Goss: Potential future Illini get acquainted
October 27, 2012 2:06AM
Plainfield Central's Jordan Ellingwood breaks a tackle by Lincoln-Way East's Kyle Langenderfer and dives for the endzone to score the first touchdown for the Wildcats during their first round football playoff game in Frankfort Friday, October 26, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 27, 2012 7:23PM
The battle in the trenches is all about team.
You function up front as a unit — on both sides of the ball — or you don’t succeed.
Every once in a while, however, a one-on-one match-up comes along that merits a closer look.
With all the big plays happening in Lincoln-Way East’s 47-22 victory Friday night over Plainfield Central in the opening round of the Class 7A playoffs, you couldn’t not help but notice how all three phases contributed to the onslaught that built a 47-6 halftime lead for the Griffins.
Moe Almasri’s return of the opening kickoff for a touchdown, Jarret Lecas’ 85-yard interception return for a score, Tom Fuessel’s nifty 29-yard touchdown run, Justin Corbett’s three long runs including two for touchdowns, Josh Maholovich’s 56-yard TD scamper after catching a short pass from Fuessel along the sideline, Fuessel escaping pressure and while on the run hitting Austin Winkler with a 29-yard strike.
You name it, and this first half had it.
As wonderful as all of that made the night for East, if that’s all you came away remembering, you missed the 600-pound collisions in the trenches that introduced what may become two future Illini.
Plainfield Central senior nose tackle Bryce Douglas, all 6-foot-2, 320 pounds of him, has committed to Illinois. His dad, Bruce, you will recall, is a former Illini basketball star.
And just last Sunday, East junior center Nick Allegretti, who checks in at 6-4, 280, received an offer from Illinois. One of the top-ranked junior linemen in the Midwest, he is not ready to commit to anyone. Cincinnati has offered, and many more offers are sure to come if he chooses to wait.
Regardless, he is thrilled the Illini are interested in his services.
“Maybe I’ll play with him some day,” Allegretti said of Douglas. “That would be cool.”
Allegretti said going against Douglas head on made this game even more memorable for him.
“It was a nice way to prove myself,” he said. “He explodes off the ball. He’s a big boy, and he’s quick. He was my first real big test all year.”
One theme evident Friday night was the respect between the teams, and between coaches Rob Zvonar of Lincoln-Way East and John Jackson of Plainfield Central.
“I’ve known coach Jackson for a long time and respect him and his team,” Zvonar said.
“He (Douglas) and the rest of their seniors didn’t want this to be their last game,” Allegretti said. “They came out and played us pretty well.”
There were times Allegretti got the best of Douglas, and times Douglas, who had two tackles for loss, won the battle.
“We did a little bit of (friendly) talking,” said Allegretti, also an excellent student. “That was the first time I had gotten to talk to him.”
Allegretti cited the occasion when his possible future teammate “almost had a pick” when he dove at an errant Griffins pass.
“If he had gotten the pick, that would have been pretty cool,” Allegretti said.
That’s class speaking.
Central athletic director Dave Stephens approached Zvonar after the game, introduced himself and told him what a class operation Zvonar and the East program are, especially considering how he handled the situation when the game became one-sided.
As much as the Griffins have to offer in all phases of the game, the offensive line is easy to overlook even though it is anchored by a big-time prospect such as Allegretti. His mates up front include guards Ryan Weitendorf and Ed Swatkowski and tackles Nick Cocorikis and Tom Plunkett.
“We have a saying W-O-L-O-S,” Allegretti said. “It stands for, ‘We own the line of scrimmage.’ It’s a great saying. It’s good for us mentally.”
With the explosiveness Corbett has demonstrated of late, and the seasonlong brilliance of Fuessel, the offensive line is realizing fruits from its labor more and more as this unbeaten season progresses.
“Justin was more a wide receiver earlier in the year,” Allegretti said. “Now he’s more a wingback. That’s why you notice him doing more in the running game. He explodes.”
And Fuessel? “We have to lock on our blocks the whole time because you don’t always know where he’s going, but he’s fun to block for,” Allegretti said.
If he can make his blocks against Bryce Douglas, all the better.
Imagine the needling back and forth if they do become teammates some day down in Champaign.