Special teams play sparks Lincoln-Way North to win

SHARE Special teams play sparks Lincoln-Way North to win

Lincoln-Way North focused more attention at practice last week than usual on its special teams.

It paid off Friday against T.F. South.

The Phoenix blocked consecutive punts in the first quarter that led to scores and ignited an easy 41-6 win over the visiting Rebels in a Class 6A first-round tilt.

Julian Hylton added 159 yards rushing on 30 carries and four touchdowns, covering 1, 24, 1 and 8 yards.

North (9-1) will take on Rich Central (9-1), an 18-14 winner over Romeoville, in the second round.

“We worked a lot on special teams this week,” said North linebacker Jake Abramowicz, who recorded the second blocked punt of the night. “It’s the playoffs so we had to turn it up more.”

Abramowicz’s special-teams play led to the Phoenix’s second score, a 7-yard pass from Ryan Arthur to Zach Hoekstra for a 14-0 advantage with 36.2 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

It was Kamryn Ryan’s punt block on T.F. South’s first series of the game that set North up at the Rebels 38-yard line.

Six plays later, Arthur and Hoekstra teamed up for their first score, covering six yards.

“We’ve been spending a lot of time on special teams,” North coach George Czart said. “It’s good to see our hard work pay off.”

Hylton scored three times before the first half ended, extending North’s lead to 35-0 at the break.

North had ideal field position all first half, starting scoring drives on T.F. South’s 38-, 11-, 16-, 35- and 16-yard line.

Hylton, an Illinois recruit, scored from a yard out on the Phoenix’s opening series of the second half to close out their scoring.

Osvaldo Salazar converted 5-of-6 point-after kicks for North.

“We worked hard preparing for this team,” Hylton said of T.F. South. “We found out what worked on offense for us. The defense stepped it up and the special teams played really well. I’m just happy we got the win and advanced in the playoffs.”

North’s defense was suffocating. The front three of Josh Whittington, Steven Stremme and Michael Brooks led the way, with Abramowicz also heavily contributing to the dominant performance. Erik Eggert had a pick for North.

The Phoenix defense held the Rebels (5-5) to 150 yards of offense, including a paltry 15 on the ground.

“A lot of credit goes to the coaches,” Abramowicz said. “They had us really prepared for this game.”

Quarterback Cody Petrick finished 8-of-18 for 135 yards, hitting Elijah Graham on a 40-yard completion on the Rebels’ first play of their opening series. Petrick later hooked up with Rick Ramirez on a 33-yard strike.

T.F. South’s lone score came on a 20-yard pass from Petrick to Travis Robert in the fourth quarter that made it 41-6.

“The defense played very good,” Czart said. “They’ve really been playing well against the run and forcing teams to pass.”

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