwood at Bradley-Bourbonnais game. Kenwood was fast and physical. Both teams had chances. Bradley has some good players with a big quarterback and a good tight end."

 In a scheduling oddity, this is the third straight home game to open the season for Bradley-Bourbonnais, which won its opening game 57-0 over Longwood. The Boilermakers, who are the furthest team out in the SWSC, have six home games this season.

 Something that will be different from the Porter home games is that the sophomores will play before the varsity. So the varsity game isn't even scheduled until 7:30 PM. 

 Lockport is looking for another stellar defensive effort. senior Rob Baranowski, along with juniors Jameson Clark and Chase Creed, and senior Sean Marshal have stepped up at linebacker. A half dozen guys have stepped in on the defensive line. They are seniors Max Bauer, Niko Frcek, Van Jongen, and Kane Stakenas, as well as juniors Mateas Foltys and Dallas Gorski. 

 "Against Metea Valley, we saw the emergence of some future players for us," Czart said of a pair of juniors. "Jalen Falcon had two nice interceptions and a nice run (18 yards) too. And Aiden Preciado (14 carries for 74 yards, 2 TDS) and Drew Gallagher (6-of-8 passing for 126 yards, TD and 18 carries for 130 yards, 2 TDS) got a lot of playing time."

 They will all be ready to step in again this week.

Metea Valley At Lockport Football

By Randy Whalen

 "We over me."

 It's not just a slogan it's a way of life for the Lockport Township football team.

 That was on display on Friday night. 

 With four key starters out with various injuries, the Porters also implied their "next man up" motto. The result? An impressive 44-10 victory over Metea Valley on Senior Night at Lockport.

 Dating back to the last two games of 2019, it was the 21st victory for the defending Class 8A State Champion Porters (2-0) in their last 24 games. Between the start of the 2017 season and the seventh week of 2019, Lockport lost 21 of 25 games.

 Metea Valley (0-2) gave up over 40 points for the second straight game.

 "That's what we said before the game," Lockport coach George Czart said of the team's philosophy. "The guys got it done. They know the next guy could see the field."

 That's exactly what happened as a pair of juniors filled in at key offensive positions and accounted for five touchdowns. That was Drew Gallagher, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for one, and running back, Aiden Preciado, who started at running back in place of senior Giovani Zaragoza (who had 32 carries for 178 yards and 2 TDS in the opener), and scored twice.

 But things didn't exactly start well for Preciado, who finished with 14 carries for 74 yards.

 On his first carry of the game, which was Lockport's first play from scrimmage, he fumbled and senior Evan Hall recovered for Metea Valley at the Porter 13. 

 But the Porters defense only allowed a 24-yard field goal by junior Nico Carrier. After sitting out the next Lockport offensive series, Preciado redeemed himself by scoring the pair of touchdowns.

 "My first carry wasn't good and I have to hold onto the ball," Preciado said. "But the coaches had faith in me and I just had to come back, hit harder, and be ready the next time."

 After junior Nate Blazewski, capped a 12-play drive, by banging home a 23-yard field goal to tie the game, Preciado capped the next two Porter possessions with a pair of touchdown plunges from a yard out. Those scores held up as the halftime margin of 17-3. Although it could have been more but Lockport couldn't convert after senior Rob Baranowski, who played a nice all-around game, blocked a punt late in the first half.

 "We have a great team, a gritty team," Preciado said. "We all had to step up and play hard. I wouldn't have been able to do it without Drew (Gallagher) handing me the ball and the offensive line blocking. I just have to thank them."

 Czart had faith in Preciado. 

 "We have confidence in him," Czart said. "It didn't start well for him but nobody is perfect. Hopefully, he will stay away from that situation and get better every week."

 Gallagher was 6-of-8 for 126 yards passing with a touchdown and added 18 carries for 130 yards and two TDS on the ground. He was filling in for senior Brady Pfeiffer, who left last week's 28-6 win over Joliet West late in the first half with a shoulder injury after going 9-for-15 for 134 yards and a touchdown.

 "As coach (George Czart) says, it's 'we over me,'" Gallagher said of stepping in at quarterback. "I'm glad the team had confidence in me. I know (Preciado) was nervous early on but he made some great runs. Plus, his blocks were amazing.

 "I think we can be just as good as last year."

 Gallagher scrambled in from 6-yards out early in the third quarter for his first TD. The drive was set up when senior Van Jongen recovered a fumble. Just over a minute later, Gallagher scored again, this time from 3-yards out for a 31-3 lead with 8:41 left in the third quarter. That was set up when the Mustangs fumbled on a punt attempt.

 "I'm happy to see Drew get playing time," Czart said of Gallagher, who had a good second half against Joliet West. "I think Brady (Pfeiffer) will be ready to play next week but Drew is just going to get better."

 Gallagher connected with his big tight end, senior Hyatt Timosciek (4 receptions for 94 yards) on a 28-yard touchdown pass with 2:01 left in the third quarter. Timosciek now has three touchdowns on the season. Junior Eli Beltran (12 carries for 29 yards) then joined the party with a 5-yard touchdown run with 11:33 to play in the game to cap the Lockport scoring. 

 The touchdown was set up when senior quarterback Caden Miller hit junior Kevin Holland with a 20-yard pass on a third-and-15 play. Miller then ran 15 yards to the five and Beltran bounced in from there. 

 The final two Porter touchdowns were set up on interceptions by junior Jalen Falcon. With key senior defensive backs Joey Manzo and Troy Mutz out with injuries, Falcon was one of a few different guys to step in at that position.

 "The coaches told me to be ready at any time," said Falcon, who didn't start the game. "I was and it was a great feeling to get those interceptions. When I get those and start running, I feel invincible."

 "Anyone can step up and we are a really good team."

 The Mustangs scored a touchdown with 4:45 to play in the game. That came on a 39-yard pass from Noah Larson to fellow senior Robert Lynch. Larson finished 12-of-29 for 138 yards with two interceptions and a TD. Lynch had five catches for 79 yards.

 Metea Valley coach John Parpet, Jr. lamented not converting that early opportunity into a touchdown.

 "We should have scored a touchdown early but we dropped a TD pass," Parpet said. "We just dropped too many balls. We knew that Lockport was big upfront and we'd have a hard time running on them. So we had to take advantage of those opportunities to score. 

 "We kicked a field goal because you don't want to walk away from points early. But it was hard for us to get in any rhythm. Our defense played hard but just got worn down."

 Seniors Kane Stakenas and Ben Karabel, who got his on the last play of the game, had sacks for Lockport. Junior Chase Creed and senior Niko Frcek also played well for the Porters on defense.

 "We have 87 guys on the roster," Czart said. "We tried to get as many in the game as possible."

