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Lockport Football Season Comes To An End In Opening-Round Playoff Loss To Maine South

By Randy Whalen

The Lockport Township football team lost its opening-round playoff game.

But the Porters were winners on the field afterward. 

The hugs were many, and some tears flowed. The overall record and obviously the result wasn't what the Porters wanted. But the bonds, the memories, and the moments from another playoff appearance certainly made it another special season.

"That's the atmosphere we want and have grown here," Lockport coach George Czart said of the bond between his team. "They have an impact on me and that's why I'm still coaching, There's mutual respect with everyone and that's the way it should be."

Lockport lingered long after the result, which was a 35-0 loss to host Maine South on a wet Friday night, Oct. 27, in an opening Class 8A playoff game in Park Ridge.

"Yes, Friday was not the best night on the field," Lockport senior quarterback Drew Gallagher said. "But it was a great night for us as brothers."

No. 27-seeded Lockport (5-5) finished at .500 for the second straight season. The Hawks, who lost 24-6 to Lockport in the Class 8A State Championship game two years ago, won their ninth straight game. No. 6 seeded Maine South (9-1) will host No. 11 seeded Belleville East, a 70-0 winner over East Aurora in its opener, this weekend in the second round.   

For the second straight season, the Porters opened with three straight wins. This season's start seemed even better though, as it came against a trio of teams that made the playoffs last year and this fall too. But back-to-back close losses at Sandburg and at Bradley-Bourbonnais started a skid of five losses in the final seven games.

"Our magic wore off," Czart said. 

Even with being shutout once in the regular season and only scoring 14 points (in a 14-8 season-opening win at Plainfield North) once, Lockport was averaging 28 points per game. A persistent rain stopped right before the game kicked off and never started again. So that wasn't an issue. But the offense couldn't get going against the Hawks. 

"Maine South came out and completely shut down our run game," Gallagher said. "We haven't seen a team do that all year so we were put in a position we aren't comfortable in. We have been so reliant on me and the running backs, that we haven't had drives like we did Friday. That led to multiple three-and-outs which isn't like us in the slightest."

To start the game, junior quarterback Constantine Coines capped the Hawks' opening drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Evan Agosto. That came with 9:06 left in the first quarter and the key play on the march was a 22-yard screen pass to junior running back Michael Dellumo to the Lockport 25 on a third-and-nine play.

Lockport's first four drives were all three plays and a punt. The total yards in those four possessions were 25. To make matters worse for the Porters, senior running back Elijah Beltran hurt his ankle returning the first kickoff. But he did come back to return kicks in the second half. 

"I wanted to walk off on my own accord," Beltran said of coming back into the game. "Yeah, it's tough. There are always winners and losers but it was a great four years with lots of laughs and lots of memories." 

The second play following a second Porter punt was a 74-yard touchdown pass from Coines to Julian Turner. The senior wide receiver broke a tackle and took off down the right sideline to score. Senior Ethan Stumpf added the extra point and it was 14-0 midway through the first quarter.

"They did their regular game plan and we couldn't stop them," Czart said of the Hawks. "We weren't fooled, we just didn't make plays and their quarterback is very good. We didn't get points and didn't get a first down for a while. It wasn't a good night for the Porters."

The Porters did have a nice stop on defense as they stuffed Coines for no gain on a fourth-and-one play from the Lockport 30 with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter. But they once again went three-and-out on offense, and a punt was returned by senior Tommy Naughton 70 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. Except it was called back because of an illegal block. 

Undaunted, Maine South took over at the Porters 41. On a third-and-two play, Coines proved his worth as he went down the right side for a 33-yard touchdown jaunt and a 21-0 lead with 11:16 left in the first half.

Coines finished 18-of-25 for 306 yards passing with three TDs and added nine carries for 55 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 

The Hawks attempted a fake field goal play which was stuffed out and stopped two yards short at the Lockport 23 with 7:31 left in the first half. Gallagher then completed three passes for 26 yards as the Porters got three first downs and held the ball for exactly seven minutes. But saw senior wide receiver Kevin Holland's diving attempt for a catch near the end zone on a fourth-and-six play from the Maine South 37 come up short.

Only 31 seconds remained in the half, but Maine South tried to score, reaching the Porter 34. But on second-and-10 from there, Coines was sacked by junior defensive end Ahmad Abusafieh and fumbled. That created a chaotic but fun moment for the Porters as senior defensive end Ryan Kutz recovered and started to return it.

"I just tried to lateral it back to Jamo," Kutz said, of what he was doing as he rambled down the Maine South sideline. "I know we didn't have the season we wanted but I want to thank everyone for their support. From the cheerleaders to the athletic training staff, everyone was there for us."

But Kutz was no longer there with the ball as he had lateralled back to senior linebacker Jameson "Jamo" Clark, who got it and made it to the Hawks 34 as time expired.

"I was like, 'Kutz, throw it back,'" laughed Clark of the crazy play that will probably get talked about years later. Because, although the season didn't end up the way the Porters hoped, they will talk about it for years to come.

"Some things don't work out how we expect them to and that's life," Clark said. "But I wouldn't trade it for anything. I had the best teammates. Even through the tough times, I wouldn't want to spend the time with anyone else. All the guys stepped up and there's a lot of talent coming back next year. I can't wait to come back and see them play."

Czart certainly was glad to have a player like Clark.

"Jamo was our defensive leader," Czart said. "He made the calls on defense, and he was a team leader. We will miss him."

Lockport tried to get back in the game to open the third quarter, once again holding the ball for exactly seven minutes. But Gallagher, who found senior wide receiver Cole Holloway for a 12-yard gain on a fourth-and-eight play, had his fourth down pass fall incomplete at the Hawk 19.

Coines then completed two passes for 64 yards to the 17. A few plays later, Coines came through again with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 28-0 lead with 3:10 left in the third quarter,  

Following an interception and 22-yard return to the Lockport 48 by senior strong safety Sam Cooper, Coines capped the scoring on an 18-yard touchdown pass to Agosto (6 receptions for 108 yards, 2 TDs) with 11:16 left in the game, 

With the reserves in for both teams, the Porters drove to a first-and-10 at the Maine South 11. But they fumbled the ball away and Maine South ran out the final 2:25 of the game.

This was the third straight season that the Porters have made the playoffs and the 18th time in school history, with the first being in 1979. This was the 11th time that they had gone out in the first round. But, of course, they have three Class 8A State Championships, in 2002, 2003, and 2021. 

A good amount of underclassmen saw playing time this season, especially on defense. So there will be expectations for next year.

"Yes, we do have talent coming back, especially on defense," Czart said. "We also have two former head coaches, Bret Kooi (Joliet West, Lockport, and Lemont) and Mark Carmen (Fenton) on staff, and believe we have some good things."

One of those current junior defensive players expected back next year is linebacker Payton Roberson, who is also a top wrestler for the Porters. He vows to get better for next season.

"We're still a great team," Roberson said after the loss. There were just a lot of little mistakes and key plays that we didn't make. I'm going to make sure the guys are working hard in the offseason. I'm going to get the guys together and do team bonding stuff as well. I'm going to grind, I know that." 

Christos Alexandros started on the state title team as a sophomore at right guard and the senior was a 3-year starter on the offensive line. Senior Nate Blazewski was a top player on the soccer team and also was the placekicker for the Porters for the second straight season. He had an outstanding year with 11 made field goals, including five of at least 43 yards, with a long of 51, and was 29-of-29 on extra point kicks. 

He also made a game-tying 49-yard field goal in the final seconds to tie the week three game against visiting Naperville Central. Lockport won 31-24 in overtime. 

Gallagher also played some defensive back at the end of last year and this season too. He started every game at quarterback this fall. He was 17-of-28 for 171 yards against Maine South as the Porters finished with 246 total yards in the game. 

"The offense and I especially created a special bond," Gallagher said. "Me, Tanner (Benaitis), Kevin (Holland), Josh (Ahrens), and Cole (Holloway) are brothers for life after spending six days a week together for the last 11 months. I love those kids to death and wouldn't trade them for the world."

Holloway was the leading receiver against Maine South with six receptions for 73 yards. Fellow senior Jordan Kemp, who transferred from Bolingbrook before the season, led in rushing with 10 carries for 45 yards. Kemp also led in rushing for the season with 79 carries for 611 yards and eight touchdowns. Holland was the leading receiver on the season with 26 catches for 294 yards and three touchdowns.

"The running crew and I also had a tight bond," Gallagher said. "I didn't get to be in the backfield with my man Aidan (Preciado) as much this year (because of injuries). But Eli (Beltran) was there with me and our new guy, Jordan (Kemp). I never knew Jordan before this year but now he and I are really close on and off the field. I was helping him with college applications this past week in study hall."

When the offensive line was healthy, senior Charlie Priovolos was starting left tackle. Twins Christos Alexandros at left guard, and Nici Alexandros at center, along with fellow senior Connor McDowell at right tackle, and junior Connor Cronin at right guard, plus seniors Dallas Gorski or Chase Creed at tight end, rounded out the offensive line.

They helped allow Gallagher to finish 100-of-172 passing for 1,106 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions. He added 123 carries for 567 yards and six touchdowns and was the second-leading rusher on the team.

"My O-line will forever be there for me and I owe them boys a meal or something because they did a phenomenal job all year," Gallagher said. "You don't have a team averaging five yards a rush without a completely dominant O-line and those boys put in the work. 

"I will be forever grateful for the bonds we made and the men we've turned into due to the great life and sports guidance from our coaches. If I could do high school over from the beginning I wouldn't wanna do it with another group of guys."

Lockport At Maine South Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

In the Chicago Sun-Times, longtime high school sports reporter, Michael O'Brien was recently previewing the Class 8A football playoffs. In the preview, he listed his choice for the best first round game. 

Lockport at Maine South.

Yes, the postseason is here and Lockport Township is on the road to face a somewhat familiar foe. That is Maine South and the opening round matchup is this Friday, Oct. 27 with the game time at 7:30 in Park Ridge.

Maine South (8-1) has played the Porters twice in the playoffs. Both of those times have been for the Class 8 State Championship. Lockport won both, 48-27 in 2003, and 24-6 two years ago. 

Of course, that was then and this is now. But still, the historic factor favors the Porters, who finished 5-4 but had three of their losses by seven points or less.

"I'm looking forward to it," Lockport coach George Czart said of playing Maine South. "We have to take every bit of an opportunity to shed light on this situation and say, 'Hey, we can do this.' When we play well, we know we're a good team."

Yes, the Porters certainly can be. They played a tough schedule where seven of their opponents made the playoffs and they ended up with 49 playoff points. In comparison, Maine South finished with 37 playoff points and faced four playoff teams during the season.

"We've played a lot of good teams," Czart said. "A lot of teams like us."

Four of the five teams in the Blue Division of SouthWest Suburban Conference and seven of the 10 teams in the SWSC qualified for the playoffs. In comparison, the Hawks won the Central Suburban South Conference with a 5-0 record but only one other school in the six-team league qualified for the playoffs. That is Glenbrook South, which is one of six schools in the state that made the postseason with a 4-5 record. 

Still, Maine South has historically done very well in the state playoffs with six state championships (1995 in 5A, 2000 in 6A, 2008 in 8A, 2009 in 8A, 2010 in 8A, and 2016 in 8A) and four runner-up finishes (2003 in 8A, 2004 in 8A, 2005 in 8A, and 2021 in 8A). 

After losing to Lockport in the Class 8A title game in 2021, the Hawks went 9-3 last year. They lost to Glenbard West, which defeated Lockport 38-7 in the first round, in the Class 8A quarterfinals. All nine wins, however, were forfeited in March after the school self-reported that multiple players violated the Illinois High School Association’s residency bylaw.

So Maine South used that as motivation for this season and entered with high hopes. But starting senior quarterback Jack DeFilippis suffered a severe knee injury on the second series in a season-opening 10-7 home loss to Brother Rice.

Enter junior Constantine Coines, who was an offensive lineman and nose guard in middle school, but converted to a quarterback as a freshman. Coines has started the rest of the Hawks games this season. He passed for 214 yards in a 35-11 regular season-ending victory over Evanston last Friday and also averages nearly 90 yards rushing per game.

Junior running back Michael Dellumo has also been a leading receiver out of the backfield. Toss in seniors Evan Agosto, who doubles as cornerback, and Julian Turner at wide receiver, and you get an offense that has averaged 35.6 points per game this season.

"Maine South runs the ball well, passes the ball well, and plays good defense (allowing 14.1 points per game)," Czart said. "They have a good offensive line and great receivers. They do all the things that an 8-1 team does. Their quarterback is a good runner too."

Porter quarterback, senior Drew Gallagher is also a good runner. He left last week's 34-27 home loss to Homewood-Flossmoor late in the fourth quarter with a hand injury. But is expected to be back for this game.  

"Drew will be ready," Czart said. "It's not going to keep him out of that game."

Gallagher has thrown for 935 yards with six touchdowns this season. He also has 110 carries for 569 yards and six more TDs on the ground. Senior running backs Jordan Kemp (69 carries for 566 yards, 8 TDs) and Elijah Beltran (40 carries for 205 yards, 3 TDs) add to a Lockport offense that has 295 carries for 1,689 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season.

Beltran had 10 carries for 73 yards and added 15 receiving yards against H-F last week for his best game of the season.

"He's a good player," Czart said of the 5-foot-6 Beltran. "He's very physical for a little guy."

If the stats play out, it should be a close game. Lockport has scored 252 points (28 PPG) this season and given up 240 (26.7 PPG). One thing is for sure, the Porters can't turn the ball over three times like they did last week.

"We dug ourselves a hole and we can't do that," said Czart, who saw the Porters fall behind 21-3 in the second quarter to H-F. "Our turnovers were the main difference. One of them was returned for a touchdown and another prevented us from taking it in at the end for a tying touchdown."

Czart's birthday is on Thursday, Nov. 2. He hopes to be having practice that day. There's only one way to do that.

"We have to try to win this first game," Czart said. "I'm always going to be honest with our guys. Our kids know the team that doesn't make mistakes is going to win this game." 

Homewood-Flossmoor At Lockport Football

By Randy Whalen

Drew Gallagher stood on the sideline and was optimistic despite his team trailing by two touchdowns midway through the fourth quarter.

"We can score, get the onside kick, and score again," said the Lockport Township senior quarterback to a group of teammates.

Gallagher was nearly spot-on with his prediction as the Porters did rally and recover an onside kick. He, however, wasn't there to see the end of it. He left with a hand injury following a 16-yard run late in the fourth quarter. 

As usual, Lockport never quit. But its comeback effort fell just short in a 34-27 loss to visiting Homewood-Flossmoor on Friday, Oct. 20 in a SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division matchup which was also the final regular season game.

With a pair of wins in its last two games, H-F (5-4, 1-3) qualified for the playoffs for the 12th time in the past 13 played postseasons and the 28th time since 1986. The 28th-seeded Vikings will travel to No. 5-seeded York for an opening-round Class 8A playoff game. The Porters (5-4. 1-3) got the No. 27 seed in the Class 8A playoffs and will travel to a familiar foe, No. 6 seeded Maine South, this Friday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 PM.

That game will be a rematch of the 2003 and 2021 Class 8A State Championship games, which were both won by Lockport. 

For the playoff game, Gallagher, who had 19 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown, as well as going 7-of-16 for 95 yards with a TD and an interception passing against H-F expects to be back.

"I got a couple of stitches in my hand, but no breaks or anything too serious," Gallagher said. "So I will be back by about Wednesday (Oct. 25)." 

In the H-F game, Gallagher helped start the comeback. Following a failed fake punt by the Vikings, Lockport took over at its own 38 with 5:25 to play in the game. On the seventh play of the drive, Gallagher galloped 16 yards to the H-F 20 but his hand was cut on the play and he came out.

Paging Pfeiffer.

Conley Pfeiffer came in and the junior quarterback, who had played very limited at the end of games, was entrusted to complete the drive. He did just that as he plowed in from one yard out with 1:55 to play in the game. Nate Blazewski added the extra point to close the score to 34-27.

"I just heard my name to get out there," Pfieffer said. "You always have to be ready."

Blazewski was ready. He had played an entire soccer game just hours before as the Porters hosted Stagg on their soccer field and fell 3-1. The senior then put on his pads, ran over to the football field, made a pair of field goals and once again was perfect on extra points.

He also did an amazing job on the ensuing onside kick as the ball bounced off of a Viking player and after a huge pileup, the Porters emerged with it.

"Yeah, I was 100 percent expecting a comeback," Gallagher said. "Obviously, we were driving the ball when I was in but of course, I got hurt. I ran to the sidelines yelling at anyone to come tape it up because the competitor in me wanted to play. 

"But I knew Conley is a phenomenal quarterback and he has great composure so I felt confident with him in there. I left about two plays later to the ER but I was watching the livestream on the way, of course. When Conley scored I knew we were getting it back just because we are that gritty team that will get it."

The Porters got it back at midfield. Pfieffer then completed three straight passes. But the last of them, an eight-yard gain down to the 19, was fumbled and H-F recovered with 1:15 remaining. Lockport still had all three timeouts left but runs of six and 14 yards by junior Jayden Banks allowed the Vikings to run out the clock. 

"It was good to get on the field but it stinks to be on the losing end," Pfieffer said. "We will be ready for the playoff week. We've got to come out strong on the first drive. It's important to stay consistent."

Lockport coach George Czart also had confidence in Pfieffer.

"Conley is a good player," Czart said. "He's smart, he understands the quarterback position and he was ready.

"We never gave up and we battled back. But we turned the ball over three times and that's what killed us. We usually take care of the ball, so that was really disappointing."

While the Porters almost made a comeback, it was a poor start that put them in that position.

They reached the H-F 40 on the opening drive of the game and punted and H-F took over at its own 20. Four plays later junior quarterback Randall McDonald (9-of-13, 103 yards, TD) connected with sophomore Myles Ellis for a 57-yard touchdown pass. Lockport got the ball back at its own 20 and promptly started moving again. 

But on a second-and-four play near midfield, the Porters fumbled and junior linebacker Kyair Williams scooped it up and was off to the races, going 48 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 5:45 left in the first quarter. 

Blazewski banged his first field goal, from 38 yards out, with 1:06 left in the opening quarter. But H-F went 80 yards in 11 plays and senior running back Brandon Bringham (14 carries for 121 yards, TD) bashed in from one yard out for a 21-3 lead with 8;56 to play in the second quarter. The Viking drive was aided by a pair of Porter offside penalties, on a third-and-three play, and then on a fourth-and-two play at the Lockport 21. 

Lockport responded with an 11-play drive of its own, which Gallagher capped with a 24-yard touchdown toss to senior wide receiver Kevin Holland (2 receptions for 49 yards) in the right corner of the end zone with 2:35 to play in the second quarter. That made it 21-10 and that stood up as the halftime score.

After stopping the Vikings on the opening drive of the second half and forcing a short punt, Lockport took over just past midfield, and four plays later, Gallagher scored on a five-yard run to close within 21-17 just over three minutes into the third quarter. 

But H-F came back with a four-play, 69-yard march, which was capped off by Banks (11 carries for 135 yards, 2 TDs) scoring from a yard out. The extra point by senior Xavier White made it 28-17 with 7:43 left in the third quarter.

Lockport responded with a 43-yard field goal by Blazewski to narrow the deficit to 28-20 with 4:49 to play in the third quarter. The Porters then forced a punt for the second time in the half. But facing a third-and-three from their own 39, the Porters saw a pass intercepted by senior defensive back Jovan Plexico on the initial play of the fourth quarter. 

The Vikings took immediate advantage of that as after they had a delay of game penalty, Banks burst around the right side for a 76-yard TD run. The extra point kick was low and missed, leaving the score at 34-20 with 11:36 to play. Lockport came up a yard short on a fourth-and-three run at the H-F 40. 

That set the stage for the final moments. But in the end, the mistakes were too difficult to overcome.

"It's very disappointing, we didn't do ourselves any favors," Czart said of the loss. "It's tough to beat another team when you are constantly hurting yourself with turnovers.

"We still do stupid things on defense, (the Vikings) have a lot of playmakers out there, and that came back to haunt us big time. When we do the things that we are supposed to do we can play well and do a lot of good things."

A good thing for the Porters was their offensive output, especially with 261 yards on the ground. Senior running back Elijah Beltran had 10 carries for 78 yards and added a pair of receptions for 15 yards in his best game of the season.

