Quarterbacks in spotlight as Lincoln-Way East visits Benet in 7A semifinal
By Dick Goss firstname.lastname@example.org November 15, 2012 5:40PM
Lincoln-Way East quarterback Tom Fuessel has rushed for 1,400 yards and scored 19 touchdowns. | File Photo
Updated: December 19, 2012 1:00PM
Everyone in the Lincoln-Way East camp agrees.
Multitalented senior Tom Fuessel is the ideal quarterback to pilot the march toward the Class 7A state championship.
That said, the Benet faithful feels the same about 6-foot-6 Jack Beneventi, who is among the stories of the year in Illinois high school football, having lifted the Redwings from a 1-8 season in 2011 to a berth in Saturday’s 6 p.m. semifinal at Benedictine University.
While the quarterbacks will be in the spotlight, the hitting will be fierce.
“It will be 48 minutes, a 15-round championship fight,” East coach Rob Zvonar said. “It will be as tough a game as we have had, but we feel good that our schedule has prepared us.”
The Griffins (12-0), champions of the SouthWest Suburban Blue, were home for the first three rounds of the playoffs and are coming off a 40-10 quarterfinal spanking of Edwardsville. Benet (11-1), the East Suburban Catholic co-champion with Marist, pulled out a last-second 26-24 quarterfinal victory over upstart Downers Grove North as Jack Toner made a leaping grab of a Beneventi pass in the back of the end zone as time expired.
Fuessel, the master scrambler who will play at Northern Illinois next fall, has rushed for 1,400 yards. He is averaging 9.5 per carry and has scored 19 touchdowns. He’s no slouch throwing, either, having completed 63-of-117 passes for 924 yards and seven touchdowns.
The rifle-armed Beneventi, in contrast, is a pass-first sort. The sophomore eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark last week.
“Their quarterback will be one of the best in the state, if he is not right now,” Zvonar said. “He is throwing balls a lot of college kids can’t throw. It’s amazing he is only a sophomore.”
East safety Jarrett Lecas, who has intercepted four passes and returned two for touchdowns, has a handle on the challenge he and his secondary mates are facing.
“He (Beneventi) is pretty good,” Lecas said. “He really slings the ball. He runs an offense that is pretty similar to Montini’s and we did do pretty well against them (a 20-14 East victory in Week 2).”
When Beneventi gets the ball to his receivers, they better be prepared to be hit from the Griffins’ aggressive secondary.
Lecas has made more than 100 tackles, with three forced fumbles an additional nugget off his stats sheet.
Another “Peanut” Tillman with the punch?
“No, I tried that once and I whiffed,” Lecas said with a smile. “No more.”
Running backs Porter Ontko and Nick McTarnaghan add balance to the Benet offense. Ontko rushed for 209 yards in the Redwings’ 28-13 Round 2 win over Oswego.
“You have to give Benet tremendous credit for what they have done,” Zvonar said, noting the Redwings’ 1-8 record a year ago. “Coach (Pat) New and his staff, to go from last year’s record to within one game of the state championship, you have to give them extra credit.
“Their team is good in all three phases. They’re athletic. They have a physical defense and a young offense that’s scary right now. It will be extremely good next year.”
Fuessel understands the Redwings’ defense is no slouch.
“They have big guys and they’re athletic,” he said. “They have great DBs and their linebackers fill in real well. Their defense I would say may be comparable to Sandburg or Providence.”
With his scrambling ability, Fuessel has frustrated one good defense after another. Yet, the Griffins’ offense is anything but a one-man show.
A strong offensive line anchored by center Nick Allegretti, plus running backs Nick Colangelo and Justin Corbett, are contributing.
“We’re blessed to have the best offensive line in the state,” Fuessel said.
Colangelo has gained 851 yards and is averaging 6.9 per carry. Corbett has rushed for 464 yards (8.0 per carry) and has caught 21 passes for 326 yards.
“Our coaches built an offense that is perfect for all our skill players,” Fuessel said. “Running the ball is our strength, but we’ll air it out if we need to.”
The ball now is in Benet’s court. Will the Redwings be able to slow down the Fuessel-led East offense?