Connor Lowman rallies Lincoln-Way West in debut start

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He still had 12 minutes to work with, but it’s a lot to ask of a sophomore quarterback making his first start to rally his team from a 24-7 deficit.

Lincoln-Way West’s Connor Lowman went with the most basic approach in Friday night’s showdown with SouthWest Suburban Red rival Lincoln-Way North.

“We had to stay cool,” Lowman said. “We had to just do what we knew how to do, what our coaches taught us to do. Stay calm, be collected.”

It added up to a wild and crazy comeback as the Warriors scored four times in the fourth quarter to stun North 35-24.

Lowman completed 16 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Gabe Montalvo made the biggest play, a 28-yard run that put West (6-1, 4-1) in front with 2:51 left to play.

North (6-1, 4-1) played the second half without star running back Jaylin Branch, who left the game after taking a blow to the head. He was held out for precautionary reasons, according to a trainer on the North sideline.

The wild comeback occurred after North built a 24-7 first-half lead behind a 5-yard TD run by Branch, scoring passes of 4 and 7 yards from quarterback Ryan Arthur to Kyle Ostrowski, and a 43-yard field goal into the wind by Niko Mavrogiannis.

Through three quarters, West’s only successful drive ended with a 20-yard TD toss from Lowman to Joe Shirley.

But things changed dramatically just before the start of the fourth quarter when Lowman drove the Warriors to the North 3. On the first play after the break, Montalvo (27 carries, 132 yards) blasted in from the 3 and Mike Pratl converted one of his five PATs .

Without Branch, North’s offense went flat. West got the ball back quickly and scored again with 8:12 remaining on an 18-yard pass, Lowman to Shirley.

Suddenly, it was 24-21.

West’s defense then stepped up again, and gave the ball to Lowman at the North 41 with four minutes left. Lowman completed one pass to Shirley for 13 yards, before Montalvo shed a few tackles on his way to what would be the game-winning score.

“I couldn’t do it without my offensive linemen blocking everyone,” Montalvo said. “I wouldn’t have gotten to the secondary without my linemen. The wide receivers blocked in the secondary to make the seams easier for me to cut and break some tackles.”

The game’s final major play was also a wild one, Arthur completing a long pass to Jake Hradek, who fumbled the ball at midfield. Nate Paniak picked it up for the Warriors, returning it all the way to put West up by double digits.

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