State Preview: Lockport vs. Maine South, Class 8A state title game

Here’s a closer look at the two teams squaring off in the Class 6A title game.

Lockport (12-1)

Head coach: George Czart (74-38, 11 seasons)

Last State Title Game Appearance: 2003, won against Maine South 48-27 (Class 8A)

The Path to State

defeated Lyons 35-10

defeated Glenbard West 34-0

defeated Glenbard North 28-22

defeated Loyola 35-21

Offensive stalwart

Ty Schultz, RB: Despite being eased into the season after a spring injury sidelined him for that campaign, Schultz has been absolutely dominant, particularly during Lockport’s playoff drive to the title game. Schultz currently has 20 touchdowns, the lion’s share of which have been scored over the past few weeks.

Defense stalwart

Andrew Blackburn-Forst, DL: If you have to pick just one, which isn’t easy, the lean goes to Blackburn-Forst who is a terror to try to block. He has 13 sacks and 17 tackles for loss.

The wildcard

Ethan Gallagher, WR/LB: If something big happens for the Porters, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, Gallagher likely had something to do with it or helped lead a teammate to that success. Gallagher has 12 tackles for loss and six interceptions on the season.

Stat Book

This matchup is the first meeting between Lockport and Maine South since the Class 8A State Championship, won by Lockport 48-27. Both current head coaches were involved in that game. Czart was the defensive coordinator for Bret Kooi, now the head coach at Lemont, while Inserra was in his third year running the Maine South program.

• In Lockport’s lone loss of the season, Timosciek did not play quarterback do to injury. He did punt, which is another skill in the senior QB’s bag.

• Lockport opened the season with four shutouts in its first five games and no opponent has scored more than 22 points in any game this season. Lockport didn’t allow any opponent more than two touchdowns until Week 12.

The skinny

One has to like the blueprint that Lockport has followed to get to this point. The Porters leaned heavily on an experienced and very talented defensive unit to carry them until the offensive attack found its rhythm. Now that it has, it has become increasingly difficult to determine which one of the two units is playing better. That duality makes it extremely hard for opponents to figure out the best path to getting past Lockport right now. And there might not be a path anyway.

Maine South (12-1)

Head coach: Dave Inserra (221-34, 21 seasons)

Last State Title Game Appearance: 2016, won against Loyola 42-28 (Class 8A)

The Path to State

defeated New Trier 51-7

defeated Plainfield North 21-18

defeated Neuqua Valley 14-13

defeated Marist 35-33

Offensive stalwart

Mike Sanjenko, RB: Sanjenko has always been a huge part of the Maine South attack, but he’s taken his game to another level in the postseason, scoring half of his impressive 30-touchdown total once the postseason has taken over the calendar.

Defense stalwart

Cole Cichowski, S/LB: Maine South doesn’t rely heavily on one defender to do the tough work. No Hawks player has more than 75 tackles, but a whole bunch have more than 50. Cichowski leads the way with 71.

The wildcard

Will Guzaldo, WR: Maine South has gone more heavily to the run game in the postseason, but forget about the passing attack at one’s own peril. Guzaldo leads a very solid receiving group with 566 yards on the year.

Stat Book

Maine South has played escape artist in the last three rounds of the playoff rounds, trailing each of those opponents in the fourth quarter but rallying late to beat Plainfield North by three points, Neuqua Valley by one and Marist by two.

• After losing in his first three trips to the state title game including a 2003 loss to Lockport in his first, Inserra-led Maine South teams has won its last four title game appearances including a trifecta of crowns in 2008-10.

• Maine South’s defensive unit has been more of a bend but don’t break unit, but in crunch time it solidifies well. The Hawks have surrendered just 40 points in the fourth quarter this season.

The skinny

On one hand, you could look at what Maine South has done in the postseason and wonder if it might run out of good fortune at the wrong time. But on the other hand, some credit has to be given to Maine South for doing exactly what they need to in order to get where they need to be. Wins don’t come with style point bonuses.