What happens when two of the state’s most stifling defenses collide in the Class 8A quarterfinals?
The game becomes a battle of special teams and that’s exactly what happened between Homewood-Flossmoor and Lincoln Way East.
On Satruday it was pretty one-sided in favor of the Griffins, who knocked off H-F 26-7 to advance to the state semifinals.
“We put our due diligence into our special teams,” Lincoln Way East coach Rob Zvonar said. “When you come down to a game like this they play regardless of the phase. Your special teams makes the difference. The kicking game today, not just with the field goals which were amazing but also I think they had to go about 80 every time.”
Lincoln Way East’s special teams unit capitalized on errors early in the game, including a blocked field goal that the Griffins offense converted into a touchdown reception by AJ Henning on the ensuing drive.
But the real difference-maker was Dominic Dzioban, who kicked four field goals—one from 50 yards out.
“I heard the athletic director, Mr. Vander Kooi say ‘he could hit it,’” Dzioban said. “So that really gave a confidence boost for me. But I knew I have the best long snapper, the best holder in the state. We can hit from anywhere, it’s not windy enough.”
“Our offense did enough,” Zvonar said. “The kicking game did it all.”
It wasn’t just the points Dzioban added to his teams final score, but the field position he was able to give his defense on punts.
One of those critical plays came after Homewood-Flossmoor scored on a read-option play in the third quarter. Vikings coach Craig Buzea called a timeout on 4th-and-1 setting up the play that gave Vikings quarterback, Dominick Jones an open path down the sideline for a 68-yard rushing touchdown.
On the following drive the Griffins went three-and-out, forcing a punt. Dzioban kicked right to a Vikings receiver that fair caught the ball inside the five-yard line.
The Vikings went three-and-out and Jamal Johnson, a rising star for the Griffins, scored on the first play of the follwoing drive. He rushed 44 yards for a touchdown that put the Griffins back up by two scores.
“He is a Division I player in our opinion,” Zvonar said. “He just hasn’t been featured because of the AJ Henning and Devon Williams, but you’re going to see a ton of him next week and you’ll see a ton of him next year too.”
Other than the 68-yard touchdown run by Jones, Lincoln-Way East controlled the momentum, beginning with Dzioban’s first field goal of the game. It was a 42-yarder on the opening drive of the second quarter.
The Griffins closed the second quarter with the touchdown reception by Henning, who jumped in the air with two defenders on him and pulled down a tipped ball.
“We work the tip drill all the time,” Henning said. “No matter what happens the ball is going to be tipped, the ball is going to turn and twist, but you keep your eyes on it, focus in on it and make the catch.”
Heading into Saturday’s game, the Vikings were outscoring their opponents 380-184. Lincoln-Way East held them to their lowest scoring game of the season.
The Griffins are back in the semifinals for the third consecutive year and will play Marist in the semifinals. The Redhawks beat Loyola 41-27 in Wilmette.
“Two years ago it worked out,” Zvonar said. “Last year it didn’t. We’re trying to come back and get that fixed.”