Most of the talk around No. 7 Lincoln-Way East centers on the quarterbacks. Griffins coach Rob Zvonar has decided to rotate two starters at the position this season, seniors Max Shafer and Jake Arthur.
At halftime on Friday in Bolingbrook, it didn’t look like things were working out. Lincoln-Way East, which lost a thriller to No. 2 Homewood-Flossmoor last week, were trailing the Raiders by nine points.
“We came out a little lackadaisical in the first half,” said Lincoln-Way wide receiver Jeremy Nelson. “We had four turnovers. Coach called out some leaders at halftime, fired us up and we came out in the second half ready to roll.”
The Griffins rolled all over No. 10 Bolingbrook in the second half and coasted to a 41-23 victory.
Both Lincoln-Way East quarterbacks ended up throwing for more than 100 yards. The each had highs and lows. Shafer was 10-for-14 for 132 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Arthur finished 12-for-14 for 133 yards with one touchdown pass, one touchdown run and one interception.
“I don’t mind [having two starting quarterbacks] at all,” said wide receiver Nick Zelenika. “When you have two really talented quarterbacks you can’t have one sitting out. I think that’s a great decision by the coaches.”
Nelson caught 11 passes for 140 yards, including a six-yard touchdown from Arthur.
“Both quarterbacks have different attributes they can use and both played really well tonight,” said Nelson. “They gave me an opportunity to make plays. When one is struggling the other gets him pumped up, they have really good chemistry.”
Zelenika made the key play that turned the momentum permanently in Lincoln-Way East’s favor. The Griffins were trailing by four late in the third quarter when he returned a punt 35 yards for a touchdown.
“We needed to get some momentum going and I wanted to find a way to help the team,” said Zelenika. “I caught it, saw the opening and knew I had to get going. The punt return team did a great job of blocking. Teamwork got us into the end zone.”
The Griffins (3-1, 1-1 Southwest Suburban) dominated the game from that point on.
“The guys that maybe didn’t make the plays early came back and made them later,” said Zvonar “It wasn’t going well for quite awhile. To come out here and late in the game have a decisive win over one of the top programs in the state, bouncing back from a tough loss last week, this is what we needed. I’m very proud of our young men.”
Running back Nigel Muhammad had 16 carries for 84 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown, for Lincoln-Way East.
Junior Anthony Vespo threw two touchdown passes in the first half for the Raiders (2-2, 1-1) and finished 15-for-31 for 122 yards.
“From the three or four minute point of the third quarter you saw what we were all about,” said Zvonar. “Obviously we have played great opponents but we feel like the team that’s holding us back the most is ourselves. If we can clean that up a bit I think we have a chance to be a pretty good team.”