But Lockport was banged up with some injuries. It remains to be seen how many will be ready for the playoff game.

"We faced a big setback after this week with injuries on both sides of the ball," Gallagher said. "We just need to come back healthy this week and know that records don't mean anything anymore. It's just good old-fashioned football, and the better team wins."

The seniors certainly don't want it to end.

"This is the last guaranteed game the seniors have," Blazewski said. "I know we will be pushing each other and the younger players to be giving it their absolute all this week in our preparation to take down Maine South."

Homewood-Flossmoor At Lockport Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

The only Illinois High School Association sport in which a team has to qualify for the postseason is football.

With its 42-27 win over host Bolingbrook in the final SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division game between the two teams last week, Lockport Township is assured of making the football postseason because of the strength of its schedule. Heading into this week, the Porters (5-3, 1-2) had the second-most amount of playoff points for teams with five victories with 45 behind St. Rita, which had 50.

"In Class 8A, we have the most playoff points out of the five-win teams," Lockport football coach George Czart said. "That's the schedule we had and if you want to be looked at as a top team you have to play the top schools and beat them."

The Porter schedule this fall had eight playoff teams from last season on it. Their first six opponents from this year could make the playoffs, five already have. Although last week's opponent won't be one of them, Bolingbrook (3-5, has a ton of talent, and sophomore quarterback Jonas Williams threw for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns.

But, with the score tied, Lockport scored the first 21 points of the fourth quarter and won 42-27.

"It was nice for our defense to come up with big stops and get some turnovers in the fourth quarter," Czart said. "They got some big plays on us but we were able to forget the play that just happened and get the next one.

"I was happy with the pressure we put on their quarterback and how we got after it."

Yes, they did. Junior linebacker John Sherrod came up huge with a pair of sacks and he knocked a loose ball into the hands of junior defensive end Kevin Hippner who recovered it in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 10:36 left in the game.

Maison Glover, a junior defensive back, later grabbed an interception. That set up senior running back Jordan Kemp for his final of three touchdowns, this one a 33-yard run that made it 42-21 with 6:40 to play in the game.

In the past two games, the Porters have run a lot and run with confidence. In the 41-16 home win over Andrew, Kemp  (10 carries for 132 yards, 2 TDs), senior quarterback Drew Gallagher (9 carries for 124 yards, TD), and junior running back Johnny Wesolowski (7 carries for 51 yards) combined for over 300 of the Lockport's 379 rushing yards.

Then last Friday against the Raiders, Gallagher (14 carries for 101 yards, TD), Kemp (14 carries for 98 yards, 3 TDs), and senior running back Aidan Preciado (7 carries for 48 yards, TD) had most of the Porters 260 rushing yards. 

A telling play against Bolingbrook happened midway through the first quarter. The Porters trialed 7-0 and had a fourth-and-one at their own 36. But without hesitation, they went for it and Kemp gained four yards. That was a key play in a 73-yard, 14-play march for the tying touchdown. 

"It was a combination of knowing your opponent and knowing what you do well," Czart said of the decision to go for it. "We didn't want to give them the ball back with them already ahead 7-0."

Knowing your opponent is not a problem this week. That's because Homewood-Flossmoor comes to town for the final regular season game of the year. 

The Vikings (4-4, 0-3) had a huge 25-17 home win over SWSC Red champion Lincoln-Way West (6-0, 3-2) last week. That kept their playoff hopes alive and a victory over Lockport would get them there.

Offensively H-F is led by senior running back Brandon Brigham, who averages 90 yards rushing her game. Junior quarterback Randall "RJ" McDonald averages 79 yards rushing per game. Sophomore Myles Ellis, is a three-sport athlete in basketball, a State Champion in track and field, and a top wide receiver on the football team with 86 yards per game. Junior Arthur Mcknight is the other top receiver. with 74 yards per game. 

H-F won last year's matchup in Lockport by the score of 35-20. 

"We're not concerned about them," Czart said of the Vikings. "We're thinking about what this means to us. Let H-F worry about themselves.

"We will put ourselves in a better situation if we win this game. Last year we lost our last game of the regular season (28-27) in double overtime and we put ourselves in that position with a tough first-round game (a 38-7 loss at Glenbard West)."

No matter what, this is the third year in a row that Lockport will qualify for the postseason. There has been only one longer streak in school history. That was a four-year span between 2001-04, which included a pair of Class 8A State Championships. 

"It's part of our expectation," Czart said of making the playoffs. "The team has shown its mettle and it's paid dividends. We've been in tough situations and know how to respond. We play a tough schedule and that's what builds our character and program.

Lockport At Bolingbrook Football

By Randy Whalen

Jordan Kemp found his opportunity.

Now the Lockport Township football team finds itself back in the playoffs.

Kemp, a senior running back, transferred to Lockport this past summer looking for an opportunity to run the football. He's made the most of that, especially this past week as he scored three touchdowns against his old school to help the Porters pull away for a big 42-27 victory over host Bolingbrook on Friday, Oct. 13, in a SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division battle.

With the win, Lockport (5-3, 2-3) almost assuredly clinched a playoff berth for the third straight season.

Bolingbrook sophomore quarterback Jonas Williams threw for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns. But it wasn't enough to prevent the fourth straight loss for the Raiders (3-5, 1-2).

Since 1992, a span of 30 years, since there were no playoffs in the 2020-21 school year, the Raiders have made the playoffs 29 times. Only missing out with a 4-5 record in 2016. The loss not only likely eliminated the 'Brook from the postseason, but guaranteed only the second losing season for the program since going 3-6 in 1981.

Kemp, who was at Bolingbrook for three seasons liked what he saw with the Porters' commitment to the run when the teams played each other last year. So he transferred.

"Coming in, I just treated it as another game," Kemp said. "But yes, it means a lot. It's my old team and it's great to come here and get a win. 

"I have a lot of respect for those (Bolingbrook) guys. But I came to Lockport for an opportunity. This secures the postseason for us and that feels great."

It's the fourth straight victory for Lockport over the Raiders and the last time they will meet in a SWSC Blue game. The teams were longtime conference rivals starting in the mid-70s in the old Illini 8 Conference. Bolingbrook is moving to the Southwest Prairie Conference next season.  

The last two games between the teams were both decided by a point, with Lockport winning 14-13 in overtime in 2021 en route to winning the Class 8A State Championship and then rallying for two touchdowns in the final 1:28 of the game to stun the Raiders 34-33 last year.  

This one looked like it could be decided by a point too as the game was tied 21-21 late in the third quarter. The Raiders attempted a 29-yard field goal with 1:44 left in the third quarter but the snap was poor and the kick by junior Saul Malacara was blocked by the Lockport line.

After getting one first down, the Porters had to punt. But senior Nate Blazewski boomed a 59-yard punt that was downed at the five.

With the rain, which had held off for the first three quarters, starting to fall, Williams had the ball slip out of his hands on the first snap from scrimmage. With the ball rolling around, Lockport junior defensive end Kevin Hippner had an assist from a teammate and was able to coral the ball in the end zone for a touchdown with 10:36 left in the game.

"It was a bad snap and I just took that opportunity and jumped on it," Hippner said. "Actually it was on the ground and (junior linebacker) John Sherrod knocked it to me, so it was a team effort. I bobbled it a bit but got on it.

"It was my first ever defensive touchdown and it felt great. We knew we had to come out and get the win for the playoffs and we got it."

Sherrod was big throughout the game and had a pair of sacks. He and the Lockport defense then forced a punt and senior quarterback Drew Gallagher (14 carries for 101 yards, 5-of-8 passing for 99 yards) scored on a 45-yard TD jaunt for a 35-21 lead with 7:07 remaining.

"Our play action led to a step ahead on the defense and it got us very open when needed," Gallagher said. "Our running backs were getting a lot of linebacker attention and that opens a lot up for me which is great. On my touchdown, six box players were looking at Jordan and he actually got hit on it in the backfield. He and I play off each other very well in the read option and it really expands our running game."

Maison Glover, a junior defensive back, then grabbed an interception. That set up Kemp's final touchdown, this one a 33-yard run that made it 42-21 with 6:40 to play in the game. Kemp finished with 14 carries for 98 yards. His best play of the game didn't count, however. He returned the opening kickoff of the second half 98 yards for a touchdown. But it was called back for an illegal block in the back.  

"Jordan earned it," Lockport coach George Czart said of Kemp, who leads the team with 62 carries for 523 yards (8.4-yard ave.) and eight TDs "He came here and we didn't promise him anything. He's shown what he's meant to us."

Williams, who finished 25-of-44 for 384 yards, got Bolingbrook on the board first. He capped the opening drive of the game with a 30-yard touchdown strike to sophomore Adrian Jones. The Porters answered right back with a 14-play, 73-yard drive, with all of them running plays, and Kemp barrelled in from the two to tie it at 7-7 on the first play of the second quarter.

In all, Lockport ran the ball 42 times for 260 yards and only attempted eight passes, finishing with 359 total yards. Senior wide receiver Josh Ahrens had four catches for 90 yards, including a 57-yard reception on the first Porter pass of the night in the second quarter. 

"It was great to see Jordan have the game he had," Gallagher said of Kemp. "You know he's just the kind of guy that consistently has these amazing games where it's not even surprising to us anymore. We were obviously very run-heavy all game but our receivers caught the ball when needed. Josh Ahrens had four huge catches.

"The win was huge, not just for making playoffs but now we have a lot of momentum moving forward after a handled win over a good team."

Senior running back Aidan Preciado (7 carries for 48 yards) plowed in from seven yards out to give Lockport the lead, with 2:46 left in the first half. The Raiders answered right back with Williams connecting with junior wide receiver Chico Thomas (8 catches for 162 yards) on a 54-yard TD pass with 1:49 left in the second quarter to tie the score at 14-14.

But Bolingbrook left too much time and the Porters took advantage as Kemp scampered in from the two with only 2.6 seconds to play in the half. That made it 21-14 and that was the halftime score.

Just over four minutes into the third quarter, Williams connected with senior Kyan Berry-Johnson from five yards out to tie the game at 21-21. Although the extra point was actually missed off the left upright. But the officiating crew, which had an uneven game, didn't see it. 

The same combo came through again in the final seconds of the game as Johnson, who had seven catches for 131 yards and two TDs, caught a 44-yard TD with just 11.5 seconds to play. But junior defensive back Graydon Czako blocked the extra point. 

"He's a good player," Czart said of Williams. "And Kyan Berry-Johnson is going to Wisconsin and he made some outstanding catches, even one-handed."

Czart, a 1980 Bolingbrook graduate, always appreciates good play. His high school coach, Phil Acton, who recently had the football field named after himself and John Ivlow, was in attendance. Czart also appreciates that, with an opportunity to get a playoff berth, the Porters came through. 

"It's big," Cazart said of clinching the playoffs. "Now we can stay focused on the final week of the regular season with less pressure. I'm happy."

Lockport At Bolingbrook Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

Bolingbrook High School has been in existence for nearly 50 years.

For many of the years since opening in the fall of 1974, Bolingbrook has been in the same conference as Lockport Township.

But this week's football game on Friday night between the Porters and host Bolingbrook at 7 p.m. will be the final time the teams meet in a SouthWest Suburban Conference clash. 

This is somewhat sad for Lockport football coach George Czart, who graduated from Bolingbrook in 1980 and was a standout linebacker on the football team.

"It's a different atmosphere," Czart said of playing Bolingbrook, which moved into a new high school building in the fall of 2004. "But the fight song is still the same and I still know all the words. 

"It's always good competition and a good rivalry over the years when Lockport and Bolingbrook play. So yes, we will miss that."

Bolingbrook recently named its football field in honor of longtime coaches Phil Acton and John Ivlow. They combined to coach the Raiders for 45 seasons, going 325-145 in that span, with a Class 5A State Runner-Up finish in 1993, and a Class 8A State Championship in 2011. 

The Raiders will join the Southwest Prairie Conference next year. It was just announced that Lockport will be in the newly formed conference, which combines the SouthWest Suburban and the DuPage Valley. 

In 2024, the nine football teams in the SWSC will merge with the six from the DVC -- DeKalb, Metea Valley, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, and Waubonsie Valley -- into a conference with three divisions of five.

The conference will have Blue, Red, and Green Divisions. The Blue will feature the five teams scoring highest on the enrollment and success formula, the Red will have the next five, and the Green the bottom five.

The divisions will be reevaluated after next season. But for 2024 the Blue will include Homewood-Flossmoor, Lincoln-Way East, Lockport, Naperville North, and Neuqua Valley. The Red will have Andrew, Lincoln-Way West, Metea Valley, Naperville Central, and Sandburg. The Green will feature Bradley-Bourbonnais, DeKalb, Lincoln-Way Central, Stagg and Waubonsie Valley.

But that is next year and this is now. 

Both teams need a win this week. But the Porters got a big one last week with a 41-16 win over visiting Andrew to improve to 4-3. In that game, they ran for 379 yards, as both running back Jordan Kemp (10 carries for 132 yards, 2 TDs), and fellow senior, quarterback Drew Gallagher (9 carries for 124 yards, TD) ran for over 100 yards. 

"It was good to see our offense take charge and kudos to our offensive line," Czart said of the Andrew game. "We have four running backs that can carry the ball and Jordan stepped up. We broke a lot of tackles. 

"I thought our defense played pretty well too. We were very aggressive and attacked the ball. We laid some hits and that's what I expected at the start of the season."

At the start of the season, things looked good for Bolingbrook. The Raiders were 3-1 and scoring like crazy. But they are now 3-4 and 1-1 in the SWSC Blue. 

Since 1992, a span of 30 years, since there were no playoffs in the 2020-21 school year, the Raiders have made the playoffs 29 times. Only missing out with a 4-5 record in 2016. So a loss to Lockport would not only eliminate the 'Brook from the postseason, it would guarantee only the second losing season for the program since going 3-6 in 1981.

Which, of course, would be fine for the Porters since they would almost assuredly be in the playoffs with their fifth win. But to do that, they will have to slow down Bolingbrook sophomore quarterback Jonas Williams, who can be very explosive. 

In a 51-49 Week No. 3 home loss to Naperville North, Williams threw for 355 yards and six scores. In a 38-28 Week No. 5 loss at Lincoln-Way West, Williams was 20 of 28 for 336 yards and four touchdowns. Senior receiver Kyan Berry-Johnson caught 14 passes for 241 yards and two TDs, while junior receiver Chio Thomas had three catches for 93 yards and two scores.

"With Bolingbrook, I see speed and talent," Czart said. "They run the ball and especially throw the ball. They have good receivers and all you have to do is look at the scores of their games to see what they can do."

The Raiders have scored at least 21 points in six of their seven games, including 39 or more in their first three. After seven weeks, they have scored 212 points but also given up 210. 

"My concern is that we've given up points too," said Crazt, who saw his team give up 109 points in three straight losses. "They have big play capability, so we need to have a good offensive output also and get some rushing yards to control the ball.

"But it could be a game where you hope your offense can outscore their offense."

But if Lockport can buckle down on defense, like it did last week, this would be the fourth straight victory over the Raiders. The last two were both by a point, 14-13 in overtime in 2021, and 34-33 last year.   

"It's just exciting to keep playing," Czart said. "That fall feeling is here and the playoffs are around the corner. We're working hard to get there."

Andrew At Lockport Football

By Randy Whalen

After losing three straight games, the Lockport Township football team went back to basics.

The Porters then went out and ran away with a victory.


Jodan Kemp scored a pair of second-half touchdowns as the Porters ran for 379 yards and barreled over Andrew 41-16 in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover on Friday, Oct. 6, at Lockport.

Kemp didn't touch the ball until the second half. When he did, the senior running back was explosive as he had 10 carries for 132 yards and the two touchdowns.

"It was huge," Kemp said of the victory. "We didn't feel like we should have lost three straight so it was nice to come out here and get a W."

It sure was. Especially since it puts Lockport (4-3) a victory away from qualifying for the playoffs for the third straight season. The Thunderbolts (3-4), which defeated the Porters 28-27 in double overtime in the final regular season game last year and then won an opening-round Class 8A playoff game, will have to win their final two games to qualify again this season.

Leading 17-3 at halftime, the Porters who never punted in the game, were looking to add to that when they got the ball to open the third quarter. But they fumbled on the first play from scrimmage and junior Jake Monahan recovered at the Lockport 22. 

Junior Brady Tanquilut (11 carries for 45 yards) took it in from seven yards out two plays later. The snap on the extra point was bobbled but that still made it 17-9 less than a minute into the second half. 

Two weeks prior to that, Lockport saw a 24-12 halftime lead slip away in a 38-32 loss at Bradley-Bourbonnais. But thanks to Kemp, that wouldn't happen this time. 

"We didn't let that happen," Lockport coach George Czart said of a possible T-Bolts comeback. "It was really important to show that we're a good team and get that confidence back."

That confidence came as Kemp, a senior running back who transferred from Bolingbrook this past summer, carried the first five times for 44 yards in a nine-play, 89-yard drive. He capped it off with a 20-yard touchdown burst to extend the lead to 24-9 midway through the third quarter.

"It's just how it goes," Kemp said of not getting any carries until the second half. "Coach trusts all of us running backs plus (senior quarterback) Drew Gallagher to run the ball. In the first half, the linebackers were cutting in on me and that left Drew open to run. 

"The offensive line does great and made it easy. Once I get the ball and get in the mode, I have some great vision."

The offensive line got a boost with the return of senior Charlie Priovolos, who had missed most of the season with an injury but was back at starting left tackle. Twins Christos Alexandros at left guard, and Nici Alexandros at center, along with fellow senior Connor McDowell at right tackle, and junior Connor Cronin at right guard, plus Dallas Gorski at tight end, round out the offensive line.

The T-Bolts stayed in the game as junior quarterback Drew Silva (14 carries for 31 yards, TD, 5-for-9 passing, 57 yards, interception) scored from a yard out on a fourth-and-goal play with 30.5 seconds left in the third quarter to make it 24-16.

Lockport came right back with a 77-yard drive that stalled at the three. But senior Nate Blazewski boomed his second field goal of the game, from 20 yards out, and the lead was back up to 27-16. Then senior defensive back Danny Stevens, who had a nice all-around game, had an interception. 

"I'm really glad for Danny," Crazt said. "He broke his leg last year in the Andrew game. Then (on Friday) he laid the lumber. He had an interception and nearly had another one."

That set the Porters up at the Andrew 45. On third-and-one, Kemp galloped around the right side for a 36-yard touchdown to cap his night and make it 34-16 with 3:38 to play.

"We've been rotating running backs and when you have kids that work hard and make plays, you have to reward them," Czart said. "Jordan runs hard and runs over people. You always see him going forward.

"I like that he runs low and hard. He's had to earn it and he's accepted that challenge."

After the T-Bolts turned the ball over on downs, Lockport capped the scoring in the final minute when senior tight end Chase Creed rumbled in from 10 yards out for a touchdown.

Also coming up big on defense, as the Porters give up their second-lowest point total of the season were junior linebackers Payton Roberson and John Sherrod, along with senior linebacker Jameson Clark, who Czart says "just quietly does his job."

Andrew kept the ball for nearly seven minutes to start the game but was stopped a yard short of a first down on a fourth-and-three play at the Lockport 30. That led to a seven-play, 70-yard drive that was capped off by senior Elijah Beltran barreling in from a yard out with 1:44 left in the first quarter. 

Junior Luke Herzic answered with a 37-yard field goal for the T-Bolts. But Gallagher garnered a 16-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter, and Blazewski booted a 26-yard field goal in the waning seconds of the first half as Lockport led 17-3 at intermission. 

Gallagher finished with nine carries for 124 yards and the TD. He was also 7-of-9 passing for 48 yards. Plus, for the first time all season, he played defensive back and had some solo tackles.

"It's two different mindsets but I really looked forward to playing defense," Gallagher said. "I was playing defensive back the last couple games of last year. 

"Jordan (Kemp) doesn't go down easy. He's strong and hits the hole like no other. It was a little hard when we fumbled to open the second half. The coaches weren't happy but we came back and made it work. It's nice to get a win."

Andrew At Lockport Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

With three weeks left in the regular season, they are all playoff games from here on out.

Not only for the Lockport Township football team but also for its opponents.

That's because, not only do the Porters have a 3-3 record at this point, all three of their remaining opponents have the same record.

So for each of them, the math is simple. Win two of the last three games and they are most likely in the postseason with five victories.

"I think this is what you call a must-win for us," Lockport coach George Czart said. 

