By Tim Cronin
Sandburg coach Scott Peters knew what to expect.
He always does when Sandburg plays Lincoln-Way West. After all, Warriors head coach Dave Ernst was the offensive coordinator for Providence when Peters was playing linebacker for the Celtics on their 1996 and 1997 state title teams. West defensive coordinator Luke Lokanc was Peters’ teammate.
That doesn’t mean Peters’ Eagles squad would be able to stop an offense remarkably like the one Providence boasted once upon a time. Last Friday night was proof, with Lincoln-Way West scoring a 21-0 victory over the Eagles in their home opener in Orland Park.
The outcome dropped Sandburg to 1-2 entering this week’s game at District 230 rival Stagg (1-2).
“We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us,” Peters said.
Aside from the Chargers, the Eagles have games remaining against Class 8A powers Lincoln-Way East, Bolingbrook and Homewood-Flossmoor.
“One of the things we talk to our kids about is just competing,” Peters said.
It was West’s defense that carried the day. With linebacker Brett Carberry roaming the field, Sandburg was limited to 125 yards on offense – 52 on one drive that fizzled early in the third quarter. Luke Stefanos, a 5-foot-8 junior, picked up 38 yards on 13 carries.
The Eagles managed only 42 rushing yards, while quarterback Jack Shelton’s 10-of-21 passing effort garnered only 83 yards.
The shutout extended Sandburg’s first-half scoring drought to three games.
The Eagles came into the game hurting and left it hurting more. Middle linebacker Mike Moehle was helped off favoring his left leg early in the first quarter. Late in the third quarter, Tyler VanStedum was helped off favoring his right leg. Both injuries came in pileups. Each left a hole in the defense.
“We had two defensive line starters already out with injuries, and now we have two more starters out,” said Peters, who played with a broken back in the 1997 playoffs.
“Another kid had Tommy John surgery in the summer, so we’re down about nine starters from where we thought we’d be Aug. 1. We’ve got to live with the next man up mentality, but guys are backups for a reason. Against good teams, it makes a difference.”
Ernst noticed Mohele’s absence gave his offense room to maneuver.
“When he got hurt, that took them out of a lot of the blitzing that was hurting us early,” Ernst said. “That was a big loss for them and a big factor on us putting some points on the board.”
Sandburg held the Warriors (2-1) to 241 yards, and just 100 net yards on the ground. West bell cow back Caleb Marconi ran for two touchdowns and 116 yards on 18 carries, but Sandburg’s defense dropped quarterback Brody Ceh for losses six times, twice when he couldn’t control wild snaps in the shotgun.
Marconi’s big gainer went 59 yards for six points early in the second quarter and opened the scoring. Ceh found elusive receiver Billy Dozier for a 38-yard touchdown pass on West’s next series to make it 14-0. Marconi added his second score – and seventh in three games – on a four-yard plunge on the first play of the final quarter.
But West’s other eight drives went for naught, and five were three- or four-and-outs.
That, the Eagles can take solace in.