Goss: Preparation keeps Lincoln-Way West defense purring
November 6, 2012 7:44PM
Lincoln-Way Central quarterback Jeremy Wilson (4) gets a pass off under pressure from Lincoln-Way West's Keegan McShane (73). | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
No. 4 Glenbard North (10-1) at No. 1 Maine South (11-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 3 Palatine (10-1) at No. 2 Loyola (10-1), noon Saturday
No. 4 Waubonsie Valley (10-1) at No. 1 Neuqua Valley (11-0), 6 p.m. Saturday
No. 3 Mount Carmel (10-1) at No. 15 Lyons (7-4), 7 p.m. Saturday
No. 5 Wheaton North (10-1) at No. 1 Glenbard West (11-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Rockford Boylan (11-0) at No. 6 Lake Zurich (9-2), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Benet (10-1) at No. 8 Downers Grove North (7-4), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Edwardsville (10-1) at No. 1 Lincoln-Way East (11-0), 6 p.m. Saturday
No. 4 Crystal Lake Central (9-2) at No. 1 Cary-Grove (11-0), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 10 Lake Forest (8-3) at No. 14 Niles Notre Dame (7-4), 7:30 p.m. Friday
No. 3 Lemont (10-1) at No. 1 Oak Forest (10-1), 7 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Ottawa (11-0) at No. 1 Crete-Monee (11-0), 6 p.m. Saturday
No. 12 Joliet Catholic (7-4) at No. 9 Lincoln-Way West (8-3), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 3 Montini (9-2) at No. 2 Woodstock Marian (11-0), 5 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Morris (10-1) at No. 5 Washington (9-2), 3 p.m. Saturday
No. 4 Glenwood (9-2) at No. 3 Sacred Heart-Griffin (10-1), 1 p.m. Saturday
No. 5 Brooks (8-2) at No. 7 Evergreen Park (8-3), 6 p.m. Saturday
No. 1 Alleman (10-1) at No. 2 Coal City (10-1), 2 p.m. Saturday
No. 5 Peoria Notre Dame (8-3) vs. No. 2 Rochester (10-1) at Peoria Stadium, 6 p.m. Sat.
No. 2 Marquette (10-1) at No. 1 Harrisburg (10-1), 2 p.m. Saturday
No. 9 Winnebago (9-2) at No. 4 Aurora Christian (10-1), 6 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Newman Central Catholic (11-0) at No. 11 Wilmington (9-2), 5 p.m. Saturday
No. 2 Unity (10-1) at No. 1 Williamsville (11-0), 2 p.m. Saturday
No. 1 Greenville (10-1) at No. 6 Carterville (8-3), 1 p.m. Saturday
Updated: December 8, 2012 6:45AM
When Kaneland ran its jumbo package in Saturday’s Class 5A second-round playoff game at Lincoln-Way West, a certain back put his hand down in the direction the play was going.
“If he put his outside hand down, the run was going outside,” West coach Dave Ernst noted. “Inside hand down, and it was an inside run.”
Plus, the quarterback tipped something in the spread formation.
“When they were going to run their sweep he took two steps forward and two back before taking the snap,” Ernst said. “He didn’t do that on other plays. So our coaches ran blitzes to that.”
Kudos to the defensive staff. Ernst offered those examples to demonstrate how vital coordinator Luke Lokanc and defensive assistants Mike Franta, Larry Lokanc, Mike Villa and Jim DeFrank have been to the Warriors’ success.
“The No. 1 thing with our defense is the effort made by the players,” Ernst said. “But our defensive coaches watch so much film, spend so much time breaking everything down. By the time the game rolls around, they are able to let our kids know what the opponent is doing when.”
West (8-3) is allowing 11.9 points per game, 8.8 during the current five-game winning streak, and no opponent has scored more than 19. Kaneland came to town unbeaten and averaging 42.6 points, yet was shut out until the final two minutes before falling 31-15.
Of course, a completely different challenge awaits the Warriors at 1 p.m. Saturday, when Joliet Catholic (7-4) and USC-bound running back Ty Isaac visit in the 5A quarterfinals, West’s first appearance at that level.
“Obviously, Ty Isaac is the first thing about them that jumps out at you,” said Ernst, a longtime offensive coordinator at Providence and Lincoln-Way Central in his first year as a head coach. “He is as good as any back who ever played in this area, and that says a lot.
“They’re a physical team, and the biggest thing for them is it looks like they have everyone healthy. When you watch them on film, they were always missing this guy or that guy. They’ve been a different team the last two weeks, with everyone back, than they were throughout the season.
“And the other thing about them is they have their base offensive plays, but they always have a new wrinkle ready for you.”
Luke Lokanc laughed when asked what sort of scheme he might devise against Isaac, himself in and out of the lineup all season because of injuries.
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” he said. “He is a special player. Our guys all know who he is. He is a player everybody is going to know about. We have to play our game against him.”
The West defense that enjoyed perhaps its finest hour last week includes Matt Soraghan, Keegan McShane, Josh Hilt and Nick DeAngelis up front; Zach Speaker, McKenna Wychocki and Jake Bohne at linebacker; Sam Tiberi and LaVonte Blackful at cornerback and Alex Gray and Andrew Gray at safety. Ray Rodriguez and Sean Evans rotate into the defensive line and Andy Hensel is the fifth defensive back.
“Basically, we have a defense where everyone is getting his job done,” Lokanc said. “We don’t have any individual stars and that makes us play like a team.
“We’re not a big defense. We have average high school players who have showed up every week all year, and they’re still improving. They have speed and all play at the same level.”
Of course, if West is going to knock off 13-time state champion Joliet Catholic, more than defense will be required. The Warriors’ offensive turnaround the last five weeks is remarkable. They averaged 18.7 points through their first six games, 34.6 over the last five.
“(Running back) Javier Montalvo has 700 yards the last four weeks,” Ernst noted. “He has played great. And the offensive line is playing at a whole other level than it was five weeks ago.”
Notre Dame-bound left tackle Colin McGovern gets a fair share of credit.
“Without question, Colin is a leader,” Ernst said. “Obviously he is a great player. He is a big part of everything we do.”
Quarterback Justin Keuch, an excellent athlete with guts and toughness, has completed 89-of-180 passes for 1,079 yards and his No. 1 target, Adam Slattery, “is a great receiver,” Ernst said.
West dropped a 48-14 second-round decision to Joliet Catholic last season, but Ernst said that will have no effect Saturday.
“This is fantastic,” he said of the Warriors’ run. “I’m so happy for our kids. Our goal has been just to buy another week. Each week we’re together it is so much fun at practice, at meetings, and of course the games.
“With the tradition of Joliet Catholic, they’ve been in so many big games. Our guys right now are going week to week and having fun. I’m lucky to have this group of players and coaches.”