The first of those opponents is Andrew in a Southwest Suburban Conference crossover at home at 6:30 this Friday. The Thunderbolts and Lockport have tangled a time or two over the years, including a 47-19 Porter victory in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs in 1998.

The teams faced each other in the final regular season game last year. There, Andrew pulled out a 28-27 double overtime victory in Tinley Park. Thus, the T-Bolts finished with a 6-3 record and got a better matchup in the Class 8A playoffs. They defeated host Huntley 28-18 in the first round before losing the next week and finishing 7-4 on the season.   

Lockport traveled to Glenbard West and lost 38-7 in the opening 8A playoff game. So every win is important and the push to qualify for the postseason starts now.

"They are like they were last year, Czart said of the T-Bolts. "They run the ball and control the clock. We have to get off the field on defense. That's been a recurring problem for us. They have a nice, big offensive line and we have to be disciplined on defense.

"Their coach (Adam Lewandowski) does a good job with them."

After two straight losing seasons, Lewandowski took over as coach in 2016. The next season, he had Andrew in the playoffs and for the first of three straight seasons. The T-Bolts missed the playoffs in 2021 but were back last fall.

If score comparisons work, this week's game should be close and high-scoring. Two weeks ago, Lockport let a 24-12 halftime lead slip away and lost 38-32 at Bradley-Bourbonnais. Last week, Andrew led 24-21 at Bradley-Bourbonnais at halftime thanks to a 26-yard field goal by junior Luke Herzic. 

Andrew runs a triple-option offense. After the Boilermakers retook the lead, quarterback Drew Silvia found fellow junior Alexander Pavelka in busted coverage for a 65-yarder touchdown to put the T-Bolts back ahead 31-28.

But Bradley-Bourbonnais scored the final two touchdowns and won 42-31.

The week before, Andrew lost 49-7 at home to Lincoln-Way East. The T-Bolts' lone score was on a school record-breaking 103-yard pick-six by senior cornerback Jack LoConte. 

"We are playing against a very good team but we're not playing Lincoln-Way East again this week," Czart said. "We've got to be able to move the ball and put points up there."

After numerous close games this season, Lockport barely had 100 yards in offense and the defense gave up a season-high 41 points in a home shutout loss to Lincoln-Way East last week.

"We had some times that we held them to a field goal or a field goal attempt," Czart said of the Porters defense last week. "But we still gave up too many big plays. We had a lot of our guys doing what they were asked to do but (the Griffins) executed on critical downs."

Despite the lopsided score last week, Czart knows this team can come back this week.

"I think the kids will bounce back," he said. "They've always battled back and I don't expect anything different this week.

"When it comes to a playoff game matchup, we can't afford another loss. We have to get a higher seed so that we're not playing a Lincoln-Way East type of team in the first round."

Lincoln-Way East At Lockport Football

By Randy Whalen

Lockport Township football coach George Czart summed it up best.

"They don't make mistakes and we made a lot of them," Czart said as he glanced at the scoreboard following his teams game last Friday. "That's what happens, right there, 41-0."

Yes, the final score was, Lincoln-Way East 41, Lockport 0 before a packed house Homecoming crowd on Friday, Sept. 29 in a SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division matchup. 

With their third straight loss, the Porters (3-3, 0-2) will have to win two of their last three games to qualify for the postseason for the third straight year. The last time Lockport was shutout was in a 40-0 home loss to Homewood-Flossmoor on Sept. 20, 2019.  

Lincoln-Way East (6-0, 1-0) has already qualified for the postseason for the 22nd straight season. The Griffins are 74-5 since 2017 with a pair of Class 8A state titles (2017, 2019) and a Class 8A runner-up finish in the last season. If they win the SWSC Blue, it will be the seventh straight season they have won or tied for the conference crown. They shared it with Lockport in 2021.

Dating back to a 14-6 playoff loss in 2004, this was the 20th straight time that Lincoln-Way East has defeated the Porters.

"Their kids have been there before and they don't make mistakes," Czart said of the Griffins. "We have good players out there, but it's not showing. We are making mistakes before the plays even start."

The game didn't start well for Lockport. On his first pass, quarterback Drew Gallagher fired a nice 11-yard completion to fellow senior Tanner Benaitis. But his next pass was intercepted by senior defensive back Jashawn Echols, who returned it nine yards to the Lockport 26.

Two plays later, senior running back Nuri Muhammad (8 carries for 124 yards) scored the first of his two touchdowns on a nine-yard run. 

"It wasn't them," Gallagher said of the Griffins. "We just weren't executing. We came in scared and had a bad game." 

But Gallagher admitted that Lincoln-Way East just does things right.

"They don't make mistakes," he said. They're always in the right spot."

The Griffins are. But they missed a 47-yard field goal wide left late in the first quarter. Then, in the opening minute of the second quarter, they went to attempt a 44-yard field goal, but the snap was mishandled and Lockport took over at its own 34.

But the Porters, who were limited to 103 total yards, couldn't move the ball and had four first downs in the first half.

In the meantime, Muhammad scored again on an 18-yard TD run, and senior kicker RJ Mensching converted on field goals of 42 and 27 yards to close out the first half with a 20-0 lead.

Junior running back Zion Gist (17 carries for 96 yards) galloped in from 18 yards out with 8:50 left in the third quarter. Thanks to a nice 35-yard pass from Gallagher (7-of-16, 2 interceptions, 76 yards) to senior wide receiver Cole Holloway (2 catches for 38 yards) the Porters moved to a first down at the Lincoln-Way East 15. But they stalled at the 10 and the Griffins took over midway through the third quarter.

"It was just mental errors out there," Gallagher said. "Our mistakes brought us down. We made some plays but we couldn't come back from those errors."

On third-and-12 from the eight, senior quarterback Braden Tischer (9-of-17 for 260 yards, 2 TDs) connected with senior wide receiver DJ Richardson (3 catches for 130 yards) for a 92-yard touchdown strike. 

Following an interception by junior defensive back DJ Weathers, Tischer capped the scoring on an 80-yard TD strike to senior wide receiver Ryan Usher (3 catches for 112 yards) with 11:06 to play in the game.

There was a positive for the Porters on defense. That was the play of junior linebacker Payton Roberson, who has been everywhere on defense this season. He had a pair of sacks of 12 yards in the first quarter and seven yards in the third quarter, of Tischer. 

"They just work hard and have a good team but we knew what they were going to do," Roberson said of the Griffins. "We have the players to win this game. I think we are just lacking a love for football right now.

"If we don't work as hard, it's going to show. We're a great team. We just have to regroup starting now. We just have to get back to practice and play like the type of team that we can be."

Czart appreciates the play of Roberson and might even make a position change on defense.

"Payton made plays for us and is a heck of a player," Czart said. "Drew (Gallagher) is a good football player too. We want him on the field as much as possible. So we might also play him some at safety."

No matter what, the Porters have to win two of the last three to make the playoffs. So that starts this week.

"We have to keep on working," Czart said. "We have to get better, we have to stay positive."

Lincoln-Way East At Lockport Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

After three straight games that have gone down to the final seconds, the Lockport Township football team hopes its in the same position this week. 

No, not because the Porters want to continue to keep their fans on the edge of their seat. But because if the game goes down to the wire again it would be a good thing since this week's opponent is one of the top teams in the state. 

That's Lincoln-Way East, which is currently ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press Class 8A rankings and No. 4 overall in the state by MaxPreps. 

"Absolutely they are a top team," Lockport coach George Czart said of the Griffins. "There is no escaping it. All you have to do is look at the history. They have a machine.

"They have great kids on the team and I've been a part of that district (as the head football coach at Lincoln-Way North between 2008-15) before. They have a great mix of kids, coaches, and success there and that's what we are trying to build here. I've got some of those old Lincoln-Way North kids on my staff here. It shows that everyone puts in the leadership and goes in the same direction."

This is the first SouthWest Suburban Blue game for Lincoln-Way East (5-0, 0-0). The Griffins have won or shared the league title 14 times since the league was formed in 2005. Last year was their sixth straight conference championship including tying the Porters in 2021. 

Also, to put it in perspective, Lockport went 5-5 last season in making the playoffs. Since 2017, the Griffins have gone 73-5, including winning Class 8A state titles in 2017 and 2019 and finishing second last season. They have made the postseason every season since being their own school in 2001, have a current record of 224-43, have captured three Class 8A State Championships (2005, 2017, 2019), and finished second twice (2012 in Class 7A, 2022 in Class 8A). 

The Lincoln-Way East winning percentage is .839, easily the best in state history with teams that have played 250 games or more. That includes a .870 winning percentage (20-3) over the Porters with a 19-game winning streak, which started with a 14-6 victory in the opening round of the 2004 Class 8A playoffs. The Griffins handed Lockport its only loss in the 2021 Class 8A championship season, winning 12-10 on Oct. 15 in Lockport.

In last week's 49-7 win over host Andrew, Lincoln-Way East scored early and often.  

Senior Nuri Muhammad had 18 carries for 170 yards and five touchdowns, including two in the first quarter. Zion Gist added 62 yards on nine carries and a first quarter touchdown for a 21-0 lead. While fellow junior, backup quarterback Jacob Ritter threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Preston Simard.

Starting quarterback, senior, Braden Tischer completed 7-of-13 passes for 144 yards with two interceptions for Lincoln-Way East.

The Griffins held Andrew to 180 total yards. Juniors Mike Jemilo, Dylan Weathers, and Charlie Cosich had interceptions.

Lockport (3-2, 0-1) will have to shore up its defense in order to hang in the game. Last week the Porters surrendered 26 second-half points in a 38-32 loss at Bradley-Bourbonnais.

"We have to fix our defense," Czart said. "We just have to play better. We are having a hard time getting off the field on third down. We have to make a play. We have faced some really good quarterbacks and give them credit. But we have good players and have to get it fixed."

The offense scored at least 28 points for the fourth straight week as quarterback Drew Gallagher (16-of-25 for 142 yards) threw a pair of touchdown passes, including one to fellow senior Cole Holloway with 1:02 remaining. The pair connected on a two-point conversion to tie the game at 32-32. 

Gallagher and senior Jordan Kemp (11 carries for 86 yards) also had rushing touchdowns. So the recent two-game skid isn't because of a lack of attitude or effort. 

"I liked our guys sticking together," Czart said. "We knew that every game was tough this year. We have to get the kids to have clear thoughts and just play relaxed. As the coach, I have to be responsible for that. We've got to find that switch."

This week's game is also something else. It's Homecoming and starts a stretch where three of the final four games are at home.

"We always have great crowds at our stadium," Czart said of the Homecoming environment. "We always have a big crowd and that will be good to see.

"The face of Porter Nation is strong. We have to do our part to make them proud on the field."

Lockport At Bradley-Bourbonnais Football

By Randy Whalen

Drew Gallagher summed it up well.

"This is our third game in a row like this," The Lockport Township senior quarterback said. "We are pretty natural at it."

Yes, the Porters are as their third straight game came down to the final seconds. 

But unfortunately, this was the second straight loss. 

Lockport let a 12-point halftime lead slip away as Bradley-Bourbonnais scored 26 second-half points and defeated the Porters 38-32 in an exciting SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover on Friday in Bradley.

Ethan Kohl found fellow senior Luke Allen on a 31-yard touchdown pass on the left side with just 14.9 seconds remaining for the game-winning score. The Porters had tied it up when Gallagher hit senior Cole Holloway on a 3-yard touchdown pass. The same combo connected on the 2-point conversion pass and the score was knotted at 32-32 with 1:02 remaining.

It was the second straight loss for Lockport (3-2). The defending SWSC Red champion Boilermakers (4-1) showed that they are still a team to deal with.

"When we tied the game I felt really confident," Gallagher said. "I knew we could get the touchdown. We have guys that are clutch and can do that."

They do and that was the good news.

"Our kids never gave up and Drew had a nice game throwing the ball," Lockport coch George Czart said. "That's a positive sign but it came down to the last minute and we didn't have an answer."

Yes, that was the bad news, and knowing that the Boilermakers could move the ball, Czart was still concerned at halftime. 

"I didn't feel good," Czart said. "I knew they'd get the ball to start the second half and we didn't have an answer for them."

To open the second half, the Porter offense had three straight three-and-outs. But after the defense forced a Bradley-Bourbonnais punt for only the second time in the game, the offense drove 81 yards for the tying touchdown. Gallagher, who finished 16-of-25 for 142 yards with two passing touchdowns and one running touchdown, completed six straight passes at the end of the drive for 59 yards.

But the minute of time proved to be too much to give the Boilermakers. Kohl, who finished 27-of-37 for 303 yards and had all three of his touchdown passes in the second half.

"We wanted it bad," Kohl said. "We were down two touchdowns at halftime but after last year (a 23-22 Lockport victory in Bradley) we really wanted to come back. After Lockport scored my quarterback coach Matt Fox said, 'We've got them right where we want them.' I love him and have confidence in our guys. Tyran Bender made a great catch and run (for a 20-yard gain) on the play before the touchdown.

"After scoring three points ( in a 27-3 loss at Lincoln-Way East) last week, to come out here and put up 38 against a good team like Lockport is great. I'm really proud of the guys and this is a big confidence booster."

The Porters blocked the extra point following the final touchdown. That gave them a glimmer of hope but they only had two plays from scrimmage, reaching midfield as time ran out. 

Lockport led 24-12 at halftime. But the Boilermakers got the ball to start the third quarter and went on a 16-play march. They converted a pair of fourth downs, including one on a fourth and three play on their own 38. Kohl capped it with a 3-yard TD toss to Allen on a fourth-and-goal play.

But a key sequence happened on the next Porter possession. They had a fourth-and-one at their own 43 and lined up like they were going to go for it. But instead, Gallagher dropped back and tried to do a pooch punt. But it was blocked and recovered at the Lockport 27. 

Eight plays later, Kohl bounced off a tackle at the three and scored on a 7-yard TD run. The 2-point conversion was missed but Bradley-Bourbonnais led 25-24 with 33.4 seconds left in the third quarter. 

"I guess I wasn't backed up far enough," Gallagher said of the punt being blocked. "I will have to look at the film but I just know that 80 percent of the time if a team blocks a punt, they win the game." 

That statistic proved to be correct.

"We didn't protect it well," Czart said of the pooch punt. "I thought we could change field position but that was a big turning point."

The Porters then went three-and-out for the third consecutive time. Then, with 7:53 to play, Kohl hit his cousin, sophomore fullback Calvin Kohl with a 66-yard touchdown pass that made it 32-24. Still, Lockport battled back to tie it.

Lockport scored on its opening touchdown drive as Gallagher raced in from 6 yards out with 5:36 left in the first quarter. But the Boilermakers answered right back as Bender returned the kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. But the extra point was botched, leaving the score at 7-6.

With 11:47 left in the second quarter, senior Nate Blazewski drilled a 45-yard field goal for a 10-6 Lockport lead. Junior Kenvontae Sutton came back and scored for a yard out but the extra point was missed off the left upright, leaving Bradley-Bourbonnais ahead 12-10 midway through the second quarter.

Following a 70-yard kickoff return by senior Elijah Beltran, Gallagher found senior Josh Ahrens on a 21-yard TD pass and the Porters led 17-10 with 4:21 left in the second quarter,

After the Porter defense forced a rare three-and-out, senior Jordan Kemp (11 carries for 86 yards) jolted through the line for a 55-yard touchdown run to make it 24-12 with 2:52 left in the first half. 

At the end of the first half, it appeared that Boilermaker junior kicker Tyler Lamie had made a 29-yard field goal. But the officials conferred and ruled it no good to the left, leaving the margin at 12 at halftime.

But the Porters' offense and defense fell short in the second half.

"Colton Benaitis played well and was all over the place for us," Czart said of the sophomore defensive back. "We've got some young guys on defense and they have to play with a little more confidence."

After giving up 33 points in the first 10 quarters of the season, the Porter defense has surrendered 89 points in the past 10 quarters. But it's not just the defense. With a lead, the offense has to continue to do its part too.

"We have to cut down on our punts," Gallagher said. "We can't be having three a game. We have to have that number at one and we have to play a whole  game."

Lockport At Bradley-Bourbonnais Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

Almost lost in the disappointment of the first football loss for Lockport Township this season was a very positive thing. 

The Porters nearly won the game. 

But Nate Blazewski had his 45-yard field goal attempt blocked in the waning seconds. If the senior makes it, which he's very capable of doing, we are talking about an epic Lockport win. 

Instead, Sandburg held on for a 30-28 Homecoming victory before a huge crowd on Friday, Sept. 15 in the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blus Division opener for both teams in Orland Park.  

"Even though it came down to a kick at the end, there were a lot of positives," Lockport coach George Czart said. "It was a positive that we came back in the game and gave ourselves an opportunity to win.

"Our kids tried their best. Sandburg had two long passes on us. One was a breakdown in coverage and the other one our defensive back mistimed his jump and it went for a TD. But give (the Eagles) credit. Their quarterback (junior Anthony Shelton) really made a difference for them and their offense."

Another positive for the Porters was their rushing game. Seniors Drew Gallagher (11 carries for 82 yards), Jordan Kemp (9 carries for 112 yards, 2 TDs of 71 and 7 yards), and Elijah Beltran (8 carries for 52 yards, TD of 2 yards) combined for nearly all of Lockport's 247 yards rushing yards.

They ran behind the line of senior twins Christos and Nicolas Alexandros, junior Connor Cronin, along with seniors Nate McCurrie, and Connor McDowell.

"It's been sweet to watch Jordan run," Czart said of Kemp, a transfer from Bolingbrook. "He's been patient and leads us in rushing average-wise (24 carries for 199 yards for 8.3 yards per carry)."  

A running game would be big for this week for the Porters. That's because they will face another potent offense as they hit the road for an SWSC crossover at Bradley-Bourbonnais.

For the first time, all season the Boilermakers (3-1) offense was held in check in a 27-3 loss to Lincoln-Way East last Friday in Frankfort. They had entered the game scoring 147 points in their first three easy wins. 

"They are a talented team," Czart said of the Boilermakers. "They are the same as in the past. They have a nice, big quarterback, good receivers, and a couple of tailbacks in there. 

"They also have a nice, big offensive line. We have to line up right against them."

In the loss last week, Bradley-Bourbonnais quarterback Ethan Kohl went 15-of-33 for 169 yards and two interceptions. Fellow senior Marquise Aaron totaled 15 carries for 31 rushing yards on the ground.

But the Boilermakers were able to hang in the game thanks to their defense. Returning SWSC Red Division Player of the Year, senior linebacker AJ Mancilla stuffed a fourth-and-goal play at the two. Later sophomore defensive back LyZale Edmon had a big interception in the end zone to keep the game tied at 3-3 midway through the second quarter.

It was 10-3 at halftime and the Griffins (4-0) did what they have so often, just wear a team down in the second half. 

It's the second straight season that the Porters have taken the long trip to Bradley-Bourbonnais. Last year, they rallied for a 23-22 victory to improve to 3-0. 

After starting 3-0 again this season, Lockport looked on top of the world. But things can change quickly and, especially after a loss, this game is really important to the Porters.

"We have to be ready for this game," Czart said. "The last game is over and we can't look to future games. Last year we came away with a 23-22 victory. This is probably going to be another close one. So we have to have our total focus on Bradley-Bourbonnais."

Lockport At Sandburg Football

By Randy Whalen

Hang on to your hats, Porter Nation. It's pretty apparent that it's going to be a wild football season. 

For the second straight week, The Lockport Township football team had a game that was decided on a kick in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

But this time the Porters came up short. 

Declan Glynn got a hand on a potential game-winning field goal attempt and Sandburg held on for a thrilling 30-28 victory over Lockport in the SouthWest Suburban Conference opener for both teams before a Homecoming crowd on Friday night, Sept. 15 in Orland Park.

Anthony Shelton threw for 300 yards and had a pair of big touchdown passes as the Eagles improved to 3-1, 1-0. Lockport (3-1, 0-1), which saw Nate Blazewski boot a 49-yard field goal with under a second left in regulation to tie the game and then go onto a 31-24 overtime victory over Naperville Central last week, fell short this time.

"It was very frustrating getting blocked, but it happens," Blazewski said. "This loss will sting and stick in everyone's memory for a while."

It will and on the other side, it was a big win for the Eagles, who lost their Homecoming game 42-0 to Lockport two years ago but won their final four regular season games to qualify for the playoffs. 