 The Porters will look to improve to 3-0 this coming Friday when they take a trek to Bradley-Bourbonnais for a SouthWest Suburban crossover matchup and their first road game of the season.    

 

Metea Valley At Lockport Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

With one game in the books, the Lockport Township football team is off to a good start but looks to get better.

The Porters plan to do that this Friday, Sept. 2 as Metea Valley comes to town for another nonconference matchup.

First, the good news. Starting quarterback Brady Pfeiffer, who was 9-for-15, for 134 yards. with a TD and no interceptions before leaving with a shoulder injury late in the first half of the 28-6 opening week victory over Joliet West, is expected to be fine. But, as a precaution, he will be held out of this Friday's game against the Mustangs. Junior Drew Gallagher (6-of-13, 65 yards. TD, no interceptions against Joliet West) is expected to start.

"When Brady was out during the summer (with an operation to clear loose bodies of cartilage out of his right elbow), Drew Gallagher and Caden Miller took the snaps," Lockport coach George Czart said. "We are confident with any of those guys at quarterback."

Confidence was a huge key for last season's Class 8A Porter state title team. Czart can see that confidence start to grow for this year's team, which has almost all new starters.

"We need playmakers, that's what we've been good at," Czart said. "We didn't know much about (Joliet West) and we still had guys step up and make plays."

Especially seniors Giovani Zaragoza (32 carries for 178 yards. 2 TDS) at tailback, and Hyatt Timosciek (5 receptions for 96 yards, 2 TDS) at tight end on offense.

"Giovani has a nice line (junior twins Christos Alexandros and Nicolas Alexandros, along with seniors Jake McClain, Peyton Norton, and Rocco Rigoni) in front of him," Czart said of Zaragoza. "He looked in midseason form. Hyatt had a nice catch early on over the middle. He's a nice, big target and we will throw a lot to him."

The Lockport (1-0) defense was huge in the second half, allowing three first downs, and only giving up 38 yards.

"They were hurting us with screen plays early," Czart said of the Tigers in the first half. We brought an extra player in on the one side of the field and (junior cornerback) Shane Kozak and (senior cornerback) Joey Manzo came up big.

"Joey came up with a turnover (on an interception) and (seniors ) Rob Baranowski and Niko Freck along with (junior) Mateas Foltys (sack) made some good plays."

Freshman Mike Pratt also got some playing time on defense.

"If we're going to bring him up, we're going to play him," Czart said of the 6-foot-3, 265-pound Pratt.

Now the Porters will be looking to make big plays again against Metea Valley.

The Mustangs (0-1) gave up a lot of points in their opening game, a 49-23 loss to host Geneva. Metea Valley trailed 21-0 after the first quarter, 28-10 at halftime, and 35-17 after three quarters. 

That followed a trend from last year when Metea Valley surrender 266 points in the season, an average of nearly 30 per game, in finishing 3-6. The most points the Mustangs gave up was 48 in a 48-0 loss to Lockport in week No. 2 in Aurora.

"They mix it up but seem to be more of a passing team," Czart said of the Mustangs. "They do a lot of quick routes and their quarterback (Noah Larson, who passed for 207 yards and 2 touchdowns against Geneva) is a thick kid and a big runner."

Friday's game is a varsity only one, with kickoff slated for 6:30 PM at Lockport.

 

Joliet West At Lockport Football

By Randy Whalen

Since a slew of starters graduated from last season's Class 8A state championship squad, this isn't last year's Lockport Township football team. 

But this group of Porters still has plenty of potential. 

That showed in the season opener. Seniors Hyatt Timosciek and Giovani Zaragoza both scored a pair of touchdowns and Lockport's defense settled in. It all added up to a 28-6 victory over an improved Joliet West team before a packed house on Friday evening, Aug. 26, in Lockport.

"We're happy with the victory but we have a lot to clean up," Lockport coach George Czart said. "Joliet West gave us all we could handle. There was some good hitting going on out there."

There was and unfortunately for the Porters (1-0), late in the first half starting senior quarterback Brady Pfeiffer was a victim of one of the hits. After completing a 27-yard pass to Timosciek on a fourth-and-23 play, Pfeiffer (9-of-15, 134 yards, TD) went out with an injured shoulder on the next play. He was going to get x-rays after the game and his status wasn't immediately known.

Enter Drew Gallagher (6-for-13, 65 yards, TD) at quarterback. The junior tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Timosciek (5 receptions for 96 yards) in the left corner on a third-and-15 play. That gave the Porters a 21-6 lead with just 44.3 seconds left in the second quarter and that held up for the halftime score.

"That was a perfect ball the Brady threw, he couldn't have put it in a better place," Timosciek said of the fourth and-and-23 play. "Brady will be OK, but we were able to get used to both quarterbacks coming in a game. 

"I thought it was a great win. We need to learn from it but it was the first game and I thought we did a good job."

Timosciek also caught a 26-yard TD pass from Pfeiffer in the right corner on a third-and-12 play for a 14-0 lead with 10:22 left in the first half. 

Zaragoza (32 carries for 178 yards) was the workhorse for the Porters. He capped a 92-yard, 12-play drive by plowing in from 2-yards out to open the scoring midway through the first quarter. He later rounded out the scoring by zipping through the line, breaking out of a tackle, and darting 62-yards for a touchdown with 2:52 left in the third quarter. 

"Giovani is a stud," Czart said. "But he's going to be sore tomorrow."

 It's all worth it for Zaragoza.

"It's just fun being out there with my guys and I'm having fun out there," he said. "That (third quarter TD) all happened because of my blocks."

The offensive line of junior twins Christos Alexandros and Nicolas Alexandros, along with senior Peyton Norton, junior Charlie Priovolos, and senior Rocco Rigoni, helped the Porters to 389 total yards of offense. 

"I thought we got the jitters out. It was a fun game," Zaragoza added. "We all worked hard and had a learning experience."

The Tigers (0-1) were working hard too but couldn't quite make enough plays. Senior quarterback Carl Bew (16-of-33 with an interception for 151 yards passing, 19 carries for 62 yards rushing, with a TD), a transfer from Joliet Central, scored the team's touchdown on a 3-yard run with 7:59 left in the first half. The extra point was wide left, leaving the score at 14-6.

But Joliet West recovered an onside kick and drove to a fourth-and-2 situation at the Lockport nine. Then a fourth-down pass was knocked away by senior Joey Manzo with 5:08 left in the first half. Manzo, one of the two starters (Christos Alexandros is the other one) back from last season's state title team, also had an interception at his own 8 to thwart the Tiger's first drive. 

