Lincoln-Way East makes quick work of Conant in Class 8A postseason opener

FRANKFORT — Based on Friday’s 42-7 rout of Conant, Lincoln-Way East is in playoff form.

This should be no surprise to anyone who has watched the Griffins in the Rob Zvonar era, which is the entire history of the school. Zvonar’s teams are always prepared, always crisp on offense, always tenacious on defense.

So it was against a collection of Conant Cougars which squeezed into the Class 8A playoffs by winning in the ninth week of the season.

It was 42-0 with 3:37 left in the first half, which triggered a running clock after the intermission. That lessened the toll on the Cougars (5-5) and helped keep the top-seeded Griffins (10-0) fresh for next week’s second-round game at Neuqua Valley (8-2), which trounced Lane 37-0.

That target on the Griffins’ back? It’s fine with linebacker Jake Scianna.

“We love it,” Scianna said. “It brings out the best of us. That’s what we’re here for.”

The Griffins’ offense was relentless in the first half, scoring on its first six possessions and piling up 222 yards, 117 on the ground.

James Kwiecinski ran for two touchdowns (29 and 21 yards), Nuri Muhammad ran one in from the 22, Cade Serauskis scored on a 3-yard plunge, and quarterback Braden Tischer hit Serauskis on a 24-yard touchdown pass and ran for a 10-yard score as well.

“We had a good week of practice, but it’s our O-line,” Kwiecinski said. “It keeps getting better and better and better.”

Kwiecinski rattled off the starting linemen’s names like they’re his brothers: Will Heitner, Joe Torelli, Brad Abbott, Josh Janowski and sophomore Max Cioffi, who has replaced the injured Colin Redmond.

“Gosh, we’ve got so much talent,” Kwiecinski. “And being No. 1, it’s great and it’s an honor, but it means nothing. Every week we’ve got to be 1-0.”

Friday’s outcome was effectively settled after the Griffins’ third series. Tischer hit Serauskis for 37 yards, after which Muhammad ran it for the final 22, and it was 21-0 before the first quarter ended.

“We went out and set the tone early on both sides of the ball,” Zvonar said. “Conant’s not an easy offense to prepare for, the old-school veer and wing-T philosophy. So it was good to come out and get on top early.”

The Griffins were so on top, it was hard to tell what Conant was running. The Cougars lost yardage on nine of their 28 rushes, and another four went for no gain. Aside from Antonio Ramsey’s 63-yard sprint touchdown to the left against the second-string during the running-clock fourth quarter, Conant’s longest rush was for 8 yards.

“We studied our playbook and prepped really well this week,” Scianna said. “Their offense is pretty simple for us. Our defense was designed to stop it, and that’s what we did here tonight. Honestly, what we saw is what we expected and did a great job.

“Our defense needs to keep improving. Zoning in on the little things; I think that’s what we did here tonight.”

Complemented by the offense, everything went right for the Griffins, who, if they beat Neuqua Valley next week, would likely be at home in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.

“Just a complete team win; a good way to start out the playoffs,” said Zvonar, the last guy to look ahead of an opponent.

Tim Cronin – Shaw Local News Network correspondent

Tim Cronin is a contributing reporter to Shaw Local, focused on covering high school sports in the Will County area