"This means a lot," Shelton said. "It was the first conference game and there were a lot of people doubting us. But we got a big win. I had to be a gunslinger out there and we couldn't have done it without the big boys on our line."

He also couldn't have done it without a bunch of other underclassmen too. Glynn, a junior linebacker, got a hand on a potential game-winning field goal attempt. Drew Drzonek came up from the sophomore team and in his first varsity game, was 3-for-3 on field goals. 

Plus, junior wide receiver Charlie Snoreck had 11 receptions for 171 yards and a TD, sophomore Luke Basiorka had 31 carries for 166 yards, and freshman Quinn Durkin scored from the two for a 23-14 lead midway through the third quarter. 

"I think this was our barometer," Sandburg coach Troy McAllister said. "Lockport is a really good, physical team and this win is a credit to what we are doing.

"Also, Anthony has the ability to slow the game down and make the big play."

Shelton started to show that almost exactly one year earlier. He finished with 195 yards, completing 18-of-22 passes, with a touchdown pass and a touchdown run as the Eagles waltzed into Lockport and came away with a 34-3 win on Sept. 23, 2022, to ruin the Porters Homecoming. 

This year he was 18-of-27 for 300 yards and had a pair of touchdown passes. In a 41-34 Week No. 3 win over host DeKalb, Shelton finished 22-of-28 passing for 325 yards and five touchdowns, plus ran for a sixth.

"Last year was a spark for me and we came out of nowhere," Shelton said of his initial performance in the Eagles' first win nearly a year ago. "It gave me confidence.

"Drew (Drzonek) came up huge for us too. We relied on him and he delivered. We just have to keep this momentum going. It's a huge confidence builder for us."

Shelton also credited his offensive line of junior Matt Marek at left tackle, senior Zach Barrett at left guard, junior Luke Czerwinski at center, senior Judeh Ali at right guard, and senior Ahmad Kamel at right tackle. 

With 9:22 to play in the game, Shelton connected with senior Sean Weisberger (3 receptions for 111 yards) on a 69-yard TD pass to give Sandburg a 30-21 lead. 

But back came the Porters as senior running back Jordan Kemp  (9 carries for 112 yards) scored his second touchdown on a 7-yard run with 4:48 remaining. 

"Doing well felt like more of a relief to me than anything," said Kemp, who transferred from Bolingbrook before this season. "I appreciate my coaches for trusting me. Being a transfer I’ve always known what I was capable of. I felt like I left a lot out there in this game.

"I have full confidence in the team, and that we will bounce back. (Against Bradley-Bourbonnais) as a team, we will be more physical and clean up any mental errors of this game."

After giving up one first down, the Porter defense held and they got the ball back at their own 35 with 2:14 to play. A pair of pass completions from senior quarterback Drew Gallagher (5-of-13 for 81 yards, 11 carries for 82 yards) of 19 and 8 yards, helped get Lockport into field goal range at the Eagle 28. 

"We were connecting very well on our short and medium passes we just couldn't get our deeper balls going due to penalties, pressure from the D-line, and just overall good defensive back play," Gallagher said. "I left the field on our last drive with 100 percent confidence in Nate. They just got to him faster than he could kick it." 

With the clock winding down, Blazewski, a senior who has hit from 51 yards this season and made the pressure 49-yard field goal the week before, lined up to try what he hoped would be a game-winning 45-yard kick. 

But Sandburg called a time out with seven seconds to play, regrouped and Glynn raced in off the edge to get a hand on it and the ball fluttered only about 20 yards. The Eagles then took over with two seconds to play, ran out the clock, and celebrated a big win. 

"Give Sandburg credit," Lockport coach George Czart said. "They had two big pass plays on us and that's been our Achilles' heel. We have a young secondary and we had guys come up on those long passes and the receivers slipped behind them. 

"We also had issues on special teams with two missed field goals and they recovered an onside kick (in the final minute of the first quarter). Still, we kept scoring and gave ourselves a chance to win and I was happy with that."

The game started well enough for Lockport as senior running back Elijah Beltran (8 carries for 52 yards) scored from two yards out to cap the game's opening 62-yard drive. 

Then both teams made big plays as Shelton found Snoreck for the 74-yard TD pass to tie the game at 7-7 with 5:06 left in the first quarter. But junior Johnny Wesolowski returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards for a TD and Lockport led 14-7 with 4:52 to play in the opening quarter. 

Sandburg, however, kicked a trio of field goals from 37, 23, and 31 yards to lead 16-14 at halftime. The final field goal of 31 yards on the final play of the second quarter, came after Blazewski was wide left on a 28-yard attempt with 2:20 to play in the half. 

To make matters better for the Eagles, all the field goals were by Drzonek, who was brought up the day before to spell junior kicker Adrius Stankus and kick in his first varsity game. 

"I was prepared and just had to get the nerves out," Drzonek said. "Charlie Snoreck was my holder and he was perfect. I came up to the varsity on Thursday, got to do the team dinner, and experience the varsity vibes."

"It was awesome to get this win on Homecoming and experience a game like this, especially against Lockport."

After passing a lot, the Eagles opened the third quarter with 11 straight runs, nine in a row of those were by Basiorka, who accounted for 78 yards on the 80-yard drive. Durkin capped it by scoring from the two for a 23-14 lead with 7:17 left in the third quarter. 

With five seconds left in the third quarter, Kemp (9 carries for 112 yards) broke free for a 71-yard touchdown scamper and Lockport closed within 23-21. 

"They came out in exactly what we had planned offensively," Gallagher said. "A lot of what we planned ended up working very well. Due to their small box, we ran a lot of read options opening up my run game along with Eli and Jordan."

The Porters finished with 246 yards rushing and a trio of touchdowns. But it wasn't quite enough. Now another big game, an SWSC crossover looms against host Bradley-Bourbonnais this Friday.

"(This) week is a new week," Blazewski said. "We watched the sadness of (Friday) on film and let it settle into our veins Sunday, and come Monday we start the game plan for defeating Bradley."

Lockport At Sandburg Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

Coming off an amazingly exciting victory, the Lockport Township football team has to guard against a letdown.

That shouldn't be any problem with the next opponent being Sandburg this Friday night at 7:30 in the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division opener for both teams in Orland Park.

The Porters pulled off a 31-24 overtime victory against Naperville Central last Friday in their home opener. Nate Blazewski booted a 49-yard field goal with just .7 tenth of a second left in regulation, and Kevin Holland caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Drew Gallagher in overtime. The Lockport defense then held the Redhawks (2-1) out of the endzone and stayed undefeated.

"It was cool," Lockport coach George Czart said of the win. "That (the field goal) is something we practice and actually when we do, we have a little less time. Conley Pfeiffer did a great job on the hold, Dallas Gorski was patient on the snap, and the line stayed still for no penalty.  

"It's absolutely more fun to win those games. It will add to the plethora of memories. I wish we would have scored some more after halftime but Naperville Central is a very good defensive team."

In the first half, the Porters were a very good defensive team. Holding Naperville Central to three points and putting up 21 of their own against a team that had only allowed 13 points in its first two games.

The Lockport defense will have to be up to par for the entire game this week. That's because Sandburg can score. The Eagles (2-1) have put up 88 points so far this season. That includes 21 in their opening 42-21 loss at home to St. Rita, which held Joliet Catholic Academy to 10 points in a 20-10 win last Friday. 

Last week, Sandburg won a high-scoring game on the road, 41-34 at DeKalb.

"They can put some points on the board," Czart said. "So we have to be ready."

Lockport has to be ready for anything as the Eagles used a couple of onside kicks against DeKalb, which helped them rally from 26-13 down to 28 straight points.

In the game, quarterback Anthony Shelton finished 22-of-28 passing for 325 yards and five touchdowns, plus ran for a sixth. Fellow junior Charlie Snoreck had 12 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns and senior Ethan Highfill hauled in TD passes of 15 and 61 yards. 

"They are good and their quarterback delivers the ball well," Czart said of Shelton. "They have a nice offensive line and they do some nice things. We have to play better on defense than we did in the second half last week or we will get torched."

That's what happened last year as the Eagles waltzed into Lockport and pummeled the Porters 34-3 in an SWSC Blue Division matchup on Friday, Sept. 23. That was also Lockport's Homecoming game.

That was a complete turnaround from 2021 when the Porters who went into Orland Park in Week No. 5 jumped out to a 33-0 lead after one quarter and went on to defeat Sandburg 42-0 on Homecoming. But the Eagles turned it around with wins in their final four games to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

Last year, Sandburg was 3-6 and Lockport finished 5-5. But, to make the matchup more intriguing, this Friday's game is once again a Homecoming one.

"I won't let our guys forget last year," Czart said. "But to me, Sandburg appears to be a playoff team."

In the gauntlet that is the SWSC Blue, every game is big. Especially trying to get off to a 1-0 league record.

So once again the Porter defense, which has two sophomore starters in defensive back Colton Benaitis, who had an interception last week, and Mike Pratt on the defensive line, will have to be big.

"We have four senior starters, along with five juniors and two sophomores," Czart said of his defense. "Also, (senior) Aidan Preciado has been out at running back. But we've had other guys (seniors Elijah Beltran and Jordan Kemp, along with junior Johnny Wesolowski) step up."

Lost in the shuffle of last week was that the Porters had 28 rushes for 108 yards and a TD run by Beltran from a yard out.

"A key is to win the nonconference games," Czart said of pushing for the postseason. "We got off to a 3-0 start against some really good competition and that's big going into the conference schedule."

Naperville Central At Lockport Football

By Randy Whalen

Years from now, the Lockport Township football players will remember this one. 

That's because in the 100-plus years the Porters have played football last Friday's game and especially the ending ranks right up there with the best of them.

Nate Blezewski kicked a game-tying 49-yard field goal with under a second left in regulation. Then fellow senior Kevin Holland hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Drew Gallagher in overtime. The Porter defense held and they emerged with a 31-24 victory over a very game Naperville Central team on Friday night, Sept. 8 in a wild affair at Lockport. 

"This is a situation that I've been waiting for my whole life," Holland said. "I've been coming to Lockport games with my dad (Brian) since I was in third grade. I always wanted to have this moment."

Holland, who had six receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns, had it. He made some huge catches down the stretch, including the winning one in the right corner on the second play of overtime to give Lockport (3-0) the win. The Redhawks (2-1) had rallied from a 21-3 halftime deficit and looked like they would pull off a remarkable comeback. But the Porters stayed poised.

"We just knew we had to keep fighting," Holland said. "We knew we would find a way to win this game."   

Still, that prospect looked bleak when senior quarterback Jack Cook scored from a yard out and then found senior Logan Devick on a 2-point conversion pass with 2:45 to play in the game to give the Redhawks a 24-21 lead. Lockport then turned the ball over on downs at the Porter 24 with 2:00 left.

But, with the Porters down to two time-outs, Naperville Central elected to pass on first down and it was incomplete. To make matters worse for the Redhawks, Cook was injured on the play but he did return. Two runs netted six yards and the Porters used their time outs.

On fourth-and-four, Naperville Central went to attempt a 35-yard field goal that would have extended the lead to six. But the snap was high and fumbled. Senior kicker Logan Ellison, who had a 41-yard field goal to open the scoring in the first quarter, fell on the ball for a 15-yard loss and Lockport had life, taking over at its own 33 with 1:37 to play in regulation.

After he had dropped a pass on second down, Holland went up and made a great catch for a 29-yard gain on third-and-12 to the Redhawk 40. Then, on a third-and-13 play, Gallagher hit fellow senior Tanner Benaitis over the middle for an 11-yard gain to the 32.

"Coach (George) Czart always says to be like a goldfish, Holland said. "They have a memory of three seconds. So I had to come back and make that catch. I'm just speechless and have amazing teammates."

Then, with the clock ticking down, the Porters executed perfectly by bringing their field goal unit onto the field. Blazewski, who made a 51-yarder last week but missed from 52 and 54 yards in the first half, calmly came on and made the kick with just .7 tenth of a second to play to tie the game.

"It was just like in practice," Blezewski said. "We run the hurry up every week. The coaches trained me to be in a position like that and I succeeded. The snap (by senior Dallas Gorski) was perfect, the hold (by junior Conley Pfeiffer) was perfect and I did my job. There was great blocking from everyone on the line. They gave me the opportunity and I did my job."

So did Gallagher, who finished 19-of-28 for 228 yards and three touchdowns. 

"I was all over the place but never down on myself," Gallagher said. "I was always positive and even when we got down I was making jokes on the sideline with (backup quarterback) Conley Pfeiffer to stay loose. We always practice that field goal play on special teams, which went according to plan."

The fact that he and Holland have played together for a few years also helped.

"The one down the stretch of regulation was a nice catch," Czart said of Holland's 29-yard grab on third-and-long. "There's got to be a connection between Drew and Kevin. They have played together throughout high school and both came through."

After the TD pass to Holland, the Porter defense, which had given up three straight touchdowns in the second half, only surrendered two yards. Those came on a third down run thanks to a nice tackle by junior defensive end Kevin Hippner, and forced three incompletions, the last of which was defended by junior linebacker John Sherrod, in the overtime to complete the crazy win.  

Otherwise, Cook was doing just that in the second half. He finished 20-of-34 for 216 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He threw for 116 yards in the fourth quarter alone and had TD passes of 23 yards and 17 yards to senior wide receiver Christopher Bern (11 catches for 116 yards) in the second half. 

"That last half is all that we needed for the rest of the year," Cook said. "We figured out what we needed to do on offense and we played for each other. I haven't been playing the best all year long but me and coach had meetings and he wanted me to play like myself. I'm proud of my o-line, they were just unbelievable and I love them with all of my heart."

After the Redhawks scored with 10:04 to play in the game, they went for two points but misconnected on a pass, leaving the score at 21-16. Lockport then moved the ball 40 yards, all on runs with senior running back Jordan Kemp (9 carries for 49 yards) picking up 37 of them. But, as the Porters were going for it on fourth-and-one, they were whistled for an illegal procedure and had to punt. 

Naperville Central, which had gone three-and-out on its first third-quarter possession, then went 70 yards, with a 15-yard pass interference penalty starting it. Cook went 4-of-5 for 43 yards on the march. His 27-yard pass to senior tight end Colton Lenz got down to the four and Cook scored from a yard out two plays later. 

That capped a stretch of three straight touchdowns in less than 14 minutes for the Redhawks, who had entered the game with 20 total points scored in their first two games.

"We settled in," Gallagher said of the second half. "We started to play strategic."

The Redhawks had only allowed 13 points in winning their first two games by the scores of 14-10 and 6-3. So being up 21-3 at the half sounded good for Lockport.

"We felt we were connecting at halftime," Czart said. "We have some things to clean up but part of it is the other team."

Lockport looked unstoppable in the first half. Gallagher found Holland on a 65-yard pass down to the one. Senior running back Elijah Beltran scored from there with 1:43 left in the first quarter for a 7-3 lead. Then Gallagher found junior wide receiver Izeyah Pruitt (4 catches for 32 yards) for an 18-yard touchdown pass with 3:02 left in the second quarter. 

Following an interception by sophomore defensive back Colton Benaitis, Gallagher scrambled to his left and made a really nice throw to hit Holland with a 21-yard TD pass with 1:03 left in the half. Junior linebacker Payton Roberson added an interception in the final minute of the first half but Blazewski was short on a 54-yard attempt on the final play of the half. 

But he made it when it counted the most at the end of regulation and Lockport had an amazing win. 

"The kids did what they were coached to do," Czart said of the tying field goal. The holder kept calm and the kids didn't panic. 

"The win is one with a lot of drama and a memory that the kids will never forget. But I would have rather won by two touchdowns. We felt good at halftime but credit Naperville Central for coming back and taking it to us."

They did but in the end, thanks to confidence and poise, the Porters prevailed to open 3-0 for the third straight season. Still, they know that there's a lot of season left. 

"We have six games left," Holland said of the regular season. This does nothing for us yet. We still have something to prove."

The Blue Division of the SouthWest Suburban Conference starts this Friday at Sandburg. So while Lockport is happy to be 3-0 against a gauntlet of good teams, the upcoming ones will really decide the season.

"It's an awesome feeling," Gallagher said of the trio of wins. "But conference matters to us. That will determine if we're a great team overall, not just a good team."

1340WJOL Pigskin Preview Player of the Week - Nate Blazewski

Naperville Central At Lockport Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

There's a buzz going around town.

No, it's not the hot weather bringing out the bugs for one last summer run.

It's about the Lockport Township football team.

Playing a really difficult schedule against a pair of playoff teams from last year, the Porters are off to a 2-0 start and people are beginning to take notice that this is a pretty good football team.

Lockport was ranked in the Chicago Sun-Times Top 25 at No. 21 this week. The Porters also made a 17-spot jump in the MaxPreps rankings, going up to No. 37 overall in Illinois. But this week doesn't get any easier. That's because the home opener this Friday is against Naperville Central, which is ranked No. 32 overall in the state on MaxPreps.

After a defensive 14-8 opening week win at Plainfield North, Lockport scored early and often in a 37-22 victory last week at Wheaton North. Although the Falcons were able to get big pass plays for touchdowns of 51, 77, and 61 yards by Max Howser, Porter coach George Czart was happy with his defense.

"They got some big plays that killed us but other than that, we played well defensively," said Czart, who saw his team get interceptions by juniors John Sherrod and Maison Glover. "You have to give Wheaton North some credit on those plays too.

"But I told people that this is a defense that compares to the one of our (Class 8A State Champion) one in 2021. The defense is playing well, being aggressive, and tackling well. We will get better on offense as the year goes on."

The victory over Wheaton North was the first ever for the Porters against a team they hadn't played since the season opener in 1994. They are now 1-2-1 in the four meetings between the two schools. That 1994 matchup was Bret Kooi's first game as Lockport's head coach. He's now the offensive coordinator. 

The Porter offense gained 220 yards on the ground in last Friday's game. Led by junior running back Johnny Wesolowski, who had 12 carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Drew Gallagher added 17 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown, to go along with going 8-of-14 for 74 yards passing.

"Johnny Wesolowski is good and getting better," Czart said. "But we have four strong running backs and he doesn't have to be the workhorse. He's able to stay fresh."

Plus, Austin Cichon returned the opening kickoff 73 yards for a touchdown, and fellow senior Nate Blazewski booted a trio of field goals, including a 51-yarder just before half, to help an all-around effort by Lockport. 

"Our special teams have been pretty good and that should hold," Czart said. "Nate can kick the ball into the end zone and he's been really good on field goals. If we get inside the 40, we can look to him."

It could certainly be a battle of field goal kickers against Naperville Central (2-0). Senior Logan Ellison hit his second field goal, a 37-yard field goal with just over five minutes to play as the Redhawks defeated Plainfield North 6-3 in Naperville. Ellison also kicked a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter to tie the game at 3-3. The Tigers (0-2) had kicked a field goal about four minutes into the game and were held scoreless in the last 44 minutes. 

The Redhawks defense, led by juniors Jason Figg and Troy Kashul as linemen, twins  Aaron Nussbaum and Daniel Nussbaum as linebackers, and Gaven Wade at outside linebacker, along with seniors Sam Figg at middle linebacker, Christian Kuta at outside linebacker, and Maverick Ohle at defensive end, has held its first two opponents to just one touchdown. Their opening game was a 14-10 win at Hinsdale Central. So they have given up 13 points overall.

"They look good, disciplined and strong," Czart said of the Redhawks defense. "Obviously they have not given up a lot of points. Something we have to do too is quit making mistakes before the ball is snapped. We have to clean that up and not have the false start penalties. We need to be in positive yard situations."

Naperville Central has a pair of state championships. Those were an undefeated one in Class 6A in 1999, and one with an 11-3 record in Class 8A in 2013. The Redhawks were also state runner-up in Class 6A in 1995 and in Class 8A in 2001, going 13-1 each season. 

The Porters played Naperville Central on the road in an opening-round Class 8A playoff game in 2009. The Redhawks rallied from a 16-14 halftime deficit to win 28-16. This is the first meeting between the two teams since then.

This week will be the home opener for the Porters. It's a varsity-only game with kickoff scheduled for 6:30 PM.

"I love it," Czart said of playing at home. "We will be on familiar ground and everyone will be able to see us. We always have a nice fan section with a great student section. 

"People will see what the buzz is all about."

Lockport At Wheaton North Football

By Randy Whalen

Coming into this season, the Lockport Township football team knew it wanted to get off to a good start. 

