Providence at Lincoln-Way East a neighborhood football war
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org October 31, 2012 9:16PM
Providence Celtics linebacker Jack Fordon (49) causes a fumble on a sack against Bradley Boilermakers quarterback Seth Pallissard (21) at Providence High School in New Lenox, Illinois, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. | Michael DiNovo~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 2, 2012 2:17PM
The coaches may not agree, but the conqueror of the mind game may have a leg up.
The much-anticipated war between Providence (8-2) and Lincoln-Way East (10-0) in Round 2 of the Class 7A state football playoffs will kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday in Frankfort.
Both teams have enjoyed outstanding seasons, and the survivor will be a threat to journey much further along the playoff trail.
“Everyone knew that if you were going to make the state championship, you would have to go through Lincoln-Way East,” Providence coach Mark Coglianese said. “It’s just happening a little earlier than we thought it might, but it might as well be now.”
But about that mind game? Both programs are proven entities on the state stage but have something in their history they would rather erase.
For nine-time state champion Providence, it’s an 0-5 all-time record against East. The teams met in the season opener each year from 2005 through ’09. The Griffins won them all, with the closest calls 15-14 in 2006, 14-6 in ’07 and 18-14 in ’08.
“That doesn’t affect us,” Coglianese said. “Those were Week 1 games. The playoffs are a totally different story.”
For East, the Griffins are eager to shed the monkey off their back — a second-round ouster each of the past four years. They lost to Mount Carmel 34-31 in 2008, O’Fallon 17-16 in ’09, Glenbard West 42-28 in ’10 and Wheaton Warrenville South 7-0 in ’11.
“None of that comes into play,” East coach Rob Zvonar said. “We both have short memories. We’re proud of our success against them because they are such a great program, but that’s just something on our resume. That won’t make any tackles or blocks or score any points Saturday night.”
As for what happened in Round 2 the past few years, Zvonar said, “That’s a product of how the brackets are formed. We’re getting quarterfinal and semifinal games a week or two early. It’s the same thing here. This game easily could be played next week or the week after. We have tremendous respect for coach Cogs and his program and feel very fortunate to be playing them.”
Providence enters perhaps as a slight underdog. The Celtics, though, have faced a challenging schedule, losing only to Loyola and Mount Carmel. No shame there.
East, a playoff qualifier under Zvonar all 12 years of its existence and a state champion in 2005, has rolled through its schedule with a 42-19 victory over defending 8A champion Bolingbrook in Week 6 the highlight.
Add in the neighborhood aspect, and you have a potential classic.
“It’s always a rivalry game when we play those green guys down the street,” East senior running back Justin Corbett said of the Celtics following last week’s 47-22 win over Plainfield Central.
“It’s going to be a tough game, but we’re confident,” Coglianese said. “We’ve had a great year. We lost to two quality opponents and I think our schedule plays to our favor. East is a another very good opponent that presents another set of challenges. We’re looking forward to seeing how we match up.”
Matching up is an issue for any East opponent, however. That’s because of the Griffins’ wrecking crew, aka senior quarterback Tom Fuessel.
Operating from the spread, the Northern Illinois-bound Fuessel has rushed for 1,042 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. He also can throw, and throw on the run. He is 54-of-98 passing for 797 yards and six touchdowns.
As well as Providence’s defense has played, whether the Celtics get their first win over East will depend on containing Fuessel.
“He is a big burden,” Coglianese said. “He is a playmaker. When things break down, he is able to make a positive out of it. He is so quick and elusive. The biggest key in the game is us being able to contain him and not allow him to make big plays. We have not seen a quarterback like that all year.”
Still, Zvonar warned, the Griffins cannot get one-dimensional with Fuessel. “We will need other guys to step up,” he said.
Providence counters with an offense led by senior tailback Brandon Price (190, 1,031, 19 touchdowns) and junior quarterback Dominc Lagone (66-for-115, 837 yards).
“The tailback is as good as anybody we have played,” Zvonar said. “We have to stop the run. At the same time, we are very impressed with the development of their quarterback. He has legitimate deep threats on the perimeter, so we have a lot to be concerned with.”