"We were giving up a few more yards than we wanted to and they tried to hit a post route but I went up and beat the wide receiver to the ball," Manzo said of his interception. "Their quarterback was a good scrambler. 

"I'm satisfied with the win but not all that transpired. But we're going to grow and get better."

Joliet West, which received 69 yards on six receptions from senior Billy Bailey, Jr. believes it will do that too.

"George Czart is an amazing coach and I think we had one of the toughest opening games in the state," said first-year Joliet West head coach, Daniel Tito, who spent the previous 12 seasons as an assistant for the Tigers. "Carl (Bew) has great athleticism but he's also an excellent leader and a captain out there.

"Even though we didn't get the win on the scoreboard, I thought we got some wins as a team."

Nate Blazewski had plenty of distance but was wide left on a 41-yard field goal attempt with 9:16 to play in the game. But the junior who is also a starter on the soccer team was perfect on the four extra point kicks.

Matthaeus Foltys, a junior defensive lineman, had a nice 9-yard sack of Bew in the second half. Joliet West had a pair of first downs on its opening second-half drive, reaching the Porter 48. But never moved from there and only got one first down the rest of the game as the Porter defense only gave up 38 yards in the second half. 

The Porters will be looking for their second straight 2-0 start and third since 2011 when they host Metea Valley this Friday, Sept. 2 at 6:30 PM.

 

Joliet West At Lockport Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

It's been one of the shortest offseasons in Lockport Township football history. 

 But that's a good thing. 

On August 26 it will be 272 days since the Porters captured the Class 8A state championship, which was last Nov. 27 at Huskie Stadium on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. 

Now they are back and for the first time since the 2019 season, they are opening with a home game. That is this Friday, August 26 with a varsity-only 6:30 PM matchup against Joliet West. It will be a rematch of last year's opener as Lockport traveled to Joliet and started the season in resounding fashion with a 41-0 win.

  "It's the same type of preparation as last year," Lockport coach George Czart said of facing the Tigers. That was the first season-opening win for the Porters since 2017 and only the third since 2011. "We don't know exactly what they will be doing but we will come out, be in some of our base formations, and play hard just like last year.

  "Our defense made the plays in the opener last year."

 Yes, the Porters scored a trio of first-quarter TD's in last year's game, with two of them turned in by the defense. That set the tone for the season, as the D had shutouts in four of the first five games. 

While Lockport had all four of those shutouts on the road, it is happy to open at home. The Porters did have a home shutout last year, a 34-0 second-round win over Glenbard West.

"To open at home is huge," Czart said. "But we called ourselves the road warriors last year. Our last three games (a 28-22 win at Glenbard North, a 35-21 win at Loyola, and the 24-6 victory over Maine South at Huskie Stadium in the Class 8A state title game) were all on the road. So we were comfortable there."

 The schedule is reversed this season. So rather than four of the first five games on the road, those same games are now at home. But that means only one of the final four games (Bolingbrook on Oct. 7) is at home. 

 But the current week is the most important. That's what the focus is on now. Especially since Lockport only has two starters, offensive lineman Christos Alexandros and defensive back Joey Manzo, back from the state championship starting lineup. 

 "Even though we've been practicing all the time, this week is more about the game plan and what we have to execute," Czart said. "Our guys are doing what they have to do and working hard all week."

 Joliet West, which was 3-6 last year, will be looking to make improvements after a disappointing season last fall. The Tigers had to forfeit a pair of games due to a COVID outbreak last fall. But they won 3 of their last 4 games, scoring 115 points in the process. 

 The Tigers return six starters on offense and four on defense. They have a new head coach, Daniel Tito, who takes over after 12 seasons as an assistant. They also have a new quarterback in Carl Bew, who moved crosstown from Joliet Central. 

"I know they have a new quarterback, some guys back and expect to be good," Czart said of the Tigers. "We know that everyone will be out for us. We will get everyone's best all season, so we've got to be ready.

"But Joliet and Lockport is a great rivalry. We are both big schools and historically these are big games. We've had a great rivalry in all sports."

 This is now the 13th 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.

What almost gets lost in the shuffle is that last season (13-1 record) was only the second playoff appearance for Lockport since 2011. The Porters (4-2) would have almost assuredly made it in the 2020-21 season but that was shortened to six games, with no postseason, and moved to the spring because of COVID. 

Now the postseason is the expectation and the game days are the highlights.

"It's not the hardest night of the week, it's the most enjoyable," Czart said of game day. "I just sit back and watch our guys perform. We want them to play and perform without anxiety. Just play at their best and let them use their athletic ability.

"We're going to be ready. We won't play perfect but we just want to keep our mistakes down and play well."

 

Lockport Sophomore Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

 When the Lockport Township varsity football team won the Class 8A State Championship last fall, the senior-dominated Porters cultivated that success two years before.

 By going undefeated on the sophomore level.

 So now, in a post-state championship program, the sophomore success becomes even more magnified because the team can see what lies ahead if they put in the work and win now.

 "It does feel different," Lockport sophomore football coach Kevin Bolling said of the new season. "The players raised the bar for themselves after winning state. They know that it is an achievable goal. 

 "It was exciting that the senior group won state. They were focused and had the ability. But they also had the confidence and we're seeing the results that when they played hard and focused they were hard to beat."

 Last season's sophomore team is currently a crop of juniors looking to make an impact on the varsity. They went 8-1 last fall with their only loss in a high-scoring game against Lincoln-Way East.

 The Lockport sophomore squads have gone 6-3, 9-0, 5-1, and 8-1 in the past four seasons. That's an overall 28-5 record and sets the foundation for the varsity success. after seeing the varsity capture the large-school title last year, they want even more success.

 "Yep, there are just bigger expectations and that's good," said sophomore running back Johnny Wesolowski, whose uncle Dave Sliwa, was a running back on both of the Porter's first two state title teams in 2002 and 2003. "I'm ready to do what I can. I've been playing running back most of my life and I'm prepared.

 "Yes, I'm looking toward playing Lincoln-Way East the most (at 4:30 PM on Friday, Oct. 14). Especially since it's on a Friday night, we don't have a lot of those."

 As has been the case since the COVID season, in the spring of 2021, the Porters have moved the starting times for the home sophomore games to Saturday mornings at 9 AM. All of their away games are before the varsity games on Friday nights. 

 That leaves a veteran coach like Bolling, who is in his 29th year at Lockport and was the head sophomore coach from 2001-09, with some mixed feelings.

 "I'd prefer playing before the varsity games," said Bolling, who was the quarterback and receivers coach at the sophomore level for over a decade before taking over as head coach again last year. "It takes you back to the Friday night lights experience. But we are fired up to have our own spot on Saturday morning too."