The best way to do that? Get off to a good start in a game by returning the opening kickoff 73 yards for a touchdown.

That's precisely what senior Austin Cichon did and the Porters took the lead in the first 10 seconds and never looked back. Nate Blazewski booted four extra points and three field goals and Johnny Wesolowski scored a pair of touchdowns as Lockport waltzed into Wheaton North and came away with a 37-22 victory on Friday night, Sept. 1.

"We knew we were playing a tough opponent and we had to be ready," Cichon said. "Honestly, it was just huge. We had to set the tone right away and I just took the ball, found a gap, and scored." 

The kick wasn't deep, Cichon took it at his own 27, and off he went.

"It was a great start," Lockport coach George Czart said. "Austin is one of our middle guys on the kick return and has some speed."

Cichon thought it immediately sent the statement the Porters (2-0) were looking for.

"I thought they would kick it deeper but they didn't," he said. "I guess they wanted us to show them what we were made of and we did."

With a beefed-up nonconference schedule to open the season, which included road games against Plainfield North, which was undefeated in the regular season last year, and the Falcons, which won the Class 7A State Championship in 2021 and went 9-2 last year, the Porters are 2-0.

It was the first regular season home loss for Wheaton North since falling 22-21 to Lake Park on Sept. 20, 2019. It was also the largest loss for the Falcons since a 28-3 setback at Batavia on the final day of the 2019 season. 

"I love it," Czart said of winning away from home like this to start the season. "Winning on the road is a character builder."

Lockport faced a third-and-20 on its next possession. But never fear, Wesolowski is here. The junior running back burst up the middle for a 44-yard touchdown and with 50.1 seconds left in the first quarter, it was 14-0. Wesolowski finished with 12 carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns.

"We just knew we had to step it up on offense this week," Wesolowski said. "The O-line and the H-backs, they stepped up and held everyone accountable. On offense, we knew we didn't play how we wanted last week. So we had to pull our weight and not let the defense do everything."

Wheaton North (1-1) put the Porter defense to the test with quite a few big plays. Following a kickoff return to midfield, Max Howser found fellow senior Matt Kuczaj, who did a little button hook move on the left side and went 51 yards for a TD with 32.9 seconds left in the first quarter. Junior Luke Bellini made the extra point and that trimmed the lead to 14-7.

But the Falcons' next possession was thwarted by junior linebacker John Sherrod, who intercepted a pass and returned it 16 yards to the one. Two plays later, senior quarterback Drew Gallagher scored from there on a keeper. Gallagher finished 8-of-14 passing for 74 yards and added 17 carries for 66 yards and the TD.

"Coach Taylor called the adjustment and I saw the guy and got under it a little," Sherrod said of assistant coach Mike Taylor calling the defensive formation that led to the interception. "I should have scored but it was a big play. But (Cichon) made a really big play to start the game. There was no better way to set us up."

Back came Wheaton North as Howser found Kuczaj again. This time on a post pattern down the left sideline for a 77-yard touchdown to make it 21-14 with 7:39 left in the second quarter. 

Howser finished 18-of-34 for 330 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Kuczaj had six catches for 159 yards and two touchdowns. 

But Blazewski answered with a 51-yard field goal with 28.5 seconds left in the first half. The kick was set up when senior wide receiver Kevin Holland hauled in a 9-yard pass on the left sideline and got out of bounds at the 34, giving Blazewski just enough to make the long kick, which cleared by a couple of yards. Lockport led 24-14 at halftime.

To open the second half, however, Howser hit junior Rich Schilling with a 61-yard touchdown down the left side. The 2-point conversion was good as Bellini tossed a pass off a fake kick play and with 10:22 to play in the third quarter, it was 24-22. Schilling had seven catches for 136 yards and the TD. 

Thanks to a 19-yard pass on third-and-six from Gallagher to Wesolowski, the Porters answered back on a 44-yard field goal by Blazewski midway through the third quarter.

But the Falcons were stopped on a fourth-and-two play from just past midfield on their next possession on a nice tackle by senior defensive end Matthaeus Foltys. That gave Lockport back the momentum, which continued when senior Josh Ahrens caught a 12-yard pass that helped set up Blazewski for another field goal, this one from 23 yards to make it 30-22 with 9:42 to play in the game.

"I'm just glad that coach Czart gave me the chance," said Blazewski, who believes his range is 55 yards. I could not have kicked any field goal in without the snap of (senior) Dallas Gorski and the hold of (junior) Conley Pfeiffer. I'm happy that I was able to do my job. We need to keep this up and bring it again next week."

Czart is certainly happy to have Blazewski, who is also a top player on the Porter soccer team this fall.

"Nate made a touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff and so many of his kickoffs go into the endzone for touchbacks," Czart said. "He's such a weapon."

Sherrod shot in and pressured Howser into an incompletion on third-and-long on the Falcons' next possession. Senior defensive lineman Ryan Kutz was huge again with a pair of sacks for the second straight week. 

Wesolowski, who carried tacklers down to the one on a 25-yard run, rounded out the scoring, bursting in from a yard out with 6:17 to play in the game. Junior defensive back Maison Glover capped it off by adding an interception with 2:28 remaining and the Porters ran out the clock. 

Both teams won state championships with dominating defenses just two years ago. The Falcons defeated St. Rita 35-6 in the Class 7A title game, and Lockport toppled Maine South 24-6 right afterward in the 8A game. 

That season, the Porters won all eight of their road games going 13-1 and capturing the title. So how good is this team, which has opened the season with a pair of big road wins?

"The way we started is huge," Wesolowski said. "We can be as good as we want to be." 

Lockport At Wheaton North Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

When Lockport Township won the Class 8A football state championship in 2021, it was with a dominating 24-6 win over Maine South.

But on that Saturday, Nov. 27, there was an even more lopsided state title score of 35-6 in the Class 7A  game before. 

That was Wheaton North over St. Rita. 

Lockport's football opponent in Week No. 2 of this season is none other than... Wheaton North.

While it might be a couple of years too late to have bragging rights as to which team was the top one in the state, it's a huge second-week matchup for this season. Both teams are coming off of nice defensive games in their opening season wins.

The Porters got past Plainfield North 14-8, while Wheaton North dismantled Downers Grove South 23-7. 

"Wheaton North looks very big and physical, and they are good," Lockport coach George Czart said. "We're looking forward to it. I know that our kids are going to be ready for what could be another defensive game."

Both programs are historically good. The Falcons have been to four state championship games (1979 in 4A, 1981 in 4A, 1986 in 5A, and 2021 in 7A) and won them all. Lockport has been to three state title games (2002, 2003, 2021), all in Class 8A, and also won them all.

The two teams nearly played for the championship in 2002. But the Falcons, who were undefeated, fell 23-22 to Stevenson in a semifinal. Lockport defeated Stevenson 35-14 in the title game.

"This is the first time I can remember being part of a contest with Wheaton North," Czart said. "They are a quality football program. They seem pretty balanced and their quarterback does a good job getting the ball to their running backs and receivers."

That quarterback is Max Howser, who had an 11-yard TD pass to fellow senior Matt Kuczaj in the second quarter to help the Falcons to a 10-0 halftime lead. In the third quarter, it was Howser again, connecting with senior tight end Joe Barna over the middle for a 23-yard touchdown. 

Luke Bellini, a junior, added three field goals. Sophomore linebacker Shane Diericx recovered a fumble and had an interception for Wheaton North. 

The Porters also forced two turnovers in their opening win, both in the third quarter. Junior Payton Roberson had an interception and fellow linebacker, senior Jameson Clark, added a fumble recovery near midfield.

"The key was we made one more play than they did," Czart said of the opening week win. "We only had 150-something yards (159) and a lot of that came on one play (a 54-yard 4th quarter pass to Tanner Benaitis), so we still have some work to do. But Drew (Gallagher) showed a lot of maturity by leading the guys to victory."

Of course, the defense was key.

"Our defense played very well, just the style we like to play," Czart said of the Tigers only gaining 176 total yards. "For the most part, we kept their guys in front of us. (Senior nose guard) Ryan Kutz had a great game for us and Payton (Roberson) did a great job of tackling in the open field. It was really a great game for us."

After a slew of injuries last year, there were a few for Lockport in the opener. 

"Michael Pratt had an ankle injury but he should be okay," Czart said of the sophomore defensive lineman. "(Senior running back) Aidan (Preciado) also had an injury and we will see how he responds to treatment."

Junior Johnny Wesolowski had all five of his carries in the second half for the Porters and may be counted on more this week. But he had a huge play as, after Plainfield North scored a TD and 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter, he returned the ensuing kickoff 30 yards to his own 39. 

"The kick return was really big," Czart said. "It was key how we responded and got right back in business."

Lockport will be back in business on the road this Friday with the sophomore game slatted at 5 PM and the varsity one at 7:15 in what is also the home opener and Senior Night for the Falcons. 

Lockport At Plainfield North Football

By Randy Whalen

Lockport Township football coach George Czart could finally exhale but he could also smile.


That was the first word from Czart following his teams's hard-fought 14-8 win over Plainfield North in the season opener on Friday night, Aug. 25, in Plainfield. 

There was undoubtedly a sense of relief for the Porters, as they pulled out the defensive battle.

"There was no surprise on defense," Czart said. "We had guys answer the call. That's what I'm proud of. We had adversity and overcame it."

Yes, they did. But for three quarters the game was a defensive battle. Thanks to a pair of field goals by senior Nate Blazewski, Lockport (1-0) led 6-0 through three quarters as both teams clamped down on defense. But then the Tigers (0-1), who hadn't lost a regular season game since a 24-17 loss at Oswego on Oct. 1, 2021, went 84 yards in 10 plays. Things didn't start well for the Porters in that march, as they were whistled for a 10-yard illegal hands to the face penalty on the first play.

Facing a third-and-nine from the Lockport 28, the Tigers scored on a nice 28-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Nicholas Darwish to Omar Coleman.

The junior hauled it in in the right corner. Senior Eli Liapis, who had a big two-yard run on fourth-and-two from just past midfield, and then bounced off a pair of tackles for a 17-yard run in the drive, added the two-point conversion run. That put Plainfield North up 8-6 with 7:53 to play in the game.

But the Porters came right back. A nice kickoff return by junior Johnny Wesolowski set them up at their own 39. Then, on the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Drew Gallagher found fellow senior Tanner Benaitis on a screen over the middle, which went for a 54-yard gain, all the way down to the seven.

"It was our tunnel screen," Gallagher said of the play. "We tried it right before halftime and we saw on film that it could be open and knew that it could work well. Right before the start of that drive, my whole defense came over and encouraged me. There was just great support."

They were very happy when Gallagher darted in from seven yards out on a second-and-goal play, for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown. Weslowski added the two-point conversion run and Lockport led 14-8 with 6:41 to play.

"That was a read option and I had great blocks by the offensive line," Gallagher said. "A win is a win and we'll take it. But we have to start connecting better on offense. We did a lot of small passes and hitches but we will open it up."

Gallagher finished 8-of-14 passing with an interception for 92 yards. Darwish was 22-of-31 for 163 yards with a TD and an interception. Following a 13-yard sack by senior defensive lineman Ryan Kutz, Plainfield North tried a fake punt but it was snuffed out right away for a three-yard loss and a turnover on downs with 2:29 to play. 

But the Porters tried to run out the clock and were stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-two play at the 16 with 1:32 remaining. Why did they not try an almost certain game-clinching field goal at that point?

"We wanted to get the first down and run out the clock," Czart said. "Drew said he could get the first down and I had confidence in him. Also, our defense had played well all game, so I trusted them too."

The defense came through but Darwish tried to lead a frantic drive in the final moments. He completed 7-of-8 passes but the final one, which was lateraled twice was stopped at the Lockport 33-yard line as time expired.

The defensive standouts for the Porters were many. Kutz set the tone by getting a tackle for a loss on the game's first play and had a couple of big sacks including the one for 13 yards with about three minutes to play in the game.

"That sack felt good, you are looking for moments like that," Kutz said. "I credit my defensive line coach, Robb Schultz. "It wasn't always going my way in the first half but he told me what adjustments to make. 

"The guys on the defense, we're working, we're getting there and we are going to get better. We recovered nicely from the touchdown and have a lot of good, young guys. Overall, we played pretty well but there are things to work on."

The Porters forced two turnovers in the third quarter. Junior linebacker Payton Roberson, who was in on 10 tackles, and had a sack, grabbed an interception. Senior linebacker Jameson Clark was also everywhere and had a fumble recovery just past midfield. Junior Treycen Bownes had a third quarter interception for Plainfield North.

Thanks to a 22-yard loss on a punt attempt bad snap, the Tigers turned the ball over at their own 17 just over three minutes into the game. Lockport could only reach the 11 and settled for Blazewski booting a 28-yard field goal midway through the first quarter for a 3-0 lead. 

Lockport had a nice drive on its third possession, which started at its own 28. It was aided by the Tigers having an illegal substitution on a fourth-and-three punting situation from the Porter 35. Gallagher (10 carries for 30 yards, TD) had three carries for 24 yards to help the Porters get to a first-and-goal situation at the three.

Three plays later, they faced a fourth-and-goal at the one and were going for it. But had an illegal procedure penalty and had to settle for another field goal by Blazewski, this one a 23-yarder midway through the second quarter.

At halftime, Lockport had 88 total yards and the Tigers were limited to 28 total yards and three first downs.

"I liked our start, our defense," Czart said. "Plus, Nate Blazewski is a great kicker." 

While the temperature had thankfully cooled from the heat index of about 120 the previous two days, it was still fairly warm. Even more so for Blazewski, who is a top player on the Porter soccer team and scored a penalty kick goal in a 6-1 win over Juarez in a game that started at 4:30 that same afternoon in Lockport. 

Then Blazewski was transported to Plainfield North for the football game.

"Going straight from a soccer game to a football game was tiring," said Blazewski, whose PK put the Porters up 3-1 to start the second half. "I sat on the benches at the football game a lot more than usual. I’m proud I was able to execute my job in both games, along with the rest of my teammates doing their part to overcome Juarez and Plainfield North."

This was the third-ever meeting between the two teams. They played each other in the second week of the season in both 2011 and 2012. Each time the home team won and ended up making the playoffs. The Porters blocked a punt in the fourth quarter in 2011, leading to the winning touchdown in a 28-21 victory. In 2012, Plainfield North won 35-2.

So 11 years later, and with four of its first five games on the road, Lockport got a big road win.

"No one was perfect and there are things we have to clean up," Czart said. "But 1-0 is the best way to start a season."

Lockport At Plainfield North Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

The excitement is in the air.

That's because the Lockport Township season opener is this Friday, Aug. 25, at Plainfield North. 

By that time the temperatures, which are supposed to reach the upper 90s in midweek, are expected to subside some. That's good as the sophomore game is slated for 4:30 and the varsity one at 7 PM.

But there will still be a feeling of anticipation as a new season starts.

"There's just an excitement to get the season started," Lockport coach George Czart said. "You work all offseason for the games to begin and it's here."

Yes, it is. The matchup with the Tigers is an intriguing one. Last year they had their best-ever season by win percentage, going 10-1 and falling to Lyons Township in a Class 8A second-round playoff matchup.

"I'm sure they are thinking the same thing," Czart said of the Tigers having similar excitement about opening the season. "You don't have the success that they have had without being told the same thing. 

"It's a great matchup. It's nice for the area. They have had some great success. We know they are a well-coached team and we know we will have our hands full. We can't make mistakes."

This is the 18th varsity season for the Tigers. They've had a lot of success in that time, making the playoffs eight times, starting in 2009. In 2016, Plainfield North went all the way to the Class 7A State Championship Game, losing to an undefeated East St. Louis team 26-13, and finishing the season with a record of 11-3.

Anthony Imbordino enters his fifth season as Tigers coach. He's guided them to the playoffs every season they have been held and won a first-round playoff game the last two years. But a lot of seniors graduated from last season's team.

Still, Plainfield North has some key returning starters. They include seniors Maki Armstrong (DB), Braxton Bartz (WR/TE), Michael Byrne (OL), Eli Liapis (DB/WR), Leonardo Tovar (DL), and junior Omar Coleman (WR).

Some newcomers that are expected to make an impact include seniors Nick Darwish (QB) and Daniel Lee (LB), along with juniors Treycen Bownes (DB), Jayden Brown (OL), Amiel Clark (WR), Andrew Elkarah (LB), and Kevin Wilson (LB), and sophomore Finn Fuller (OL).

"We don't have a lot to go on," Czart said of the Tigers. "They're a different team than last year. What they are trying to feature, we don't know yet."

The Porters don't know how good they will be yet. 

This isn't the first time that the two teams have met. They played each other in the second week of the season in both 2011 and 2012. Each time the winning team ended up making the playoffs. The Porters blocked a punt in the fourth quarter in 2011 that led to the winning touchdown in a 28-21 victory. In 2012, host Plainfield North won 35-2.

So 11 years later, and with four of its first five games on the road, Lockport hopes to turn the tables and start what it hopes to be another state title-caliber season. 

"I hope so," Czart said of the Porters making another successful run. "That's what you train for, what you build up to gain the confidence, gain the knowledge that your teammates will have your back and that you will play for each other.

"Two years ago we were 'The Road Warriors.' So this is a perfect setup for that. We have to minimize our mistakes and, if we make them, learn from them. But our road crowds are always nice. There's nothing better than playing on Friday nights."

2023 Lockport Freshmen Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

Sports programs talk about building a culture.

The Lockport Township football team has certainly done that.

Take Griffin Russell as a perfect example. His dad, Ryan Russell is an assistant varsity football coach and has been in the Porter program for nearly two decades. So that environment made the younger Russell very excited for one thing.

To be a Porter.

"I've been coming to games forever and I've been waiting for this since I was three years old," Griffin Russell said. "I love to play here, it's a dream come true."

At the annual Lockport Maroon & White Night, on Friday, Aug. 18, Griffin Russell got his first taste of one-the-field action. He also plays a pretty important position, quarterback.

"I think this is like a pregame, it's like Week No. 1," Russell said of the Maroon & White Night. "I thought it was a fun game. We looked to get the passing down and to make little personal changes."

As always, there will be freshmen "A" and "B" teams. Certainly, some positions are still in flux, but some other key freshmen to watch for on offense include Dylan Jones and Rory Radatz at running back, Khairi Sias at wide receiver, Phil Ponterio and Neven Vasvery on the offensive line, and AJ Moreira as the "B" team quarterback.

On defense, twins Josh (at safety), and Matt (at outside linebacker) Kies will be looked to. So will TJ Chladek and Logan Stewart at linebackers, along with Nick Ontiveros, Torren Reese, John Studer, and Skyler Wade on the defensive line. 

"I'm really excited," said Ontiveros, who will also double at left tackle on the offensive line, "I've got my friends, my teammates, and I just have to be mentally ready. We are going to have a really great season and have some fun.

"Plus, he's a really good coach."

That "he" is Joe Dunlap, who has taken over as the new freshmen football coach for the Porters.

Just a decade removed from being a freshman football player himself, Dunlap is ready for the challenge.

Dunlap, a 2017 Lincoln-Way West graduate, played his first three seasons at Lincoln-Way Central before the district reconfigured and he went to play for the Warriors his senior season. 

Now he's entrusted to lead the youngest group of Lockport gridiron players.  

"I've been blessed along the way to serve under some great people," Dunlap said. "Like Jeremy Cordell at Lincoln-Way Central. When I was in college, I spent two years working with the sophomore team there. Now I'm excited to come to Lockport, teach English, work with coach Czart, and do things the Porter way."

The Porters have had successful freshmen programs over the years, including going 8-1 at the "A" level last fall.

"There were a lot of things to assess," Dunlap said of the Maroon & White Night. "It's the first time our guys have done something like this. Physically, we are capable of being a 9-0 team. But mentally, we have to be more focused. There are a lot of guys out and we're happy to have them all.

"We want to develop the teams and just bring them together. You can't play on varsity if you don't love it. We want to get them to love football."

2023 Lockport Sophomore Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

There's a new head sophomore coach for the Lockport Township football team.

But nearly the whole sophomore team knows him. Very well in fact.

That's because the new coach is Troy Holder, who was the head freshmen coach for the Porters the past two seasons.

"I love it, it's great," Holder said of moving up to the sophomore level. "These guys are so much fun to be around and we want to take all of that into the season.

"We have so many kids back, over 70 kids out in all. They just love football and are all good kids. The best thing is that I get to work with them two years in a row."

