O’Brien: Overlooked no longer, Thornton beats Lincoln-Way West

SHARE O’Brien: Overlooked no longer, Thornton beats Lincoln-Way West

Thornton is one of the area’s proudest and most successful football programs. Despite all that, the Wildcats spent the first month of the season completely overlooked and totally ignored.

They beat Morgan Park, Brooks, Andrew and Thornwood by a combined score of 147 to 6. But not a single media outlet covered one of those games, so the Wildcats traveled to New Lenox to take on No. 23 Lincoln-Way West on Friday night with a massive chip on their shoulder.

“No one paid any attention to us at all,” Thornton quarterback Sam Taylor III said. “We knew tonight was the night. This was the game where we had to shock the world.”

Thornton knocked off the Warriors 35-28. The Wildcats (5-0, 3-0 Southwest Suburban Red) put on an offensive and defensive clinic in the first half and then managed to hold for the win in the second half.

“Lincoln-Way West is a great team, playoff caliber, state championship team,” Thornton coach Dontrell Jackson said. “I’m just happy for the kids, they did a great job. I’m proud. We are just doing a lot of stuff that (former Thornton coach) Bill Mosel taught us.”

Senior Tionte McDaniel was the most dominant player on the field throughout the game. He gave the crowd its first taste of the Wildcats’ potent offense on their second play of the game. The strong, fast back ripped off a 66-yard run to get the ball to the Lincoln-Way West 11.

“We knew had to get our name out there, people have been looking down on us,” said McDaniel. “That’s all that kept going through my head.”

McDaniel finished with 16 carries for 212 yards and three touchdowns. He was also a significant factor on defense, grabbing an interception in the first half.

“(McDaniel) was cramping up but we just told him ‘you can hurt after the game’” Jackson said. “He understands that mentally. His body probably gave out a bit but mentally he wanted this win more than anything.”

Taylor is Thornton’s other dynamic talent. He missed all of last season with a broken arm, so he was a completely unknown factor heading into the season.

“Sam is a Division I football player,” Jackson said. “He’s a wide receiver, defensive back, quarterback, whatever you need. He showed that today.”

Taylor was 8-for-13 passing for 53 yards. He was devastating on the ground, running for 139 yards on 11 carries. His 58-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter put the Wildcats ahead 20-7, they headed in at the half leading 28-7.

Lincoln-Way West (4-1, 2-1) is built on a strong offensive line that features three Division I players: Bryan Brokop (Nebraska), Justin Witt (North Carolina State) and uncommitted junior Nate Henry. Their size started to take a toll on Thornton in the second half, helping the Warriors score on three long drives to cut in to Thornton’s lead.

Running back Gabe Montalvo was the beneficiary of that blocking, racking up 190 yards on 26 carries.

The Warriors were driving with a chance to tie the score in the final four minutes, but Thornton’s Remi Simmons intercepted a pass to seal the win.

“No one knew about us because we didn’t do anything last year,” said Taylor. “But they know now.”

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