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Football: Edwardsville’s 21-14 win knocks out Lincoln-Way East in 7A

Lincoln-Way East's Jordan Wirtz goes over Edwardsville's Kyler Davis score.

Lincoln-Way East's Jordan Wirtz goes over Edwardsville's Kyler Davis to score.

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Updated: January 16, 2014 3:28AM



After the second half Lincoln-Way East played Saturday afternoon, it is difficult to imagine the Griffins’ season is over.

Visiting East rallied from a 13-0 halftime deficit to take a 14-13 lead with 2 minutes, 4 seconds left, only to see Edwardsville march 66 yards in five plays to the winning touchdown with 54 seconds remaining en route to a thrilling 21-14 Class 7A quarterfinal victory.

“I have been doing this for 20 years and I have never been more proud of a group of young men,” East coach Rob Zvonar said.

And well he should be.

In the season after East’s runner-up finish in 7A, these Griffins (9-3) flew under the radar. Undefeated Edwardsville (12-0) knows it was in a game.

It did not look that way early on. The Tigers had a 9-2 edge in first downs and a 245-39 advantage in total yards by halftime.

In the second half, however, junior quarterback Mike Weller led the Griffins’ surge. Stealing a couple of pages from the playbook of Edwardsville quarterback Dan Marinko, Weller rushed for 85 yards in the second half to finish with 78 net yards and completed 15-of-31 passes for 187 yards over the final two quarters to finish 21-of-47 for 211.

East totaled 17 first downs and 307 yards of offense in the second half to close with 346 to Edwardsville’s 426.

“I can’t say enough about our offense the second half,” Zvonar said. “I give coach (Joel) Pallissard (the offensive coordinator) and his staff all the credit. Kenny Alexa’s fake punt (for 18 yards on fourth-and-3 from the East 35) sparked us, too.”

The Griffins, who drove to their first touchdown in the third quarter after Alexa’s run, had beaten Edwardsville in each of the last three seasons. But these Tigers under coach Matt Martin, Zvonar said, deserve to be mentioned with the best teams in the state. They will host Mount Carmel in the semifinals.

“They’re a very experienced team,” said East wide receiver Austin Winkler, who caught six passes for 60 yards and tipped a Hail Mary to Colin O’Connor for a 52-yard gain to the Tigers’ 43 on the second-to-last play of the game. “I remember their DBs (defensive backs) from last year. They’re good in man-to-man coverage.

“In the second half, they dropped off a little into more of a cover-4 and we were able to hit some short routes.”

Weller led the Griffins on the 72-yard scoring march in the third quarter, with Jordan Wirtz scoring from 5 yards out, and on a 97-yard drive to take the lead in the fourth quarter, with Brian Casey taking it in from a yard out.

“I liked our chances there,” Zvonar said. “They were going against the wind, and our defense had played well after the first quarter.”

On Edwardsville’s final drive, Marinko hit consecutive passes of 20 and 22 yards to Fontez Davis over the middle and then scored on a 22-yard quarterback draw. Marinko closed with 152 yards on 21 carries and completed 16-of-30 passes for 166 yards.

“Their playmaker (Davis) stepped up and found a crease in our defense,” Zvonar said.

“We need a little bit more, one more stop,” East defensive tackle Scott Kresal said.

Even then, with East starting its final possession at its 5-yard line with 9.9 seconds left, the Griffins gave it a shot. Winkler’s tip to O’Connor on the Hail Mary was perfectly executed.

“That was the idea,” Winkler said. “I catch it and run with it if I can, otherwise I tip it and see what he (O’Connor) can do. It was a very exciting play in a very exciting game.”

Winkler had one more shot. Weller tried to find him in the end zone with a second Hail Mary, but it fell incomplete as time expired.

“This was Lincoln-Way East football,” Griffins center Nick Allegretti said. “Every year, we know we’ll have success. We fell short of our goals and dreams, but I love my brothers, my best friends. They fought until the end.”



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