Holder has 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. 

"I'm grateful for the opportunity," Holder said of coaching at Lockport. "I love football, love Lockport, and love the community. It's awesome and George is a great mentor. The best."

When the Porters were the best, winning the Class 8A State Championship in 2021, it all started when they were sophomores. That group of sophomores went 9-0 in the fall of 2019.

There's a belief that they can do that again this fall.

"I expect us to go 9-0," Lockport sophomore running back Rayden Cherco said. "We have a more rounded team this year and we are going to be really good. Plus, to have coach Holder back, the morale of the team is really high. There is a lot of positivity."

Some of the other key players on offense will include Brendan Mecher at quarterback, Mason Moore at tight end, AJ Garcia at wide receiver, Matt Blazewski at wide receiver and kicker, as well as Wyatt McKeown, Owen Wilczak, and freshman Ethan Posey on the offensive line.

Defensive guys to watch include Ethan Sydnor at nose guard and Stephen Brown at defensive end. Also Jake Burnson, Chris Miller, Tyler Sefcik, and Drew Silzer at linebackers, and Adam Kozak, Dewatha Malone, and Nick Moerman at defensive backs.

"I think our defense was big last year," Moerman said of the freshmen team. "We are definitely physical and we have a good defensive team.  

"The defense was studly on the state title team. Our goal is to play like them and follow in the footsteps of them."

The Porter sophomore team, as well as the freshmen and varsity levels, we all on display in a scrimage practice on Friday, Aug. 18 at the annual Maroon & White Night. 

As has been the case since the COVID season of 2020-21, Lockport plays its home sophomore games at 9 AM on the Saturday mornings following the home varsity games. There are only four home games this season.

Last season the sophomores were 6-3. That included a trio of shutouts (13-0 at Bradley-Bourbonnais, 27-0 at home over Sandburg, and 56-0 at home over Bolingbrook). But it also included double-digit losses to Homewood-Flossmoor and Lincoln-Way East, as well as a season-ending loss at Andrew.

"Our No. 1 priorority is to develope kids for the varsity," Holder said. "But yes, we want to win every single game. If you develope that winning culture, it's fun and keeps everyone involved."

2023 Lockport Varsity Football Preview

By Randy Whalen

The band is back together.

Now the question is, can the Lockport Township football team get back to the top?

Bret Kooi returns to the Porter sideline this season as the offensive coordinator. Over his 26 years as a head coach, 
including 17 at Lockport, he's had some major success. He took the 2002 and 2003 Porter teams to back-to-back Class 
8A State Championships and had an overall record of 105-69.

Most recently, he was head coach at Lemont, going 82-18 in nine seasons. His first team there, in 2014 went to the Class 
6A State Title Game. In four of his seasons there, his teams finished with only one loss. That includes last year, a 12-1 
finish and nearly knocking off eventual Class 6A State Champion East St. Louis in the semifinal game, before losing 32-29.

"If I'm ever going to work with people, George and my brother (Bert) would be at the top of that list," Kooi said of once 
again teaming up with Lockport head coach George Czart. "So it's awesome."

Czart, who was the Porters' defensive coordinator between 1994-2006 before moving on to be the head coach at Lincoln-Way 
North between 2008-15, knows it's pretty awesome too. That's why he wanted Kooi in that position to replace Cory Dillard, 
now the head football coach at Lisle.

“We’ve worked together and I trust that he’s going to do good for our kids," Czart said of Kooi. "He’s got experience and 
familiarity with Lockport. So this was a no-brainer.”

Now the two will put their brains together to try to get The Porters back to the Class 8A State Championship level of two 
years ago. While last season had highlights, there were numerous injuries and it ultimately ended with a 5-5 record and an 
opening Class 8A first-round playoff loss.

"We have to play to our potential," Czart said. "We made mistakes and were not consistently executing last year. That 
showed in our record. But we have a lot of guys back with experience, who played different positions for us. We expect them 
to come through and there are a lot of key positions too.

"That starts with Drew (Gallagher) at quarterback. The quarterback is always the most important position on the field but 
he is only as good as the guys in front of him."

Gallagher, a senior, made one start at quarterback last season. That was in a 44-10 victory over Metea Valley in the second 
week.  There he passed for 126 yards and a touchdown. In limited duty last year, he finished 13-of-25 for 200 yards with 
three TDS and a pair of interceptions. 

He also played a lot of defensive back, especially later in the season. But this year he is focused on running the offense 
and making the Porters a scoring team.

"I want to make a run in the playoffs this year," Gallagher said. "A true playoff run, not just one game."

In order to do that, he knows the team has to stay healthy and he has to listen to his new offensive coach.

"He's a genius, he's the smartest coach I've ever played for," Gallagher said of Kooi. "I think we can average four touchdowns 
per game. We should be sitting pretty with that."

Gallagher, whose older brother Ethan was a starting linebacker on the 2021 title team and is currently playing at the 
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, was on the sideline for the state championship game. He might still play some defensive 
back as well this season.

"I usually get a couple of repetitions at defensive back in practice," Gallagher said. "But they are counting on me on offense. 
I was on the sideline of the state championship game and I felt that energy. I know the work that those guys put in. We just 
have to stay in the weight room and hit our goals."

While being a quarterback makes Gallagher the key cog to the offense, there are many others too. Let's start with the bevy of 
runningbacks. They are seniors Eli Beltran, Aidan Preciado, and Erick Ulloa, along with junior Johnny Wesolowski.

The all-senior offensive line looks to be Charlie Priovolos at left tackle, Christos Alexandros at left guard, his twin brother 
Nicolas Alexandros at center, Akash Patel at right guard, and Connor McDowell at right tackle. 

Christos Alexandros is the lone starter that was on the state title team. He started as the right guard on the state title team, 
and being in his third season, he knows what it takes to win and plans to be that leader this year.

"It's a pretty cool feeling, I'm not going to lie," Alexandros said of being the only returning starter from the title team. 
"I've had that (winning) feeling so it's nice to be that old guy and the one that the other guys look up to.

"I feel confident with this team."

The Porters will utilize many other offensive pieces as well. Seniors Josh Ahrens, Tanner Benaitis, Kevin Holland, and Cole 
Holloway are back at wide receiver. In the H-back/tight end position, it's seniors Chase Creed, Dallas Gorski, and junior Tyler 
Pospisil who will be counted on.

When Lockport won the state, the defense was the key, giving up only 119 points (8.5 ave.) in 14 games with five shutouts. 
There's a solid mix of returners and newcomers on this unit as they hope to hold opponents at bay again.

Seniors Ryan Doherty, Ryan Kutz, and sophomore Michael Pratt will be looked to on the defensive line. Senior Matthaeus Foltys 
and junior Kevin Hippner will be looked to at defensive end.

Linebackers will include Jameson Clark, Ryan Soderstrom, and Nick Zahara, along with juniors Joe Borowski and Payton Roberson, 
and sophomore John Studer.

The secondary will have seniors LaDainian Myers and Danny Stevens, along with juniors Maison Glover Anthony Polselli, Tristan 
Potete, and sophomore Colton Benaitis.

Clark returns as an inside linebacker. He actually got into the state title game, a 24-6 win over Maine South, and uses that 
as motivation.

"We have a lot of returning starters and I think we are going to be really, really strong on defense," Clark said. "The 
injuries we had last year helped us for this year because a lot of people played. We are going to shock some people this year.

"I played on kickoff (in the state title game) and it makes me want to do it again. Just to have that experience and do it 
again. You know what they say, 'Defense wins championships.' That (2021) team was great defensively but we want to play our 
own style of defense and play Porter football."

The Porters' annual Maroon & White Night scrimmage was held on Friday, Aug. 18. While it was more of a practice before a 
great group of fans, there were actually officials there. Something that was neat was afterward the referees talked to the 
players about some of the rules.

"There are rule changes every year and they just want to make them aware," Czart said. "It (the Maroon & White) format is 
more geared to what we are doing in a game. That and getting our pregame routine down and once again getting used to a crowd."

While last season was disappointing in terms of not having postseason success, it was still a playoff one. Between 2012 and 
2019, Lockport only made the playoffs once, in 2016. There was no postseason in the 2020-21 school year and last season was 
the first time that the Porters had qualified in back-to-back seasons since going to the playoffs three straight times between 

Amazingly, there was a trio of one-point games last fall. Two of those, a 23-22 road win in the third week against SouthWest 
Suburban Red Division champion Bradley-Bourbonnais, and a heart-stopping 34-33 Week 7 home win over Bolingbrook. Against 
Bolingbrook, Lockport rallied for two touchdowns in the final 1:28 of the game to pull out the win and improve to 5-2.

But the Porters lost the final three games of the season, including a 28-27 double-overtime loss at Andrew in the last week 
of the regular season. That cost Lockport a better playoff seed and led to a 38-7 first-round loss to host Glenbard West. 

With eight playoff teams on this season's schedule, every game is big. But the first three nonconference ones are really big 
as they are against Plainfield North (Week 1 on the road), which was the Class 7A State Runner-up in 2016, Wheaton North (Week 
2 on the road), which was the 2021 Class 7A State Champion, and the home opener in week No. 3 against Naperville Central, which 
won the Class 8A State Title in 2013. 

"Those are all good teams that we scheduled and of course we want to compete," Czart said. "Those are teams we want to play to 
get a good, competitive game. We want to play these great opponents to show how good we can be."

Now in his fifth season at Lockport, Czart who has a career record of 80-42 between Lincoln-Way North (54-29 in 8 years) and 
Lockport (26-13 in 4 years) believes this is another special team.

"I'm very excited," he said. "I think we have a good team. I like our kids, our coaches, our football community. There's always 
something to work on to be better but if we do that we can meet our goal."

Lockport Assistant Football Coach Ron Kulwinski Has Been Coaching Over 50 Years, Nearly 40 For Porter Football

By Randy Whalen

Lockport Township football practice opened last week. 

For nearly 40 years there has been a consistent on the sidelines for the Porters. 

That's Ron Kulwinski, who has been an assistant coach in one way or another for the Lockport football program since 1986.

Currently a defensive line coach on the JV level, Kulwinski has been the head freshmen coach, head sophomore coach, and 
offensive coordinator on the sophomore level. Not to mention all the time he's put into the varsity team over the years, 
from supervising the weight room to staying late after practice to help in any way that he can.

His efforts are appreciated by all that have been involved with not only the football program but with Lockport athletics 

"That's what you look for, a guy with ties to the program like that," Lockport football coach George Czart said. "He's 
dedicated, loyal, and he can remember how it was a long time ago. He's probably coached grandkids of kids that he coached. 

"He still has a lot of energy for what he does. He helps kids be better people, not just better players."

That's something Kulwinski has been doing in the Lockport community since 1970. That's the year he got his first full-time 
teaching and coaching job at Kelvin Grove Junior High. 

But before that, Kulwinski was shaped by his upbringing.

Tough, fair, motivating. Those are just some of the ways to describe the 77-year-old Kulwinski, who is better known as "Ko."

Growing up on the South side of Chicago, Ko learned at an early age the values he carried throughout his life. He has gone 
on to influence and impact many, many throughout his life. 

"I grew up on 50th and Oakley," he said. "That's known as the Back of the Yards area now. I grew up as a Sox fan in an 
inner-city working-class neighborhood. That's where I derived my values."

The living arrangements when he was younger may not sound great, but he made the best of them.

"Until I was 8 years old, my parents lived above my uncle's tavern," Kulwinski explained. "There were five people living 
there and we made a bathroom out of a closet. We had a pull-chain toilet and no bathtub. We used to take a bath in the 
kitchen sink. I cleaned the tavern in the morning before I left for school. Whatever money I found was what my pay was.

"I wouldn't trade it for anything."

It was also there that Ko got his sense of athletic competition.

"My family was always competing with each other," he said. "When I was 8 years old, I played with kids 12 years old. I 
played 14-inch softball and used a bat that was too heavy for me. So I used a lot of my lower body. Playing that game you 
would learn to use your hands more because there were no strikeouts."

That began a love affair with baseball.

"I went to St. Rita and played baseball and hockey," Kulwinski said. "I got cut from the baseball team my freshman year. 
But I knew what I did wrong. So the next year I started at third base as a sophomore on the varsity. Then I played at Bogan 
Junior College (now Richard J. Daley College) and Lewis University was a starting outfielder there.

"I got an offer to teach at Kelvin Grove. Around the same time, I got married (on August 23, 1969) to my wife, Jeanne. I 
fell in love with teaching and I learned a lot from that and my experiences."

From 1970-71 until the 2005-06 school year, Kulwinski taught physical education and coached at KG.

"You name it, I coached it," he said. "Even my last year there, we went 27-3 in boys basketball. It was a snowball effect. 
The teams would want to do better than the team before them. There was a great work ethic. 

"The 1978-79 boys basketball team (which featured future Porter standouts John Buss and Jim Haasl) went 38-1. We beat three 
freshmen teams (East Aurora, Joliet East, and Providence) that season. Our only loss was to Gompers. But the best team was 
probably the Scott Parzych (who became an All-American center at Lockport, leading the Porters to an undefeated Class AA 
State Championship in the 1977-78 season) one (in 1973-74) which went 28-1. All those years we had good teams that were 
willing to pay the price."

As a teacher and coach at Kelvin Grove, Ko got the reputation of being tough but fair. His wiffle ball bat is among the 
legendary stories.

"Ron used to make sure the boys had their jock straps on for gym class," said John Taskay, who was in the KG Class of '75. 
"You would have to pull the strap out from the back of your gym shorts. If you didn’t have it on, you got the wiffle bat 
across your behind. When he found out it was your birthday, you had to crawl through your classmates' legs and they would 
all spank you, then at the end, you’d get the wiffle bat! 

"One year, someone decided they’d had enough of his wiffle bat and somehow it was stolen. Did that stop the horror? No! He 
used a street hockey stick instead. My kids went to KG and he was still there for the first few of them!! Plus, if you had 
street shoes on the gym floor, it was shame, shame!! Oh, what memories!"

The wiffle ball was there from the start.

"I was at KG when Mr. Kulwinski and Mr. (Bob) Wason first started," Michael Churchill, Sr. said. "I think I had my own wiffle 
ball bat. I graduated in 1973. All of my kids and some of my grandkids went to KG."

Kulwinski and Wason formed quite the tandem at Kelvin Grove from the start.

"Mr. Kulwinski monitored the front door of KG with Mr. Wason," Lee Ann Cooper-Verzi recalled. "The front door had a painted 
YELLOW line about 4 inches wide and the length of the front entrance! Well, a bunch of us little girls were antagonizing the 
two men and we were told “DON’T STEP OVER THE YELLOW LINE!!!” We continued to put our feet on the line then put one foot over 
the line and someone pushed and two of us were OVER THE YELLOW LINE!! 

"Needless to say, the two men didn’t find it as hilarious as we girls did SO we all had to write 100 times after school, 'I 
WILL NOT STEP OVER THE YELLOW LINE!!!' For a split second, I saw Mr. Kulwinski give a quick wink to Mr. Wason!!! I am 63 
years old and went to KG from 70-73. That memory is forever etched in my mind and I tell it often. It always makes me laugh!!!"

Ko always likes to give good-natured grief to pro sports fans, especially Cubs fans. 

"What a great story to tell," said Mary (Reiter) Johnson, who attended KG in the late 80s. "Ko has been a part of my entire 
family's life. He was my PE teacher, my husband's football coach, my son's football coach, the referee at my younger sons' 
track meets, and a substitute teacher for them. I have a million memories of him. He is a Sox fan, and I route for the Cubs. 
Every time he sees a student with a Cub's shirt or jersey he tells them they have dirt on their shirt."

While there are many memories that are looked back in fond laughter, Ko made an undeniable impact on influencing others. Take 
Mark Penaherrera for example.

"I attended KG from 1978-81 and had Ko as a coach for both football and basketball and of course for PE," Penaherrera said. 
"I consider Ko the most influential coach of my sports career. For football, we didn’t lose a game during the 3 years and 
plenty before (the streak ended the following year).

"He ran the practices like a professional would, with physical training, lots of running, and scrimmages. Each year built 
upon the next. And I can speak for my classmates, we had some of the most epic battles against Monge and basically wiped 
everyone else off the field."

Penaherra remembers the basketball team as being among the best too, and what the sport taught him.

"In basketball, it was the same thing except we did have a few losses but none to teams that weren’t top-notch," he said. 
"Winning tourneys and developing athletes and young men. At the Sports Award Night, he called me the most improved 
basketball player on the team. 

"I beamed that night and still remember that moment 40-plus years later. Now he could have been stretching but it was close 
to the truth. I took that skill development and kept playing a bit in high school and a ton in college, using moves, skills, 
and plays I learned in all of those practices and running the dreaded 18-second drills."

The influence of those days lives on with Penaherra now.

"I remember that every year the Lockport Varsity team had KG players on it continuously during my years in Lockport," 
Penaherra said. "From the state champ in 77-78 until the late 80s.During physical education and the sports Olympics during 
regular school, we played wiffleball, dodgeball, basketball, floor hockey, and many more. It fed my and many others' 
competitive juices with a steady diet of different sports.

"I paid it forward by being a coach in basketball, baseball, and soccer over the past 25 years. Ko pushed you and the teams 
to their limits, getting the most out of a pretty small population of kids, and I will personally never forget and will 
always be thankful."

The memories live on for his students and athletes, 30, 40, and 50 years later.

"He won 48 consecutive football games at Kelvin Grove," said Tony Porto, who was in the Class of 1984 at KG. "In my 
8th-grade season, the Hornets beat the Fairmont Falcons at the Taft Tournament and that ended Fairmont's 70-game 
basketball winning streak. It happened on a last-second shot from the left corner by Mike Allen after I scrapped his defender 
(John Humphery) off him with a pick. 

"Ko did all this at KG while coaching football and baseball at Lockport. Ko also worked for my dad as a painter, at Philbins 
during the summertime when he wasn’t teaching. He and my dad (Ray Porto) were great friends and remind friends until my dad 
passed away in 2018. At our Saturday practices for basketball, he would bring his daughter Jenny and his young son Paul and 
he had a really small basketball rim for them to use while we would practice. The two of them would stay there and shoot 
around until the practice was over."

A person didn't have to be a good athlete for Ko to mentor them. In fact, he's always enjoyed encouraging everyone. 

"I can tell you unequivocally that I have fond memories of Mr. Kulwinski," said Jim Howell, who was in the KG Class of 1979. 
"I was not athletically inclined in any way, shape, or form, and he did nothing but encourage me to try my best, even when I 
got down on myself. 

"I went out for football my 8th-grade year, had an awesome time, and got in really good shape. For a player who was not that 
talented athletically, I feel I got to play quite a bit. Even my quarterback Mike Wolfer did nothing but encourage me and made 
me feel important!" I find myself wishing often I could thank Ko personally!"

Melissa Pytlewski Klinger was class of 1985 from KG, and as a female, also appreciated everything that Ko did. 

"He knew what you were capable of and would push you to achieve more," she said. "There was dodgeball and roller skating in the 
old gym. He would throw on a pair of skates and join us and in dodgeball, I believe we all got beamed with that red ball. He 
knew who he could beam with the ball but there were a few of us that were capable of getting him back.

"Climbing the rope. Chin-ups, I could never do them. Thank goodness I could hang on for the required time limit though.  I was 
thankful to have him as a coach, teacher, and mentor. My children were lucky enough to be taught and coached by Ko also. He never 
forgets a face or family. What a great man!"

He always made sure that people were involved.

"I still tell my boys (11,9,7 years old) about the wiffle ball bat on the back of the legs," said Tim Wynveen, who attended KG 
in the 80s. "I talk about Coach Ko still in my stories about how he was such a great coach. One memory, he would take me with 
him to the Lockport baseball games when he coached the sophomores. He let me keep the scorebook. That meant a lot to me."

Bob Bemis, who was KG, class of 1987, remembers the little things.

"I remember he would get Hank the janitor to get him a whopper from Burger King every day for lunch," Bemis said. 

Erin Haas Gotts, who is now the Lockport Township Clerk, attended KG in the mid-80s. She also remembers Ko's Burger King order. 
As well as the old Kelvin Grove van.

"He would get a whopper, fries, and a Dr. Pepper, Gotts said of Kulwinski. "My favorite stories of Ko surround the trips taken 
in the big green van for student council I was the President of the Student Council so I got to sit up front by him. Everyone 
else was in the back of the infamous old green van, where you indeed could see the roadway by looking down into the holes in 
its floor.