 In addition to Wesolowski, some other key players on offense will be lineman Connor Cronin, wide receiver Maison Glover, quarterback Conley Pfeiffer, half-back Tyler Pospisil, wide receiver Izeyah Pruitt, and quarterback Declan Sojka.

 "We have a lot of good linemen and Connor is a good leader and captain," Bolling said of Cronin. "Conley (Pfeiffer) is the third of the three Pfeiffer brothers at quarterback and likely starter. But Declan (Sojka) is also competing. They both work hard and both can throw on the run.

 "Tyler (Pospisil) is a good blocker with great hands. Izeyah (Pruitt) was injured last year and we are looking forward to seeing what he can do."

 On defense, Jordan Falcon, the younger brother of junior basketball and track and field standout Jalen Falcon will be at cornerback and might do some kick returning and offense. Glover may see some action at cornerback too. Kevin Hippner is an inside linebacker, and Anthony Polselli will be looking for picks at defensive back. So will Tristan Potete at free safety, and John Sherrod will be another key player at inside linebacker.

 After being a freshman and seeing the varsity win the state championship last fall, Potete believes the winning culture has spread and the sophomore squad just wants to continue it.

 "It feels completely different, it's a whole different atmosphere now," Potete said. "It's a lot harder now (with the expectations) but that's what we want. We want to win too and all have that winning mentality for this year. 

 "Troy Mutz (who is now a senior on the varsity) has been a good guy to learn from. I'm ready for the season."

 Everyone is ready as the sophomores will open the season on Saturday, Aug. 27 at 9 AM against Joliet West at home.

 "We had some of our sophomore players move up to the varsity last year and get a taste of it," Bolling said of the title run. "We want to come out, play hard, and get off to a good start. We are just excited to get the season started. It feels more normal (with no COVID protocols), so we can just focus on football and school."

Lockport Freshmen Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

 It all starts at the bottom.

 That's correct, a winning football team and a winning culture have to start at the freshmen level. After all, that is where most of the first-year high school players will be playing at. 

 Plus, when there is a state-championship winning varsity team, like this past season at Lockport Township, that excitement, that championship attitude is put in place there.

 It certainly has been for the Porters.

 "It feels different having a year under my belt and having my method down a little better," Lockport freshmen football coach Troy Holder said following his team opening the Maroon and White Night scrimmages on Friday, Aug. 19 at the Porters stadium. "This group is really focused as freshmen. For being 14 years old, they are really locked in and that's really good.

 "Focus is the most important part. It's getting them ready for varsity with a lot of work and preparation. But when you win state they know (the program) is legit."

 Yes, it is and Holder is happy to be part of the program. This is his second season as the freshmen 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 last year when asked about coaching for Czart. "The focus for the freshmen is that we want everyone to love football. We want to cultivate the guys to love the game."

 Last year, the Porter freshmen went 6-2 on the A level and 5-3 on the B level as they only had eight games. With the young players enthusiastic as well as talented, they hope for even better marks this fall.

 Brendan Mecher and Aiden Morgan have been battling out for the quarterback spot. Colton Benaitis and AJ Garcia, Jr. will be looked to at wide receiver, and Chris Miller will be counted on at running back.

 Adam Kozak had an interception in the Maroon and White game from his free safety position and Holder is expecting more of that from him this season. 

 "He's a heck of an athlete," Holder said. "He certainly does that in practice too."

 Nick Moerman will also be counted on in the secondary as a cornerback. Andre Labuda and Tyler Sefcik will be looked to come up big as inside linebackers, and Ethan Sydnor will anchor the defensive line at nose guard.

 Not only does the Porter freshmen level believe they have talented players, they know they have talented coaches. Especially a new addition to the staff this season, but someone who is not new to Lockport coaching.

 That is Ken Ferry, a 1971 Lockport graduate, who played quarterback for the Porters. Ferry went on to do the same at Joliet Junior College, then played quarterback at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. After college, he was a teacher and coach at Lockport between 1976-1989 before going to Lemont High School, where he became the head football coach in the fall of 1990 and was in that position for seven seasons. 

 Now he's back as the quarterback coach on the freshmen level.

 "I'm having a blast, the time of my life," Ferry said of being back as an assistant coach at the age of 70. "I started here as a freshmen coach in 1976. I love the positives here and know the quarterback position. I'm just glad that in this season of life, I get to share it again."

 So is Holder.

 "It's awesome to have a guy like that," he said of Ferry. "He's been around for decades and he's so helpful with his insight."

 With 80 players total on the roster, the freshmen season schedule is slated to kick off this Saturday, August 27, as the A team travels to Joliet West for a 9 AM game and the B team will be at Lincoln-Way East for the first of two 10:45 AM matches with the Griffins. 

 "We've got good momentum," Holder said of the freshmen program. "We've added coaches (including Bo Starkey, who moves from the varsity level) and have six assistants now on the freshmen level. We want to win them all but no matter what we love this group of kids.  

 "We're excited to see what they can do and what we can do with them."

2022 Lockport Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

The start of a new football season always feels special. 

Even more so when your team is coming off of a state championship and is ranked No. 4 in the state preseason poll on MaxPreps.

When the Lockport Township football program held its annual Maroon and White Night on Friday, August 19,  the Porters were opening this season as defending Class 8A state champions. That obviously means the expectations are high for this season and they are ready to face that challenge.

"No, I don't feel different," said Lockport coach George Czart, who is entering his fourth season as head coach of the Porters. "I feel more comfortable here now and with our staff. 

"But yes, it puts a target on our back. And yes, I absolutely welcome that. You are either hunting or being hunted. Now we are being hunted because we are at the top but it's nice to be in that position. We just have to keep working and grinding every day to reach that potential."

This is the third time the Porters have opened a season as the defending Class 8A state champions. In 2003, they were coming off a 13-1 record and their first state title the year before. They went 12-2 and won it again. Then, going for a 3-peat in 2004, they went 9-0 in the regular season but were upset in the opening playoff game 14-6 by Lincoln-Way East. 

So the precedent for success is there even if the experience isn't. Of the 22 listed starters in last season's championship game, a 24-6 win over Maine South, 20 of them graduated. So there are only two starters back but there is a trio of others who had a lot of experience. 

There were also a bunch of exuberant players on the field, ready to compete for positions and make a name for themselves before a nice-sized crowd at Maroon and White Night.

One of those returning starters, however, is senior defensive back, Joey Manzo. Last season he helped the Porter defense register five shutouts, and hold their opponents to two touchdowns or less on seven other occasions. 

"When we first came into camp I thought there would be a lot of pressure," said Manzo, who had a pick-6 in the Maroon and White scrimmage. "But we have left that is the past and look forward to this season. 

