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Disabato: Lincoln-Way East remains a beast

Lincoln-Way East's Kyle Langenderfer. | File photo

Lincoln-Way East's Kyle Langenderfer. | File photo

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Updated: October 7, 2012 7:54AM



For the first time in years, maybe in their short but envious existence, Lincoln-Way East football started the season without a bona fide superstar on its roster.

No established skill players such as Blake Winkler, Anthony Kropp or J.J. Robertson; no certifiable Division I level linemen such as Adam Gettis, Dan Giordano or Kyle Bookhout on the roster.

That’s not to suggest one of the many talented players on this year’s team will not develop into a top-notch talent. Quarterback Tom Fuessel, lineman Nick Allegretti and linebackers Kyle Langenderfer and Adam O’Grady are on their way.

Regardless, based on the Griffins’ first two games, the lack of star power didn’t matter.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about East over the past 11 years, it doesn’t rebuild, it reloads.

Wins over perennial power Carmel and three-time state champion Montini to start the season verifies that East remains a beast.

“Being 2-0 against two tremendous opponents, we feel real good about it,” East coach Rob Zvonar said. “We’re a team without superstars. We graduated 15 starters from last year. We have a bunch of no-name guys, for the most part, who are trying to get better.

“Offensively, we’re not as big as we’ve been in recent years, but we’re still physical and fast. Defensively, we’re still attacking the ball. It’s a different type of team, but it’s a team we like an awfully lot.”

I would think so. The senior class, which patiently waited its turn behind an ultra-skilled and experienced senior class last season, was 17-1 at the lower levels.

It’s undeniable that talent exists.

With Winkler, Robertson and Jay Yancy, the Griffins threw the ball all over the field in 2011, chalking up an undefeated regular season and SouthWest Suburban Blue title.

This season, however, the game plan revolves around running the football — which just so happens to cater to the strength of fleet-footed Fuessel. The young man, who already has committed to Northern Illinois as a wide receiver, can fly, clocking in at 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

That’s not to say the Griffins won’t throw the rock. They will. Fuessel completed 11-of-17 passes the first two weeks.

They just won’t throw as often as fans have grown accustomed to in recent years.

“We have a different style of quarterback in Fuessel,” Zvonar said. “We’re going to be a little more run-oriented. It’s what Feussel does best. We don’t have an offense where we’re going to be able to stand around and wait for Robertson to make a play.”

The Griffins have been a model of consistency during their 11 years of existence, never missing the postseason. They’re the only team in state history that never has missed the playoffs.

Of course, that magnificent run was highlighted by the Class 8A state championship in 2005.

In recent years, however, the Griffins haven’t shown much staying power in the postseason, despite dominating most of the competition in the regular season. The past four years, East has failed to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs.

That type of success would translate into downright giddiness for most of our local programs.

Not at East.

Last season, Zvonar talked candidly about snapping the postseason hex, of how desperately the program wanted, at the very least, to reach the quarters. The Griffins won their first 10 games, looking not only like a sure-fire bet to advance to the quarters, but to possibly add a second state title to the trophy case.

But a shocking 7-0 loss at home to Wheaton Warrenville South put an abrupt end to an otherwise super campaign.

This season, Zvonar is taking a different approach to the postseason.

“We’re not even talking about it,” Zvonar said. “There have been different reasons for the playoff losses. But the way we’re dealing with it this year is we’re not dealing with it.”

I like the strategy.



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