"Anyhow, Ko used to say, 'Watch this.' He would approach the stop sign and hit the brakes hard as he exclaimed 'Whoa!!' Those 
in the back would fly forward! So much fun! He coached my younger son at Locckport football and coached my older son in 2021 
summer travel baseball. He was a special guest at my husband, Mark's, 40th birthday party. My husband never had him for PE but 
had him as a baseball coach at Joliet Junior College and a football coach at Lockport. He says to this day, that Ko is the best 
coach ever."
Randy Kurtyak recalled how Ko would have students resolve their differences.

"We called him "Ko Ko Ko Kowinski," Kurtyak said. "If there was an issue between his students, he had them put on the boxing 
gloves at center court! Not today, sadly!"

Duane Robison, from the KG Class of 1989, also remembers Ko's unique way of doing things.  

"I got into a fight in gym class and instead of sending us to the office, he locked the two of us in the equipment room and 
made us clean it," Robinson said. "It was better than detention."

Many of his former students and athletes expressed simple but good memories. 

"He was the best baseball coach I ever had," Arthur Pesavento said. 

"I only played for Ko for one year, on the 8th-grade basketball team, David Chopp said. "But he was by far my favorite coach. 
Also a fun gym and intramural teacher."

"I will always have great memories of Coach Ko and playing football for KG," Robert Warsaw said. 

"I remember he was a great teacher," said Melissa Ann Greer.

"I remember him screaming one of my son's name over and over during basketball games," Patricia Kaye said. "I think that’s why 
his voice became raspy!"

"I'm sure everyone remembers the wiffleball bat and hockey stick," Dave Kuzma said. "Or how coach would check us before gym 
class by snapping a strap on our jocks. Coach Ko and Mr. Wason will always live in my KG memories fondly."

Kulwinski even played matchmaker.

"Coach was responsible for my first dance," said Tracy Hall, who was KG Class of 1993. "I was new to the school and went to my 
first dance. None of the kids were dancing with each other so he just started pairing kids up with one another. It surely broke 
the ice."

Even as a coach at Kelvin Grove, Kulwinski made an impression on members of opposing teams.

"While playing basketball at Homer Junior High for Coach (Bill) Pavlich, every time we played KG he always looked to mess with 
us," said Eric Lantero, who played at Homer from 2004-06, went on to be the point guard on the Lockport regional champion 
basketball team in 2010 and is currently the JV boys basketball coach at Lincoln-Way West. "I always took the ball out of 
bounds. Whenever I took the ball out by their bench, he would tug on my jersey/ tell me shoes are untied. At the end of games, 
he always had great sportsmanship. Great coach. Great guy."

Mark Wessel was at Ludwig in the early 80s. He will never forget his first impressions of Kulwinski.

"I first saw Coach Ko at a Ludwig football game," Wessel recalled. "I didn't play but wondered who brought a team of 100 give 
or take, totally destroys the opponent, and looks miserable the entire time. My first time meeting in person, I went to the 
KG summer basketball camp when I was in 5th or 6th grade and he made it clear that Ludwig was good for nothing and we all 
sucked at basketball. Fast forward to 8th grade year when Ludwig, and yes we consolidated with Reed and Walsh, totally 
destroyed KG. 

"I kept looking over to the bench with the "who sucks now" look. After the game, Coach Ko said "You are playing baseball 
right?" So onto freshman year and playing on the sophomore team. Found out quickly that Ludwig players not only sucked at 
basketball but were miserable at baseball too  All that said, by the end of that year I learned so much and was very 
prepared for getting moved up to varsity where I realized much of that was due to him. Loved playing for him and still 
enjoy talking with him. Oh yeah, a fond memory of having baseball practice inside KGs gym and him riffling balls off the 
gym floor with that Fungo bat. That was crazy." 

As far as the impact that Kulwinski made, George Manikas, sums it up best.

"Ron Kulwinski brought out the best in kids," Manikas said. "He always motivated and cared deeply for the kids and the 
reputation of Kelvin Grove. There was always a scene of pride in the sport or classroom a kid was involved with."

For Ko, the feeling and respect is mutual.

"KG kids knew how to step it up," he said. 

There was also a mutual respect for Wason, who was also at Kelvin Grove for 35 years. Wason coached the sixth and seventh 
graders in basketball, while Ko coached the eighth graders. 

"It was a lot of fun," Kulwinski said of coaching with Wason for the time frame, between 1971-2006. "He taught me a lot of 
stuff. He was a great guy to have to work with you, not for you."

Also, from Day 1, Kulwinski had some excellent basketball teams. 

"In my first year, we won the St. Ray's Tournament," he recalled. "Matt Cimo dominated the fourth quarter. You had to win 
four games to win it all and we won all of them by a point. 

"We played more games than most schools back in that day to give other people opportunities. In touch football, we won 24 
in a row, lost one, won 48 in a row, lost one, and won 24 in a row. So we had a record of 96-2 in that span and always had 
at least 60 kids on the team."

Kulwinski recalled having future Lockport star quarterback, Steve Walker, as his starter at KG in in the 1998-99 school 
year. That was the last season of touch football, it was dropped in favor of boys' volleyball in 1999. 

At Lockport Township, Ko became involved in the baseball program in the mid-70s and was the sophomore coach until 1992. 
Then he went to Joliet Junior College later that year and helped the Wolves win a JUCO World Series. He also recalled some 
other memories. 

"I remember the day my mother died," Ko said of Jan. 27, 1993. "I still had practice that evening. I felt that I really 
needed it and she would have wanted me to have it."

Twenty years ago, at age 57, in the season opener for the Porter football team in Moline, Kulwinski "felt funny." He was 
taken to the emergency room.

"I had a blockage in my heart and had two stints put in," he said. "Then, a week later, I had a heart attack."

Thankfully he fully recovered. That allowed him to experience a second straight Porter Class 8A football state championship 
in 2003. Then, 18 years later, in the fall of 2021, he got to experience something very special again with another Porter 
Class 8A state championship.

"That was the best team I've seen," Ko said of the 2021 Porters. "They were just dominating seniors with a will to win. They 
all had each other's backs." 

When it comes to family, Kulwinski always has their back. His late parents were Arthur and Emily. His sister, Carol 
McLaughlin, is a year older than him and lives in Oak Forest.

He and Jeanne reside in New Lenox and will be married for 54 years later this month. They have two children, Paul 
(Melissa), who is a lawyer for the state of Ohio, and Jenny Miller, who is a special education teacher at Lockport.

He has four grandchildren, Carter and Parker Kulwinski, along with Caden and Chase Miller. In fact, his youngest grandchild, 
Chase, is currently entering his sophomore year at Lockport. When he graduates, Ko, whose birthday is April 29, 1946, will 
be 80. That's when Ko plans to retire.

"I want to go through the rest of high school with him," Ko said of Chase. "I plan to go until he graduates. As long as I 
feel good, I'll keep going. And I still feel good."

Lockport Football Summer Practice Update As The Porters Look Forward To A Good Season

by Randy Whelan

During a Lockport football practice on Tuesday, July 18, the coaches could be heard giving instructions for a scenario that will come up often this season.

"If it's third-and-five, what would we do here," one of them said.

While football training starts directly after the season is over, with weight room training and such, the real preparation is now. 

"Those game-like situations, you can't practice those in the weight room," Lockport football coach George Czart said. "You have got to explain those situations in practice and do as many of those as possible. That exposes them to those situations."

Coming off of a season where the Porters used numerous players because of injuries, the more they practice these situations, the more prepared they can be. Coming off a 13-1 record and a Class 8A state championship in 2021, last season's 5-5 record was disappointing. But four games went down to the final play. 

Lockport won three of those (23-22 at Bradley-Bourbonnais, 34-28 at Lincoln-Way West, and 34-33 at home over Bolingbrook). But also lost the final regular season game (28-27 in double overtime at Andrew), putting the Porters in a tougher first-round playoff matchup. So this season starts in the summer.

"With the schedule, we have this year, we know there's no easy teams," Lockport senior defensive lineman Ryan Kutz said. "We are getting the best of the best right out of the gate.  So we started working on everything early this year. We wanted to get out and get better."

Christos Alexandros, who started as the right guard on the state title team, returns for his third season as a varsity starting offensive lineman. He knows what it takes to win and plans to be that leader this year.

"It's a pretty cool feeling, I'm not going to lie," Alexandros said of being the only returning starter from the title team. "I've had that (winning) feeling so it's nice to be that old guy and the one that the other guys look up to.

"I feel confident with this team. We scrimmaged Richards (on Wednesday, July 12) and it was fun and good competition. We just tried to simulate plays and it showed what we have to do."

Being able to scrimmage against another team is something new this summer. Sure, there are still seven-on-seven events, but these were full team practices with the two teams working out against
each other. 

"The IHSA allows you to go against another team in the summer," Czart said. "We did just the one against Richards. We also did seven-on-sevens at Naperville North, which included Glenbard West and Downers Grove South. We also did one at Richards, which included Marist and Lyons Township, plus Lincoln-Way Central came over here for a day for a seven-on-seven. It's been a good summer for that.

"There's a fine line between doing enough and doing too much. You want to go into a season fresh and working on all cylinders. So you have to be able to have that line between the two."

There were two events going on last week as well for the Porter football team. The other one was the annual youth camp, which was held in the evenings starting on Monday, July 17.

"It's always held this week," Czart said of the time for the camp in the third week of July.  "It's one week long and we don't want it to conflict with other youth camps. 

"Our coaches and players are here for the whole thing. We want to make sure that the kids are excited and we can showcase our team, school, facility and athletics." 

As usual, there was more to the summer than practices, scrimmages, and youth camps. The lineman were involved in the 23rd Annual "Battle of the Big Butts" on Thursday, July 13 at West Aurora.  The event attracted linemen from 40 different high schools and they competed in a variety of events. Those included a tractor tire relay race, medicine ball throw, watermelon eating contest, and the one the Alexandros won, the bench press.

"There were a lot of teams and a good amount of kids," Alexandros said. "Last year I did 28 reps (at 185 pounds) and got second by one rep. This year I did 33 and got first."

While Alexandros has improved, so has Kutz, who is vying for the starting spot at nose guard.

"I was the third guy last year and I wasn't playing where I thought I could be," Kutz said.  "Athletic-wise, I knew I could be better. Going through the summer practices, it's been night and day (in the improvement). 

"I love creating havoc against the offensive line. Ours is big and strong and to go against guys like Christos and (his twin brother) Nicolas (who is aiming the be the starting center) is tough.  So it's up to us to pick it up."

Being on the team last fall, Kutz felt the disappointment of losing the last two regular season games and slipping to a lower-seeded playoff team. 

"We've going hard, everything has to be better and we have to believe," he said. "Our mindset has changed. We know it's not 2021, we are 2023. But we still have to have that 2021 attitude
that we have to lay a body on the line for everyone."

Alexandros moved to left guard last year and will remain in that position this season. Bringing that veteran savvy back from being the third year as a starter, he sees some similarities between this squad and the state title team and believes the team can make another run.

"Yes, I think we have good leadership this year," Alexandros said. "If we stay healthy, we have a shot at it."

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

Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Wide Receiver Josh Ahrens

By Randy Whalen

Josh Ahrens is a senior wide receiver on the Lockport Township football team. Through the regular season, he was the second-highest receiver on the team with 14 receptions for 186 yards and a touchdown.

The regular season ended with the team having a 5-4 record for the second straight season. How would you describe the regular season?
"Being 5-4 is a little bit of a disappointment. We were a few plays away from being 8-1. Our record doesn't tell what we can bring. We're definitely not a 5-4 team."

What do you have to do to beat Maine South in this weekend's opening-round Class 8A playoff game?
"I think we have to a good week of practice and play to the best of our ability and the rest will take care of itself. But I know if we play to the best of our ability we can come out on top."

Speaking of Maine South, the Porters have played them twice for the Class 8A state title game, including two years ago. Were you brought up to the varsity for the playoffs in 2021?
"So I got brought up for the start of the playoffs in 2021 and was with the team for the first two postseason games. But, starting for the quarterfinal weekend against Glenbard North, I was on the JV basketball team. So I had to play with them. But I was at the Loyola semifinal game and then the state championship game against Maine South. My older brother, Jacob Ahrens was the starting right tackle on the offensive line for the 2021 Porters. So my whole family was there at the state title game and it was great." 

So you play both basketball and football for the Porters. Which sport do you like better?
"Well, I'd gladly have football overlap with basketball this year. Football is pretty fun right now. I've always played wide receiver. I started playing flag football first and then played for the Stallions in eighth grade. But basketball is fun too. So I really can't pick one."

So what is it about playing football and basketball that you enjoy?
"For football, there's nothing like a Friday night game. High school football is insane, it's the coolest thing ever. Everyone just comes together. As for basketball, I love the grit and the hustle of basketball. I like the old gyms and the history, like the old gym at Lockport Central and how it's set like a pit. Plus, the sounds and the echos of the gyms. I love it."

Did you have a highlight moment this season?
"Yes, my touchdown catch against Bradley-Bourbonnais (on Friday, Sept. 22, a 21-yard reception in the second quarter). That was my first varsity touchdown. It was exciting and it was a great feeling."

What have you learned from Lockport football coach George Czart?
"He's taught me that it's a team game. Not to be selfish and do your job. If everyone does their job, the results will take care of themselves. He's also taught me that the preparation for the season starts in the summer. Just to get better every day and the results will take care of themselves." 

Outside of the Lockport Porters, who is your favorite team in any sport, and why?
"I'm a Chicago guy, so if I had to pick I'd say the Bears. It's hard to like them sometimes now. But back in 2018, it was great and awesome. But then the double doink came. But as much as I like the Bears, I've never been to a game."

Do you plan to play basketball or football in college?
"If I had to pick a sport to play in college, I'd probably say football. Just because it's awesome. But if schools aren't interested, it's fine. I'd just go to college for academics and major in marketing/business."

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"Being able to wear and rep all the merchandise you get. Then competing against each other communities that are in the same situation and do the same thing about repping their teams. Also just seeing all your friends and everyone supporting you. It's awesome!"

Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Running Back Elijah Beltran

By Randy Whalen

Elijah Beltran is a senior running back on the Lockport Township football team. He has been a regular contributor for the Porters the past two seasons. 

The team now has more than enough playoff points. So how did it feel to get the 42-27 win at Bolingbrook last Friday?  
"Great. Every win is big and every win provides momentum. We learn from all of them."

Coming into the final week of the regular season, you have the postseason clinched but your opponent, Homewood-Flossmoor, needs a victory to secure a playoff spot. So will it be harder to get motivated for this game?
"I think it will be the complete opposite. We want to secure a better spot We are playing well on both sides of the ball and on special teams. So we want to come out and dominate." 

Forget the Japanese three-head monster, Ghidorah, you are part of the Porters' four-headed running back attack along with Jordan Kemp, Aidan Preciado, and Johnny Weslowski. Each one of you has over 100 yards rushing and you have all scored touchdowns this season. How is it to share time with everyone like that?
"It's been great. The coaches are all giving everyone a shot. It's kept the competition fresh and we have a good group."

Have you had a personal highlight in your time on the varsity?
Yes, I'd have to say my kickoff return last year (on Oct. 14 in a 37-10 loss) against Lincoln-Way East. It was an 80-yard return and I almost broke it for a touchdown but I got caught by the kicker. Assistant coach Mark Carmen won't let me live that down. But it led to our only touchdown."

Do you play any other sports?
"I used to play baseball. But I happily retired from it before my sophomore season. Now, it's just football and track and field, where I'm a sprinter. But not a hurdler.  Football is my sport, I've been playing it most of my life. I started playing contact football when I was six years old. I used to live in Oak Lawn and I started playing football with the Oak Lawn Outlaws. Then when I came here, I played for the Junior Porters and was on their championship team."

What is it about the game of football that makes it the sport for you?
"I've always been a part of the team. They are your brothers out there and the guys you go to battle with. That's a good thing to have."

What have you learned from Lockport football coach George Czart?
"A lot. But the main takeaway is that everyone is in it together. We have players that make plays but in the end, it's us as one team." 

Outside of the Lockport Porters, who is your favorite team in any sport, and why?
"Alabama in college football. I like the way Nick Saban coaches and the team has a certain demeanor. I've been a fan for a long time."

Speaking of that, do you plan to play football in college?
"Yes, if I get the opportunity to play. But if not, I'm happy with it. I've talked to some smaller schools but I'll see what happens after the season. I'm planning to major in business."

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"Being able to wear that jersey on Fridays and representing the team and the community. Also, we share a lot of the same facilities. So you make a lot of friends with other athletes through Lockport and stick together."

Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Running Back Jordan Kemp

By Randy Whalen

Jordan Kemp is a senior running back on the Lockport Township football team. He had 10 carries for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the Porters' 41-16 win over Andrew last Friday. He's also the leading rusher on the team by average this season, with 425 yards on 48 carries (8.9 yards per carry). 

You had a pair of touchdown runs last Friday in the 41-16 win over Andrew. How big was that win?
"It was huge. Our coaches wanted us to keep running the ball and (Andrew) couldn't stop us. It was just really good to get a win after these last few losses."

You transferred here from Bolingbrook this past summer. What made you decide to come to Lockport? 
"Well, when I was with Bolingbrook last year, I liked Lockport's commitment to the running game when we played them (a 34-33 Lockport win on Oct. 7). So I visited Lockport after last season and met with coach (George) Czart. So I decided to come here and told my mom, Durriyyah Kemp, that I wanted to come here and here we are."

How did everyone make you feel when you came to Lockport?
"Yes, everyone was welcoming when I came here in the summer. We went straight to work and I got to know everyone as the summer went on. But I fit in because we all wanted to go out and work."

The team plays Bolingbrook on the road this week. How are you going to feel going back to play at your old school against your old team?
"I will be pretty pumped up. But I don't like to put extra pressure on myself, so I'll treat it as another game. But I also know all those guys over there, so it'll be pretty fun." 

Do you play any other sports?
"I have in the past. I've played basketball and run track, but not now. It's only football. In the offseason I want my focus to be on college."

What is it about the game of football that makes it the sport for you?
"Just the ability to be an athlete out there. The freedom to do and show your athleticism. I've been playing the game since seventh grade. I consider myself more of an athlete, but playing running back is something I've always done."

What have you learned from Lockport football coach George Czart?
"He's taught me a lot. The discipline of practice, the discipline of doing your job. I always look forward to his pregame speeches. Everyone is locked in and he holds the team accountable. When he says that practice is at 3, you be there at 3. I love that. I love that. We are working together."

Outside of the Lockport Porters, who is your favorite team in any sport, and why?
"The Michigan State football team. My mom attended Michigan State and I was born in Lansing, Michigan. My late aunt, April Vincent, went there too. I'd love to play there."

Speaking of that, do you plan to play football in college?
"Yes, I plan to play. This past week, St. Ambrose University was looking at me and I've also been contacted by Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina. So that's on the radar too. I'll see after the season. I'm planning to study psychology since I'm interested in human behavior." 

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"I'd have to say how the whole school is so supportive. We have such good crowds at our games, even on the road. Everyone from the staff to the students rally around you."

Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Defensive End Matthaeus Foltys

By Randy Whalen

Matthaeus Foltys is a senior defensive end on the Lockport Township football team. He's been one of the defensive leaders for the past two seasons.

Unfortunately, the Porters lost 41-0 on Homecoming last Friday to Lincoln-Way East. What are your impressions of the game?
"We have to play with more intensity. On defense, we have the talent. We just have to step it up and make plays and I know we can. I know that talking to the guys that we want to get after it and play with intensity this week against Andrew."

After starting 3-0, the team is now 3-3. Are you looking at this week's home game against Andrew almost as a playoff game?
"Yes, the playoffs are now. I think the whole team is ready. We know we have to win two games but it would be better to win all three. We believe we can and go into the playoffs on a good note."

Sadly, your dad, Dr. Christian E. Foltys, passed away on Jan. 20 of this year. Do you do anything to honor him before a game?
"I just honor him in the way I play. I give it all I've got. I think of him often and reflect on him during the National Anthem."

Do you play any other sports?
"Growing up I used to play basketball. I played basketball on the Lockport team freshman year. But after that, it's been only football."

What is it about the game of football that makes it the sport for you?
"Growing up I had three brothers who played football. My dad also played football. So I wanted to be like them. I like the aggression of football. Actually, I was knocking people over in basketball too. I'd do anything to get a rebound. I used to be an offensive lineman. But I switched to defense my freshman year and I've been playing it since."