"But yes, we know the process and what it takes to get to that level. We want to do it again. We just have to come in, work hard, trust the coaches, and process."

Troy Mutz, who had a pair of interceptions as a junior free safety last season in a 21-13 win over SouthWest Suburban Conference Red Division champion, Lincoln-Way West, saw plenty of time in the secondary last fall. He's back for more and to attempt to help the Porters repeat.

"We've just got to play together," Mutz said of the key to the repeat bid. "We've all been playing together since the sixth or seventh grade so we'll be ready."

Mutz had a different answer when it comes to the team he'd look forward to playing the most this season.

"Neuqua Valley," Mutz answered of a team that isn't even on the Porter's schedule this fall. "They were talking a lot of trash during the 7-on-7s, so I'd love to see them in the playoffs. But oh yeah, this is the best time of the year."

It also shows how far the expectations have come for the Porter program. Before last season, they had made one playoff appearance (2016) since 2011. Now Lockport doesn't only expect to make the playoffs, it expects to compete for a state championship.

Last year, the defense only allowed 119 total points (8.5 per game) and was led by what was probably the best defensive line in the state, Andrew Blackburn-Forst, twins Cody and Cole Silzer, and Paul Rasp. But all of them have graduated. 

So this year, seniors Max Bauer, Niko Frcek, and junior Dallas Gorski will be looked to on the defensive line. Juniors Jameson Clark and Chase Creed, along with senior Sean Marshall are among the linebackers that will have to make an impact.

Christos Alexandros started on what became a very good offensive line, as a sophomore last season. His twin brother, Nici Alexandros who won the watermelon eating contest in mid-July at the West Aurora "Battle of the Big Butts" hopes to join him as a starter on an offensive line, which is once again short on experience but not on enthusiasm. 

Two other offensive players, who had a lot of experience from last season, return. They are Michael Doneske, who will play at tight end and fullback, and Hyatt Timosciek, who stands 6-foot-6 and will also be looked at to block and catch passes at tight end.

Actually, because Lockport won so many games (8) by 22 points or more, Giovani Zaragoza got to come in at running back a fair amount. Now a senior, Zaragoza, will be looked to as the main running back. Last fall he had 50 carries for 294 yards and 3 touchdowns. That was a nearly 6 yards per carry average which was almost as good as main RB Ty Schultz (207 carries for 1,245 yards, 22 TDs, a 6.0 YPC average). 

"Giovani is very quick," Czart said. "He had great vision and great stop-and-go ability to get up to full speed. He's really quick and we like how he has looked. He's a special guy."

Being behind then-seniors Schultz and Andrew LoPresti (119 carries for 689 yards, 6 TDs), helped prepare Zaragoza for this season.

"Hopefully learning from them, learning from those guys above me," said Zaragoza when asked what will be a key to his success this season. "It's just working together, working on the field, and holding each other accountable. 

"It's amazing just playing with these guys and we want to have fun out there."

Juniors Eli Beltran and Aidan Preciado will also be looked to at running back. Seniors Jake McClain and Rocco Rigoni will also be looked to on the offensive line. Junior Kevin Holland looks to step in at wide receiver and help offset the loss of Ryan Little (50 receptions, 841 yards, 14 touchdowns). 

"Kevin had a good night," Czart said of the Maroon & White scrimmage. "As the season goes on our offensive line will get better and better. We have some great coaches to teach them."

Oh, there's one more position to talk about. Quarterback. 

"I thought all three quarterbacks played well," Czart said of junior Drew Gallagher, along with seniors Caden Miller and Brady Pfeiffer at the Maroon and White Night. 

But only one can start and that looks like it will be Pfeiffer, who saw action last season as the backup to Hayden Timosciek (143-for-239 for 2,123 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 1 interception), who is now at Purdue. 

A year ago Pfeiffer (16-for-33 for 219 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception) was pressed into duty for one start and is the only one of the trio to actually have varsity stats. He will be entrusted with an offense that had almost exactly the same amount of passing yards (2,380 yards and 25 touchdowns) and rushing yards (2,393 yards and 34 touchdowns) last fall.  

Pfeiffer, however, didn't know if he'd be able to play right away until the first week of August.

"I had surgery to clear loose bodies of cartilage out of my right elbow," Pfeiffer explained. "Once I got back out here to practice, it just felt natural. So I'm feeling good. 

"My experience from last year helps Just knowing that the game moves faster at the varsity level. Knowing it's not easy and you just have to execute."

Both Pfeifer and Gallagher have brothers that were key players for the Porters. Riley Pfeifer, who graduated in 2021, was the quarterback for the Porters for half of his junior season and his senior year. His younger brother, Conley, looks to be the starting quarterback on this season's sophomore team.

Gallagher's older brother is Ethan Gallagher, who was an all-state linebacker and wide receiver on last year's state title team.

"I'm going against two seniors and even if I'm not starting, I'm going to play and that's what I want," Gallagher said of the quarterback competition. I feel good about this season. At every practice, we want to get better. We know what to do (to get to the top level) and how to do it. That's exciting."

Gabe Czako did double duty last season as the Porters placekicker and also one of the top defenders on the Class 3A state third-place boys soccer team. So they hope that the same formula works this fall as junior Nate Blazewski, who is also a midfielder on the soccer team, will take over the kicking duties.

Blazewski banged through a 52-yard field goal on his second attempt at Maroon and White Night.

"If we get to the 35, it's worth try," said Czart of Blazewski kicking long field goals this season. "He's going to be a weapon for us."

Last year Lockport tied for first with Lincoln-Way East for the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division title. Although Lincoln-Way East defeated host Lockport 12-10 on October 15 for the Porter's (13-1) only loss of the season, both teams finished with a 3-1 mark in the league. 

It was the first time that Lockport had won at least a share of the SWSC Blue, which formed in the fall of 2005. While it was the 13th time and fifth straight that the Griffins, who fell 30-27 on Oct. 1 to Sandburg last year, have captured at least a share of the league title.

The Porters have not defeated Lincoln-Way East since the regular season meeting in 2004. A span of 18 straight games.

"Sure, it would be nice to beat them," said Czart of the Griffins. "But it was better to end the season the way we did. To win the last game is the ultimate goal."

Czart, who has a career record of 75-37 between Lincoln-Way North (54-29 in 8 years) and Lockport (21-8 in 3 years) was the defensive coordinator for the first two Porter state title teams in 2002 and 2003. He knows the Porters have an amazing place and he plans to keep it that way.

"We had a nice crowd, it was packed and it was awesome," he said of the turnout for Maroon and White night, which included the varsity cheerleaders. "It's been great to be a part of all three championships in different roles. There's been great kids and great families and that's what makes it special."

