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Disabato: Lincoln-Way West gets second chance vs. Sycamore

MasMahoney (26) is mobbed by Lincoln-Way West teammates Jake Robbins (right) Chase Starcevich Bryan Brokop Jake Heckler (70) after his

Mason Mahoney (26) is mobbed by Lincoln-Way West teammates Jake Robbins (right), Chase Starcevich, Bryan Brokop, and Jake Heckler (70) after his touchdown catch against Glenbard South. | Jon Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 15, 2013 11:53AM



With all due respect to the remaining local football teams, it’s debatable whether anyone is playing better than Lincoln-Way West.

The Warriors are on a 10-game winning streak, leaving behind a wave of destruction that’s resulted in a scoring disparity of 382-119.

Those are numbers generally witnessed during a season of “The Biggest Loser”.

And it’s not as if the Warriors are beating up on cream puffs, either.

Six of those opponents qualified for the playoffs, including Glenbard South, which entered Saturday’s Class 5A second-round contest a perfect 10-0. A playoff game between 10-0 and 9-1 teams suggests a fairly competitive tussle.

Instead, fans watched West pummel Glenbard South to the tune of 46-0.

It’s also worth nothing that West handed rival Lincoln-Way North its only defeat of the campaign in Week 7.

“It’s been a very good season,” West coach Dave Ernst said. “It’s been a lot of fun. But we’re not satisfied.”

For West, satisfaction only will arrive with a trip to DeKalb for the 5A state championship game Nov. 30.

Two more victories are required to reach that destination. Ask any Elite Eight participant and they’ll tell you the game at hand is the most difficult of the season.

However, Saturday’s quarterfinal for West carries a little more significance. Redemption generally does.

West travels to undefeated Sycamore. That’s the same Sycamore that handed West its only loss of the season — 34-21 — back on Aug. 30 in New Lenox.

“They’re very, very good,” Ernst acknowledged. “They’re very well-coached. They’re very sound in all facets of the game.”

The Football Gods work in mysterious ways, don’t they? It doesn’t get any sweeter, I’m pretty certain, than having an opportunity to play the only team that defeated you in the regular season.

Understand, though, this is not an easy task. Unlike Glenbard South, Sycamore’s perfect mark is legit. The Warriors’ schedule included nine teams with at least a .500 record, including two 10-1 squads and a 9-2.

However, this is a different West team than the one that lined up in August.

I’m not referring to the Warriors’ confidence level, which, granted, is sky-high. There’s different personnel on the field for West.

Guys such as Chase Starcevich, Gabe Montalvo, Adam Kneer and Trey Tellez weren’t a part of the starting lineup back then.

Griffin Sullivan was out and Andrew Gray was injured on the second play of the game and didn’t return.

And Ernst, one of the area’s top coaches, has tweaked things on both sides of the ball.

“We have different guys playing now and we’re different in the things we’re doing as a team,” Ernst said. “We’re a different team since then and we’re playing with a lot of confidence.”

Besides turnovers, West must avoid a similar start it had in the first game vs. Sycamore, when it trailed 14-0. Playing catch-up against the Spartans on the road in the quarters is a recipe for disaster.

The other major key is West running back Javier Montalvo.

In case you just awoke from a seasonlong coma, Montalvo is producing a Player of the Year caliber campaign. He’s rushed for 2,053 yards, including 315 on Saturday, is averaging 9.0 yards per carry and has scored 25 touchdowns — despite missing two games with an injury.

There’s a name for a player like Montalvo: stud.

The Warriors are no one-trick pony — quarterback Justin Keuch also is dangerous. But Montalvo, a three-sport athlete who also wrestles and plays baseball, is the key.

Defensively, Zach Speaker, Josh Hilt, Ray Rodriguez, Keegan McShane and Andrew and Alex Gray must perform at a high level if West is to reverse its fortunes Saturday vs. Sycamore.

“This is a great opportunity,” Ernst said. “We’re glad to be in the quarters. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”



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