Did you get pulled up to the varsity at the end of the 2021 Class 8A State Championship season?
"Yes, I got pulled up in Week No. 7 and was on the varsity for the rest of the season and the whole playoff run. It was crazy seeing the team from the summer until the end. It was dominating the way the team did it and was great to see."

What have you learned from Lockport football coach George Czart?
"He's taught me how to lead a team. He's a great leader of the defense and team. He teaches life things like to not let the setbacks hang on you and to keep moving forward. He emphasizes that a lot." 

Outside of the Lockport Porters, who is your favorite team in any sport, and why?
"The Chicago Bulls. Just when I was growing up, we had D Rose and it was so fun to watch. Plus, I've seen all the old clips of Michael Jordan. Those are great to watch."

Do you plan to play football in college?
"Yes, I plan on it. If the opportunity is there, I will. But I plan on going to a really good academic school, so that comes first. I plan to go into bioengineering and be a radiologist."

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"Probably the facilities. We've got two weight rooms and a big turf field. I love it. Plus, the amount of athletes at the school that keep pushing you for your position."

Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Offensive Linemen Christos And Nici Alexandros

By Randy Whalen

Christos and Nici Alexandros are senior twin brothers and offensive linemen for the Lockport Township football team. Christos has been a 3-year starter and started at right guard on the Porter Class 8A state title team in 2021. Nici has been a 2-year starter at center.
For the second straight week, you lost a down-to-the-wire game, this one by a score of 38-32 at Bradley-Bourbonnais. What were your impressions of the game?
CHRISTOS: "I thought we had good plays and bad plays. There's a lot of room for improvement and we never want to lose a (SouthWest Suburban) Conference game. But we just have to focus on Lincoln-Way East now."
NICI: "We've been in close games all year and to not come out with a win at the end hurts. But this one really hurt because we had a long drive to tie the game. But then they scored at the end. Some people want to blame the defense but that's a game that we should have put up 40 points." 

Being (fraternal) twins, how cool is that to be out there playing with each other every week?
CHRISTOS: "It's pretty awesome. There's a level of trust between us. We were lined up next to each other last year and to start this year. But now I've moved to left tackle. Still, on the offensive line, I know what he and the other guys do. I have a lot of faith in those guys."
NICI: "It's awesome. A great experience and great to have my brother there. We had played next to each other but he had to move to tackle. Hopefully, he'll be back at guard later this season." 

Along those lines, what's something about playing offensive line that the average person doesn't know?
CHRISTOS: "That it's all five guys, sometimes, six if we throw a right end or fullback in there, working together. We all have to work together, so the chemistry has to be there. A lot of it is positioning and also the comradery between everyone." 
NICI: "As the center, it's definitely a little different than the other O-line positions. It's a lot more mental than people think. I have to be the one to make the call out there as to what the defense is. Plus, due to an injury, I had to learn to snap the ball right-handed this season. So that's been an adjustment."

You started on the state title team two years ago, Christos. What was that like, and Nici, were you brought up for that game too?
CHRISTOS: "It was just awesome to say that I was a part of that, that I contributed to that. We lost one game to Lincoln-Way East (12-10). But otherwise, everything was perfect that season."
NICI: "Yes, I got brought up for the playoffs and was suited up on the sideline. I didn't get into play but it was awesome to see the school and everyone win the championship."

Do you guys play any other sport? 
CHRISTOS: "Yes, I do the shot put and discus in track and field. I started doing those in my sophomore year. I like having a sport to do in the spring."
NICI: "Yes, I also do the shot and discus and also started my sophomore year. I enjoy it and enjoy having something to do in the spring."

I imagine that football is the favorite sport for both of you though. So what is it about the game of football that makes it the sport for you?
CHRISTOS: "Yes, football is it and I've played it since second grade. I've played it every year since then and it's the team unity, the bonding. You work with the same guys every day. All my friends are on the football team and what I love is spending time with my best friends on Friday night."
NICI: "Yes, football for sure. I've been playing since I was seven. But I quit at age 11 and then came back at age 13. I quit because I didn't enjoy it anymore. But I made a great decision to come back. I love it just because of the bonds you make. It's just a great team game and I'll be talking to the guys on my team for the rest of my life."

What have you learned from Lockport football coach George Czart?
CHRISTOS: "A lot. Not just about football but about work ethic. I think a lot of what he says carries over with life and with being a future father and husband." 
NICI: "I've learned a good amount from him. I've learned how important our job is individually in regard to the team. Also, he doesn't have to be loud to be loud. He's really good at getting his point across and is 100 percent really good with us."

Outside of the Lockport Porters, who is your favorite team in any sport, and why?
CHRISTOS: "The New England Patriots. Because my dad grew up in Massachusetts and has always been a big fan of theirs. So, I'm also a big fan of Tom Brady." 
NICI: "The Chicago Bears. I'm a diehard Bears fan. I fell in love with them 10 years ago. Just because I love the sport and they are my local team, so I fell in love with them."

Do you plan to play football in college?
CHRISTOS: "Yes, but I'm uncommitted. I've been talking to some small colleges, D3 and NAIA schools. I will just see what happens."
NICI: "That's the plan. I'm not committed but I have three offers. They are from Judson University, The University of St. Francis, and The University of Wisconsin-Platteville. My goal is to be committed by the end of the year."

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
CHRISTOS: "The energy you get at every game. People are really interested in us and in what we are doing. It's a big school but people care." 
NICI: "Just the treatment that you get at school. You get a lot of respect from everyone. The student section at our games is awesome and everyone talks to you about the games."

Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Linebacker Jameson "Jamo" Clark

By Randy Whalen

Jameson Clark is a senior linebacker for the Lockport Township football team. He's been a two-year starter on the defense.

The Porters lost a tough 30-28 game at Sandburg last Friday. What do you take away from this game? 
"It was a tough loss. A lot of people were expecting us to get a bounce-back win after what happened to us (a 34-3 Homecoming loss at Lockport) against them last season. But now we just have to focus on this week at Bradley-Bourbonnais."

The defense started out playing well but has given up 51 points in the past six quarters. What do you have to do to get that turned around?
"It's definitely concerning. We pride ourselves on having a great defense. We are coming up with new schemes, and new looks, and evaluating everyone the best that we can."

Have you always played linebacker?
"Yes, it's always been my main position. I played a little bit of tight end as a freshman and sophomore. But linebacker is my spot."

As a sophomore, did you get brought up to the varsity for the Class 8A state championship playoff run?
"Yes, I got to play on the kickoff team. It was a great experience and a lot of fun. I was on the kickoff team when we opened the state championship game with a kickoff. It was the greatest moment of my athletic career to be out there for the start of the game, it was surreal. It was the loudest I've ever heard in a stadium. I took it all in and I was like, 'wow!'" 

It's already midseason. But what opponent are you looking forward to playing the most the rest of the season?
"We have Bradley-Bourbonnais in front of us now. But if not them, I'd have to say Lincoln-Way East. They say we have a rivalry with them. But they've been dominating in it. So I'd like to get one before high school ends."

Do you play any other sports and if not, what is it about the game of football that makes it the sport for you?
"No, I just play football. I wrestled when I was at Homer Junior High and also played some basketball on a travel team. But in high school, it's only football. I love how much teamwork has to be there to make football work. You have to be there for each other and everyone has to do their job. It's the ultimate team game."

What have you learned from Lockport football coach George Czart?
"I've learned a lot, not only in football but in life. Some of the things I've learned is to control what you can control, if you do your job, everything will fall into place, and give everything you have in your effort. I can't wait to keep learning from him."

Outside of the Lockport Porters, who is your favorite team in any sport, and why?
"The Green Bay Packers and I'm proud of it. My dad (David) was born and raised in Wisconsin, so I became a Packers fan. I've been to three Packers games. Two of them at Lambeau Field and one in Cincinnati. The Packers won both games I was at Lambeau Field and it was super cool."

Do you plan to play football in college?
"That's definitely a possibility. I've talked to a few schools but I'm considering all my options. If the right thing comes my way, I'd be willing to jump on it."

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"It's just the culture and the community rallying behind you. You are just proud to play at Lockport. It's just a cool feeling to have your family and friends there to support you and watch you play. To see them in the stands on a Friday night is one of the best feelings."

Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Wide Receiver Kevin Holland

By Randy Whalen

Kevin Holland is a senior wide receiver for the Lockport Township football team. He missed most of last season with injuries but has rebounded to lead the Porters in receiving this season. He had six receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning one on a nine-yard TD catch in overtime as Lockport won a 31-24 thrilling home game against Naperville Central last Friday.

The Porters are 3-0 and completed a great stretch against a trio of quality opponents to start the football season. Can you describe what it's like on game day?
"It's just like it doesn't hit me until game day. Actually maybe not even until the middle of the first quarter. But when the adrenaline gets going, I feel invincible out there. Especially after a big win."

Along those lines, last season's team also started 3-0 and finished 5-5. So what do you have to do to keep this going?
"Yes, I would say we have got to 3-0 by looking week-by-week. We have to continue that. We are looking at the little goals to get to the big goal of state."

You were injured last season but have come back strong this year. How good does that feel?
"I missed a lot of time last year. I had a bone bruise on my collarbone and had a concussion. So the whole offseason was a big motivation for me to get back and play. I feel great now."

What opponent are you looking forward to playing the most the rest of the season?
"Sandburg or Lincoln-Way East. Sandburg because of what happened against them last year (a 34-3 Sandburg win which spoiled the Porters Homecoming on Sept. 23, 2022). We didn't come into that game, so this year we want to win big. As for Lincoln-Way East, who wouldn't want a piece of the top dog?"

Do you play any other sports and if not, what is it about the game of football that makes it the sport for you?
"No, I don't play any other sports. I wrestled between fifth and eighth grade and I played baseball my freshman year at Lockport. But baseball is too boring. I love the contact of football. Football is so much fun to watch and even more fun to play. There's so much to the game of football."

So what is something about playing wide receiver that the average fan doesn't know?
"There are a lot of little things that matter and you have to do them well in order to succeed. You also have to block. My receivers coach, Coach Vargas, tells me that you have to be able to block or you won't be on the field."

What have you learned from Lockport football coach George Czart?
"I've learned that accountability matters. If you don't do your job, it could hurt somebody else. That actions speak louder than words and not to be selfish. He's a great coach. He brings enthusiasm and everything "

Outside of the Lockport Porters, who is your favorite team in any sport, and why?
"My Chicago Bears and White Sox. I'm from Chicago and I'm a Southsider, so I was raised that way. My favorite player is Odell Beckham, Jr. I've watched him since he played at LSU. "

Do you plan to play football in college?
"That's the goal. I've looked at a couple of schools but right now I have no clue where I want to go. But I want to play wide receiver. If I played defense, I could play linebacker but not cornerback."

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"Just all the people that show up to the games to watch us play. It's like every game is a playoff game. It gives me goosebumps to be out there making big catches. Especially the ones I had (of 29 yards) at the end of regulation, and then the TD one (in overtime). It was great to do that in front of all the fans."

Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Kicker Nate Blazewski

By Randy Whalen

Nate Blazewski is a senior placekicker on the Lockport football team and also a forward on the Porter soccer team. He's made five field goals so far this season, including ones from 44 and 51 yards last Friday in a 37-22 second-week win at Wheaton North. 

What are your impressions of the Porters' football team after your second-week win?
"At the beginning of the year, some people said this was one of the hardest schedules that Lockport has ever had. So some people doubted us. But we want to show them that we are the real deal. We are not using our schedule as an excuse. We are just going out and getting our work done."

Since you play soccer and also placekick on the football team, what is a typical practice day like for you?
"Usually we have soccer games on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday." So on Mondays and Wednesdays, I go to soccer practice until about 5:15. Then I go to the football field and kick for at least 45 minutes, sometimes until 6:30. Fridays are the football games. If we don't have a soccer game on Saturday, I will be at football practice. But yes, those are some long days."

You kicked on the varsity last year, but didn't you also kick some on the 2021 state title team?
"Yes, when Gabe Czako was out with an injury. I kicked against Sandburg (a 42-0 win on Sept. 24) and kicked off a few times, including against Lincoln-Way East that season. I had kicked on the freshmen' football team and then on the sophomore team. But, after the Sandburg game (in 2021), I was dressed for every varsity game too, including the state championship game. I loved every part of that game."

You made a 51-yard field goal against Wheaton North. Can you describe how that felt?
"Actually, I was more excited to make that tackle to save a touchdown (in the final minute of the first quarter). It was my first career tackle in high school and I was more excited about that than any of the field goals. But the 51-yarder felt really good. Just the fact that you can put 50 in front of it and put it in that column. It's a landmark highlight."

How long have you played soccer and football?
"I've been playing soccer since I was three. I tried every sport back then but I started playing soccer at the (First Church of the) Nazarene in Lemont. I was also playing baseball then but I liked that you could run more in soccer, not just between bases. Later, I started playing club soccer with Chicago INTER and still do. I started playing football in eighth grade since a  lot of friends were on the team. I played some cornerback too. But I also kicked for the Junior Porters in Pop Warner. If you kicked an extra point there, you would get two points instead of one. We won the state championship in my eighth-grade year."

So which sport do you like better, football or soccer?
"I was on both varsity teams that went to state in 2021 (the Porter soccer team took third in Class 3A). Both were great but it was amazing to play in front of such a big crowd at a college football stadium (Northern Illinois University) in the football state title game. So after that game, it changed my mind as to what I might want to play in college. Just everyone watching you and the feeling out there. That slowly turned me to liking football more." 

What have you learned from Lockport football coach George Czart and from Lockport soccer coach, Chris Beal?
"Coach Czart preaches a lot about not being a solo man in a team sport. So I always frame it that other people have helped me get where I am and give credit where credit is due. I could not have kicked any field goal in without the snap of Dallas Gorski and the hold of Conley Pfeiffer. Coach Beal has helped me very much with my mental game. He's helped me to get out of my own head and to have fun."

Outside of the Lockport Porters, who is your favorite team in any sport, and why?
"Brighton, from the Premier Soccer League. I just like that they're not a great Premier League team or have as much money as other teams. But they have found and developed a lot of players."

Do you plan to play football or soccer in college?
"I've been talking to a couple of schools. But mostly D3 schools, about football and kicking. I want to see what happens this season and I'm open to playing either sport in college."

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"Just all the people in school that know who you are. Everyone knows what you do for the school and are excited about the teams. Just the amount of people who saw you do this and that. They know about what you did outside of school, in school."


Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Defensive Lineman Ryan Kutz

By Randy Whalen

Ryan Kutz is a senior defensive lineman at Lockport. He had a pair of sacks as the Porter defense came up big in a 14-8 opening-week win at Plainfield North. 

What are your impressions of the Porters' opening week win?
"I knew right out of the gate that our defense was going to be pretty solid and the opening week was a great game for us. Our offense just has to capitalize on the situations and as time goes on, I know we will make those plays."

With about three minutes to play in the game, you had a huge third-down sack. Can you describe what you did to get in so quickly on that play?
As the nose guard, I timed it just perfectly. At the snap, I was going to try to rip over the center. But they had double-teamed big Mike (Pratt) so it looked like a free play and I was able to get to the quarterback. I was also able to get in and have a tackle for loss on the first play of the game and that set the tone." 

As both offensive and defensive linemen, you guys did very well as a team at the 23rd Annual "Battle of the Big Butts" on Thursday, July 13 at West Aurora. Especially in the bench press. How does that help you?
"Ever since the end of freshman year, myself, and (senior twins) Christos and Nicolas Alexandros have worked out in the weight room. Christos won the individual bench press at West Aurora. For me, I broke my ankle in my right ankle in my sophomore season and couldn't play. So I worked on lifting the whole time and got very good strength.

Do you play any other sports?
"The last couple of years I've done throwing in track and field. I like the discus better. It's very fun and you compete with yourself. I used to play hockey but I stopped freshmen year to concentrate on playing football. 

What is it about the game of football that makes it the sport for you?
"It's the whole team process. But also, I get to look at the other guy and say, 'I'm going to dominate physically.' I like to create havoc out there even if I don't get credit and just hold the guy up for the linebacker. In our first game, (junior linebacker) Payton Roberson (with an interception, sack, and 10 tackles) was insane."

What opponent are you looking forward to playing the most this season?
"I know a lot of guys say Lincoln-Way East (on Sept. 29) because we haven't beaten them in forever. But for me, it's not any single opponent. I don't care who we play. I just like to focus on the next team. Right now, that's Wheaton North. That's a good team."

What have you learned from Lockport football coach George Czart?
"To start off, it's the 'we over me' slogan. Everyone has to communicate with each other. But what I really love is how he preps us for stuff. I want to be a teacher and a coach and I love to watch the adjustments that he makes, they are amazing. I love that he also knows all of us, no matter who you are. He talks to us, he's a players coach."

Outside of the Lockport Porters, who is your favorite team in any sport, and why?
"Just like Aidan (Preciado) said last week, my favorite team is the Chicago Bears. I'm a diehard Bears guy, I love the Bears, everything about the Bears. I'm going to the Bears/Broncos game this season (on Oct. 1) and have four Bears jerseys. I'm still a Cubs fan in baseball. I just don't watch it as much."

Do you plan to play football in college?
"I've been talking about it. But I want to go into teaching. So it's more about the school I go to for that. If I play football, great. But I want to make sure that the school is interested in me. as a player. Not just a guy on the sideline."

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"How the people look at us. People care how you are doing. But also look at how you react to certain things and want you to be a role model. Everyone that I talk to is positive and has belief in us. We have the whole community behind us."

Ten Questions With Lockport Senior Running Back Aidan Preciado

By Randy Whalen

Aidan Preciado is a senior running back at Lockport. Last season he had 64 carries for 297 yards and four touchdowns. He added eight receptions for 145 yards and a TD. He is expected to be one of the starters as the Porters travel to Plainfield North on Friday to open the season.

What are your expectations for the season?
"We have a big returning class from last year. We have a lot of guys back and a lot of leaders. With coach Kooi and a new offense, we will be ready to make a deep playoff run. Plus, we have a lot of great defensive players. We believe that iron sharpens iron. I feel this will be a really good year and we will surprise a lot of people."

Yes, Bret Kooi (who was the head coach for the Porters between 1994-2010) is back as the offensive coordinator. What influence has he had? 
"I've known coach Kooi for a long time. I did his football camps at Lemont and used to talk to him. His plays are really done well and are very intricate. They are designed to attack the other team's weakest point."   

The team was plagued by injuries last season. I know those happen, but have you done anything to combat that?
"Yes, a lot. We've done things with our workouts that are designed to help with injury prevention. We are taking a different approach and doing certain workouts that strengthen certain muscle groups."

You have a good group of running backs with yourself, along with fellow seniors Eli Beltran, and Erick Ulloa, plus junior Johnny Wesolowski. How good can all of you guys be?
"Johnny is a hell of a player and every day he puts in the work. Everyone puts in the work. The big thing is that we all push each other to be a starter."

Do you play any other sport? If not, what is it about football that makes it the sport for you?
"Just football. I did the sprint races in track and field as a freshman and sophomore. But now it's only football. I love football because it draws my attention. It takes all 11 guys to make it happen. It has to be a well-oiled machine, all working together as a unit. You're working for the guy next to you and he's working for you."

What opponent are you looking forward to playing the most this season?
"Either Lincoln-Way East (on Sept. 29 for Week No. 6) because they're always good and it's our Homecoming Game. Or Sandburg (away on Sept 15 for Week No. 4) because we got embarrassed by them (a 34-3 loss in Week 5) last year and want to turn that around."

What have you learned from Lockport football coach George Czart?
"Ever since my freshman year, he's pushed guys. He wants us to be, not only the best players we can be but also the best men we can be. He says that football is important because it molds you into men and gives you life lessons for the future."

Outside of the Lockport Porters, who is your favorite team in any sport, and why?
"My favorite team is the Chicago Bears. My whole family is Bears fans. I grew up watching them and going to games every year."

Do you plan to play football in college?
"Yes, I've been talking to a few schools. But I'm going to ride out the season and the recruitment process and see where that takes me. I want to try to find the perfect fit."

What's the best thing about being an athlete at Lockport?
"Definitely the community. Especially in recent years. When you have that jersey on, there's a sense of not only representing the team but also the community People that you've never even met come up to you and congratulate you. That's special."

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