Lockport Football Enters The Summer Practice Home Stretch

By Randy Whalen

There's really no offseason in high school football.

Especially when you're the defending State Champion.

So while Lockport Township began preparing for this upcoming season shortly after the 24-6 victory over Maine South in the Class 8A title game last season, there are a lot of summer workouts and activities as the games get closer.

Well, those summer practices are winding down. But they have certainly been busy and good for the Porters.

"It's gone well," Lockport football coach George Czart said. "We did three 7-on-7 camps and practiced a lot. I'm definitely happy. I fully expect all the guys that aren't playing to get better too."

Everyone was looking to get better and, although there has been conditioning and weight lifting since last December, it was great to be back with the team.

"Just being back on the field," Lockport senior middle linebacker Sean Marshall said of what he's enjoyed about the summer sessions. "Just being out there practicing, working on the defense and stuff.

"You can see it taking off more as we get out of the weight room and start to practice. I think we're looking at another good season. It's the same goal, another state championship."

Senior strong safety Jake Suchorabski agreed.

"A big highlight was putting the pads back on, getting back out there and getting contact," he said. "I feel there is a little pressure on us (as defending state champions) but we have a lot of seniors back that weren't starters last year and we can still fill those roles perfectly.

"I feel that everyone has brought a lot of energy and the work ethic is there at every position. Team wise a goal is that we want to go undefeated this year."

Not only did the Porters practice as much as allowed over the summer, but they also hosted a youth camp the week of July 18.

"Our flyer said that the camp age was fifth through eighth grade," Czart said. "But I've had a lot of young kids call and we don't turn them down. We (had) over 100 kids there to work on their skills. We had a lot of our guys working with the kids and it's great."

While the summer practices and workouts are serious, there are fun things too. Take the West Aurora "Battle of the Big Butts" that was held on Friday, July 15. There the Porters O-Line and D-Line first group won the tug-a-war competition and the second group finished in the top 8.

"The lineman challenges are fun for the kids," Czart said. "They like going there and having a good time."

Especially junior Nici Alexandros, who won the watermelon eating contest.

"It was actually right before the tug-of-war competition," Alexandros said of the watermelon eating contest. "You got a minute to eat a quarter of a watermelon or as much as you can in that time. There were seven different groups with about 35 people total. If you won your group, you moved on.

"In the finale, I pretty much wiped out the whole corner of the watermelon and easily won it. It was my first time in an eating competition but I've watched the (Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs) eating contest before."

Alexandros enjoyed all the linemen competition events.

"We won the tug-of-war," he said. "But there were also medicine ball throws, a 40-yard dash, a tire flip race, a 5-man sled push, and an agility course. It's just nice to compete against others in your position group. That's what is awesome, we're all big guys."

He is in competition for the right guard position and believes that the Porters will have another big season.

"We are looking to finish the summer off strong," Alexandros said. "We know on Aug. 8 that it is 'go time.' So we just want to build off this.

"It's definitely awesome to be a part of this. We all have one goal to continue it and keep the program up to what it has been the past few years."

The Porters will practice for the final times this summer starting on Monday, July 25, and continuing through Thursday, July 28. The actual tryouts start on Monday, Aug. 8. The season kicks off on Friday, Aug. 26 with a 6:30 PM home game against Joliet West. 

"I just want to stay healthy and not get anyone hurt," Czart said. "I want the guys to step up in the weight room and in another push. Then get away, enjoy their families for a few days, and come back (on Aug. 8) to start fresh."

 

**10Q - ask a porter - 10Q **

Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Linebacker Rob Baranowski

By Randy Whalen

Rob Baranowski is a senior linebacker on the Lockport football team and also an outfielder on the baseball team.

What happened in last week's 34-3 loss to Sandburg? 

"When I was on the field, I didn't know what happened. Then I went back and watched film. We were in the right spots and the right positions, we just didn't make plays. We didn't execute and Sandburg made the plays, including a big touchdown right before halftime."

What do you have to do to make sure that doesn't happen this week at Lincoln-Way West?

"We just have to have a good week of practice. We have to make plays. We know we have to win this week if we are going to make the playoffs."

I know you also play baseball, So how did which sport have you been playing longer and how did you get started in baseball and football?

"I've been playing baseball longer. I've been playing that for as long as I can remember since I was three or four. Both my parents played diamond games. My dad, Steve, played baseball here at Lockport (graduating in 1995) and my mom, Tammy (nee, Witek) played softball at Sandburg (graduating in 1995) and they both played collegiately. I used to watch football with my dad and I wanted to play. So I first played flag football in first grade and first played tackle football for the Junior Porters in sixth grade."

So which sport do you like better?

"I know it sounds cliche but whatever one is in season. I play outfield in baseball and when football is over I'll be in the cages and concentrate on baseball."

There are only four games left but what opponent are you looking forward to playing the most the rest of the season?

"I'd have to say this week against Lincoln-Way West. We've got to get it done. Lincoln-Way West has good players but we want to get back on our feet. I'm excited and look to get back in the win column."

What was it like to be on the football team last year when you guys won the Class 8A State Championship?

"It was really cool and every week it just got cooler. Every week we were picked to lose and every week we just kept on winning. Winning is a lot of fun and I had so much fun winning with those guys." 

What have you learned from Lockport head coach, George Czart? 

"Coach Czart is a great leader and he leads the team very well. There are a lot of assistant coaches and he's the leader of all of them and the team. If I was going to lead something, I'd want to do it just like coach Czart."

What's your favorite class in school?

"Academically I'm a history and science guy. but I'm an ACE’S (Acceptance, Commitment, and Excellence) Leader. It is sort of like a 'Best Buddies' program. We are paired in a physical education class with a special needs person. That just brightens my day. It's a nice thing to do and I've met a lot of great friends doing that."

Do you plan to play baseball or football in college?

"I'm not sure what I'm going to end up doing yet. I'm going to go through this school year and keep my options open."

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?

"All the resources around you. We just have great teachers, coaches, and staff. All of my coaches, no matter what sport, are super dedicated and spend a lot of time with us."

Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Center Peyton Norton

By Randy Whalen

Peyton Norton is a senior center on the Lockport offensive line. 

With your first name being Peyton, were you named after anyone?

"Yes, I was named after Walter Payton. My dad (Kristopher Norton) told me that. Walter Payton died before I was born but I did a research paper on him. He was crazy good." 

What happened in last week's 35-20 loss to Homewood-Flossmoor? 

"We just started out slow, In the second half, we ran the ball better but we didn't finish the job. This next game (Friday Homecoming against Sandburg) is going to be better."

Do you play any other sports?

