Eagles never lose lead while downing Porters
Finally, no comeback was required.
In each of its first two outings of 2013, Sandburg had been unable to hang on to a halftime edge. After seeing that failure ultimately doom them in Week 1, the Eagles fought back to overtake Andrew and score a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover win the following week.
Friday night at Lockport in its SWSC Blue opener, Sandburg once again staked itself to an advantage. And while play became a bit ragged during the third period and Eagles coach Dave Wierzal briefly grew uneasy, the visitors managed to keep the Porters locked out of the lead.
One of Lockport’s most promising second-half journeys ended on downs at the Sandburg 39, then the Eagles’ offense embarked on a 61-yard drive that salted away a 28-14 win.
“I’m very proud of how our kids responded,” Wierzal said. “Our defense came up in a big way this game.”
That occurred despite the absence of two of Sandburg’s most important individuals on that side of the ball, lineman Yanni Demogerontas and linebacker Bobby Krop. Both athletes suffered rather serious injuries versus the Thunderbolts — Demogerontas broke a bone in his ankle and Krop will undergo an ACL repair in October — and may have played for the last time as high school athletes.
“It’s heartbreaking because both kids are seniors and co-captains,” Wierzal said. “Our defense is improving quite a bit, but the problem we’re dealing with is that we have to re-examine every position. How does this affect us and the depth we have?”
There were no negative repercussions here, as Marty Micek (eight solo tackles, one assist), Mike Howard (seven solos, three assists), Bilal Judeh (six solos, one assist), Graham Hevel (five solos, three assists) and Matt Taylor (four solos, three assists) all stepped forward to lend a significant hand. Adam Nash (sack) and Dan Trentacoste (fumble recovery) also did their part to aid the Eagles’ cause.
Trentacoste’s play, in fact, occurred right away and gave Sandburg (2-1, 1-0) an immediate lift. He pounced on a loose ball at the Porters’ 8-yard line during the hosts’ initial possession, and that led to Brian Langowski’s 3-yard touchdown run three plays later.
Before the opening quarter ended, the Eagles tallied again, doing so this time on Adam Valiga’s 23-yard grab of a Sean Leland pass. Leland also completed a 27-yard throw to Rasheed Carney during the series.
“You could tell, in general, the team’s attitude was better,” Wierzal said of his squad. “For the most part, it felt like we were in control.”
That didn’t mean, however, Sandburg would be able to always avoid anxious moments. One of those materialized in the second stanza after the Eagles fumbled at their own 37.
Sandburg’s defense rose up to repel Lockport and the danger had apparently passed, but the Porters didn’t go away quietly. Instead, Lockport blocked an ensuing Eagles punt and Justin Krzeczkowski returned it 21 yards for a TD.
“Fourteen-to-7 — heck, that’s a ballgame, even though we felt like it was better than that [for us],” Wierzal said.
A 5-yard Leland-to-Hevel touchdown pass stretched Sandburg’s lead back out to 14, but that didn’t prevent Wierzal from eventually growing a little restless again. Making him so was Leland’s return to the sidelines following a late-second-quarter sack. Leland stayed there the rest of the half.
“Between that and our concern about executing [the offense] cleanly, it was kind of scary,” Wierzal said. “The third quarter has not been good to us [so far this season].”
The Porters did indeed shave their deficit in half during that stanza, using Cory Savage’s 1-yard run to make inroads. The touchdown came shortly after Lockport recovered an Eagles fumble at the latter’s 16.
The Porters intercepted a pass a while later, but did not issue another serious threat as Sandburg’s prevention unit forced Lockport into a three downs-and-out sequence. That display of defensive might was then repeated before the third period concluded, and the latter effort marked the end of the Porters’ rally attempts.
Langowski saw to that by capping the Eagles’ next series with a 3-yard scoring run. He finished with a career-high 153 rushing yards on 23 carries, the main part of Sandburg’s 261 total offensive yards. The Eagles gained 158 yards more than Lockport overall.
A Saturday afternoon game at Joliet West awaits Sandburg this week. The Tigers are holding their homecoming, and the Eagles — as well as other schools — must deal with ACT testing that same morning.
“Whenever you break a routine, it’s difficult,” Wierzal said. “But we’ll be ready.”
Sandburg 14 7 0 7 - 28
Lockport 0 7 7 0 - 14
First downs 23 8
Yds. rushing 181 64
Yds. passing 80 39
Total yds. 261 103
Att./comp. 17-6 21-3
Fumbles/lost 3-2 1-1
Had intercepted 1 0
Penalties/yds. 9-90 13-105
Punts/avg. 5-29.8 8-34.8
CS — Brian Langowski, 3-yd. run (Jonathan Milazzo kick)
CS — Adam Valiga, 23-yd. pass from Sean Leland (Milazzo kick)
LP — Justin Krzeczkowski, 21-yd. return of blocked punt (Joe Martarano kick)
CS — Graham Hevel, 5-yd. pass from Leland (Milazzo kick)
LP — Cory Savage, 1-yd. run (Martarano kick)
CS — Langowski, 3-yd. run (Milazzo kick)
Sandburg Rushing: Langowski 27-153, Muno-Kohn 6-26, Trentacoste 4-17, Johnson 5-(-2), Gutierrez 1-(-3), Leland 7-(-10). Passing: Leland 17-6-80. Receiving: Carney 3-47, Valiga 1-23, Hevel 1-5, Marudas 1-5.