New-look Kenwood overwhelmed by Lincoln-Way East’s elite defense

Lincoln-Way East rolled to a 52-12 victory on Saturday at Gately Stadium.

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Lincoln-Way East’s Caden O’Rourke, white jersey, sacks Kenwood’s quarterback NaCari McFarland.

Lincoln-Way East’s Caden O’Rourke, white jersey, sacks Kenwood’s quarterback NaCari McFarland.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Expectations are high for Kenwood this season. The No. 24 Broncos picked up several talented transfers in the offseason to add to a solid returning core.

But the key to the offense, 6-7 senior quarterback NaCari McFarland, hadn’t played a game in a full year before Saturday at Gately Stadium. He was injured in Week 1 last season.

So it’s understandable that facing the full assault of No. 2 Lincoln-Way East’s defensive line was intimidating.

Caden O’Rourke, a 6-5 junior, was the first lineman in McFarland’s face. He was followed by 6-2 senior Joe Fushi and sophomore Gage Ladere. There wasn’t a chance to get comfortable.

“He was just a little nervous and maybe having some flashbacks,” Broncos coach Sinque Turner said. “But that’s the best of the best. Things will get better for us.”

Lincoln-Way East rolled to a 52-12 victory.

“We just wanted to stay together as a team,” O’Rourke said. “We played our game and kept to our responsibilities.”

Senior running back Nuri Muhammad scored three touchdowns and had 13 carries for 46 yards for the Griffins.

Lincoln-Way East quarterback Braden Tischer was 8 of 15 passing for 170 yards with three touchdowns. He connected with Cade Serauskis for a 60-yard score, found Ryan Usher for a 28-yard TD and DJ Richardson for a 23-yard TD.

Serauskis had five catches for 106 yards.

“I give a lot of credit to the big guys on the line,” Muhammad said. “I scored two touchdowns right up the middle, right off Josh Janowksi’s block. And the receivers on the edge did a great job blocking on [Zion Gist’s 68-yard run].”

Marquise Lightfoot, Kenwood’s Miami-bound edge rusher, is a top 100 player senior in the country and one of the state’s most dominant defensive players. He left with an injury in the first quarter and didn’t return.

“It impacted the overall defensive morale of the guys a lot,” Turner said. “Losing that presence meant the other guys have do step up and fill his shoes. That’s intimidating, trying to fill the void of him.”

McFarland had some bright spots. He connected with Michigan recruit I’Marion Stewart for an 85-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter.

McFarland was 10 of 18 passing for 137 yards with one interception and the TD. Stewart had five catches for 85 yards.

“We had some brand new starters out there and [Lincoln-Way East] is a really good football team,” Turner said. “They didn’t do a lot of fancy things. We just did a bad job of executing.”

The Griffins are the highest-ranked local Class 8A team. Kenwood will be a Class 6A team in the state playoffs, so the Broncos were considerable underdogs heading into the game.

Neither team scored in the first quarter. Kenwood had the first scoring chance, but its 27-yard field goal attempt was blocked.

“Sometimes when you have adversity you can lean on tradition a little bit,” Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar said. “Nobody panicked. The defense got us in scoring position and then we broke through. Once we did that the offense settled down. It’s not going to be perfect in Week 1.”

Both teams have challenging road games next week. The Griffins are at Batavia and Kenwood travels to St. Rita.

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