"Not currently. I used to play baseball in Crest Hill and for Richland, and also basketball but not in high school. When I was younger, I never played football. But my dad always encouraged me to play. I didn't know much about the O-line but I played center my first time out there in a 7-on-7 my freshman year. I had never snapped the ball before that but once I did, I knew this was the sport for me."

What is it about the game of football that makes it the sport for you?

"I'm 5-foot-10, 235 pounds, so (offensive line coach Dave) Pammer calls me Mighty Mouse. It's just the teamwork in football that I love. It's definitely the No. 1 team sport in America. I also love the taste of the contact and hitting people out there."

I can't believe we are already going to be halfway through the season. But what opponent are you looking forward to playing the most the rest of the season?

"Lincoln-Way East (on Oct. 14 in week 8). Ever since freshman year, we've lost to them. So all three years I've played. So they are a target for me. If we get our heart in the right place, we can beat them this year."

What is something about playing offensive line that most people don't know about?

"Most people don't know the work we put in. Even in the summer, when some position players are not in pads, we are out there in full pads and putting in the work. But we are a brotherhood. My guys (senior Jake McClain at left tackle, junior Christos Alexandros at left guard, Norton at center, junior Nicolas Alexandros at right guard, and senior Rocco Rigoni at right tackle) do everything together. On Monday (Sept. 19) we all went out for ice cream at Cool Creations."

What have you learned from Lockport head coach, George Czart? 

"He's taught me one of my biggest life lessons with our slogan of 'we over me.' I've taken that and implied it not only in football but also in my personal life. Coach Czart is one of the greatest inspirations in my life so far." 

What's your favorite class in school?

"Powerlifting. That's because I have coach Czart as a teacher and I get to lift and talk to him. Besides that, I enjoy AP Psychology. We've been learning about the brain functions and it's crazy to learn how injuries to the brain can cause different things to go wrong." 

Do you plan to play football in college?

"Yes, I'm thinking about it. My dad is the Associate Head Coach and works with the offensive line and running backs locally at the University of St. Francis. So I might go there. He played football in high school at Evergreen Park and then was a wide receiver at Carthage College. He is listed in a book as making one of the top 100 catches in college football history." 

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?

"Just how Lockport and athletes go together. The athletes are the leaders at Lockport. They push everyone and leave their mark on Lockport. Just look at all the athletes that are on the wall. They are leaders."

Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Safety Troy Mutz

 By Randy Whalen

Troy Mutz is a senior safety at Lockport. He is a returning regular from last season's Class 8A State Championship team, and had numerous big tackles and pass breakups in the Porter's 23-22 Week No. 3 win at Bradley-Bourbonnais.  

How would you describe last week's win over Bradley-Bourbonnais? 

"They (the Boilermakers) were much better than in previous years. But it was way too close for comfort. We came out soft and slow and then picked it up in the second half."

Unfortunately, the injury bug has hit the team this season. You missed the second week, and the team still won 44-10 over Metea Valley. What can you say about the injuries?

"I missed a game and a lot of others did too. We've had guys go down and we want to stay healthy. But a guy like (senior) Danny Stevens stepped up big time in the Bradley-Bourbonnais game. He came in (at free safety) in the second half and stepped up and his (pick-6) TD helped us win the game."

What other sport do you play?

"I'm also on the wrestling team. This season I plan to wrestle at 160 or 170 pounds. Last season I got COVID twice and missed half the year. But I was able to wrestle in the dual-team state tournament. We always have good wrestling teams, we put in the work."

So how long have you been doing each sport and which one do you like better?

"I've been in both of them all my life. Well, since I was 5 years old. Playing football was a given but my dad (Joey) wanted me to wrestle too, so I did. I definitely like football the best. I just enjoy the game and the environment. Just being on the field is like a second home. I love it there."

What opponent are you looking forward to playing the most the rest of the season?

"Bolingbrook and Lincoln-Way East (in weeks 7 and 8). They both will be really tough matchups for us. Playing them, we will see where we stand as a team."

Last season's state championship ride was one of the best things I've ever covered in 38-plus ears of high school sports reporting. When did you guys know that you were good enough to win it all?

"That was the goal all year but we didn't think about it. We just wanted to go out every week and beat the crap out of teams. We knew as players that we trusted each other and would get the job done. That's still the same now."

What have you learned from Lockport head coach, George Czart? 

"He's taught me for sure the meaning of the 'we over me' slogan. When I came in my sophomore year, I was just playing for myself. But, as a team, we were together so much and he told us to trust each other and we did. He's that type of leader." 

What's your favorite class in school?

"Earth Science. I find it easy to focus on. Mr. (Kyle) Cook was my teacher and I'd say he's my favorite teacher. I also had him as a (lower level) football coach." 

Do you plan to play football in college?

"Yes, that is the goal. I want to play another 4 years, that's for sure. I'm still looking to see what college is the best fit. I want to go into the medical field and do something along those lines."

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?

"Being an athlete, I'm more in tune with the school spirit. Like the themes for the football games and everything. Plus, our facilities are top-notch and our coaching staff is the best in the state."

Ten Questions With Lockport Junior Quarterback Drew Gallagher

 By Randy Whalen

 Drew Gallagher is a junior quarterback at Lockport. In his first ever varsity start last week, he was 6-of-8 passing with a touchdown and no interceptions. He also added 18 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns.

 How would you describe last week's 44-10 win over Metea Valley?

"I thought we were very confident coming in. But then we screwed up on the kickoff and fumbled right away from scrimmage. Everyone was a little nervous but that got us in the zone. The coaches gave us a firm talking to and got us into our rhythm."

 The team's slogan of 'we over me' is more than just a saying, it's an action. That showed last week when four starters were out, including you filling in for quarterback Brady Pfeiffer, and everyone stepped in to do the job. What can you say about that?

"It (We over me) just fits us so well. Everyone gets reps and the coaches have faith in all of us. We're not looking for personal accolades. We all want the team to do well."

 You play another sport, correct?

"Yes, I play basketball too. I've played basketball since kindergarten and football since second grade, so they are lifelong sports for me. My mom (Aubrey) was a star player in high school (at Lyons Township) and my dad (Daniel) wanted me to play a contact sport."

 So which sport do you like better?

"I like football much better. I get an energy in football that I don't get in any other sport. Everyone is into it. Plus, I've played quarterback since I was in seventh grade. I just love to be the leader and be able to participate in every play."

 Your older brother, Ethan, who is now playing at Wisconsin-Whitewater, was an all-state linebacker and also played wide receiver in helping the Porters win the Class 8A state championship last year. What sort of influence has he been on you?

"He's the biggest influence in my life. I've always looked up to him. He was always the best kid on the team. When he stopped playing baseball, I stopped playing baseball. I wanted to do what he did. He opened paths for me and I followed them."

 What opponent are you looking forward to playing the most the rest of the season?

"We always look forward to Lincoln-Way East. But I'm looking forward to playing Bolingbrook. We beat them last year, (14-13 in overtime). But they got a lot of transfers and good athletes. I think they are going to be really good this year." 

 What's your favorite class in school?

"School-wise, it's physics. That's because there's always an answer, and math and science are included in them. But I love powerlifting. I have that class at 12:30 every day and coach Czart is the teacher. I love that I get a lift in and get ready for the rest of the day."

 Speaking of coach, George Czart, what have you learned from him?

"The biggest thing is the 'we over me.' he's ingrained that in us. Your individual stats don't matter, it's all about the team. He's influenced me and everyone to buy into the organization. Also, his pregame speeches are the best. They always give me chills."

 You're only a junior, but do you want to play football in college?

"Yes, I want to play but I'm not sure where yet. I'm going to play this season out and see what schools give me a shot."

 What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?

"Just the environment. We get treated differently and are looked up to. I have students texting me before games to tell me good luck. We have great teachers and great coaches. It's really cool and I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Ten Questions with Joey Manzo

 By Randy Whalen

Joey Manzo is a senior in his second varsity season as a defensive back on the Lockport football team. He is one of only two starters back from last season's Class 8A state championship team and also plays at wide receiver and is a punt/kick returner on the team too. He also plays baseball and was the starting center fielder on last season's Porter team, which went 34-4 and lost in the Sweet 16 round. 

The team opened up with a 28-6 win over Joliet West last week. You seemed a bit disappointed after the game. A couple of days later how do you feel about the opener?

"I think from a defensive standpoint we always want a shutout. Coach Czart always says if you don't score, you can't win. There were just a bunch of little things. As a unit, we know we can do better."

You are one of only two players (junior offensive lineman Christos Alexandros is the other) who started in last year's Class 8A state title game that return this season. So because of that, did you look at yourself as a team leader this season?

"Absolutely. I think I transitioned to that role as a leader and have already carried that swagger into this year. I like that role."

You are also playing wide receiver this season. Do you like laying offense or defense better?

"I like scoring touchdowns. It doesn't matter if it's on offense, defense, or as a kick returner on special teams. I was an offensive player until I got into high school. Then I moved to defensive back."

How did you start playing football?

"I started playing when I was 8. My former next-door neighbor, Brian Gorman, started the Jr. Porters and wanted me to play. Before that, I was just playing baseball and soccer."

Continuing with baseball, you are the center fielder on the Porter's excellent baseball team. So which sport do you like better?

"Whatever sport is in season is my favorite. I love football because there is a great feeling being with your friends and being out there before the big crowd with the Friday night lights. Baseball is more of a mental game. It keeps you thinking and develops your mind."

Which sport would you like to play in college?

"I've actually talked to some coaches from colleges that said I could do both. So I'm not sure yet. It will come down to whatever benefits me most in my life path. I'm probably going to major in science and biology and might go into a sports medicine field."

So speaking of that, what is your favorite class in school?

"Last year it was AP biology. This year it's anatomy and physiology. I'm just interested in the human body and again I might want to do something in that field."

What team are you looking forward to playing the most this season?

"I want to play Bolingbrook (at home on Friday, Oct. 7). We know they have a great freshman quarterback and we want a shot at them. But I also want to play Lincoln-Way East (on Friday, Oct. 14 in Frankfort) because we haven't beat them in a long time. Plus, I look forward to playing Sandburg (at home on Friday, Sept. 23) because I grew up playing with a lot of those guys."

What have you learned from Lockport head football coach, Georg Czart?

"It's just his passion for the game. That is what he has and instills. He's been coaching for so long and he keeps us focused on what's ahead. There's no one else that I'd rather have leading us."

What is the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?

"Just the winning culture we have here. It's in all sports. It was gone a little bit in football but we brought it back and it's really taken off."

Ten Questions with Brady Pfeiffer

By Randy Whalen

 Brady Pfeffer is a senior in his second varsity season. He has recovered from an operation to clear loose bodies of cartilage out of his right elbow and is expected to be the starting quarterback for the Lockport football team this fall.

 You are taking over as quarterback for the defending Class 8A state champions. So what are the expectations?

"For me, coming off of a state championship season, there will be a lot of expectations. But the coaches stress 'one day at a time, one week at a time.' We just have to play well and the wins will come."

 You are the middle of three brothers, and all of you play quarterback. Riley was the varsity quarterback two years ago, and your younger brother, Conley, is the quarterback of the sophomore team. So how did that all happen?

"We just all grew up wanting to be quarterbacks. There's a competition between all of us and our dad (Jim) played quarterback so we all grew up like that."

 How much did your dad, who was an assistant coach at Lockport for the first two state title football teams in 2002 and 2003, have on you?

"A lot. He coached the sophomore team here back in 2002 and 2003. He played quarterback at St. Rita. When we were younger, we all wanted to play quarterback and he was able to help with that. What I like bout the position is that there is only one quarterback. I'm responsible for leading the team, have the ball at all times and it's fun."

 Do you play any other sports? If not, what is it about football that makes it the sport for you?

"I just play football. I had played baseball through my sophomore year but now it's just baseball. I've always loved the relationships, the brotherhood in football. You keep building relationships every single day."

 When you were in eighth grade, for the 2018-19 school year, the Lockport football team went 0-9. Now the Porters are coming off a state championship and expect to compete for more. What do you believe turned around the expectations?

"One of the biggest changes was bringing in coach (George) Czart. Each team can have tons of talent but we all pick each other up. Our motto is 'we over me.'"

 You got to start one game at quarterback last fall. Yes, it was the 12-10 loss to Lincoln-Way East (on Oct. 15) but you were put in that situation the week before the game. So did that end up helping you coming into this season?

"Yes, last year helped a lot. Just being on the varsity level was a lot different. The game moves a lot faster so to have that experience from last year helps this season feel more natural."

 What team are you looking forward to playing the most this season?

"I'm looking forward to going back to Lincoln-Way East (on Friday, Oct. 14). They are always just that team and are always going to be that team we go after. Obviously, last year didn't go our way and we want to change the outcome of that."

 Do you plan to play football in college?

"Yes, I'd love to go play quarterback in college. I haven't looked at too many yet but I want to play."

 What is your favorite subject in school?

"It's always been math. It comes pretty easy to me. It doesn't matter which math, I just enjoy the class and like it overall."

 What is the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?

"Just building those relationships. Since freshmen year I've been part of that type of atmosphere here, where you make friends and have the best possible relationships. We are also very lucky to have great facilities here."


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