Benet’s magical run ends to Lincoln-Way East
BY JEFF VORVA For Sun-Times Media November 17, 2012 10:20PM
Justin Corbett (2) of Lincoln-Way East grabs a pass despite the defense of Ryan Parks (21) of Benet Academy. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 19, 2012 1:08PM
After Lincoln-Way East beat Benet, 37-13, in the Class 7A state semifinals Saturday night in Lisle, two of the stars of the game reflected on the 2005 season when they were fifth-graders.
That was the last time the Griffins made it to the state championship game and won the Class 8A state title.
“I went to almost every game and we were down in Champaign with them,” said quarterback Tom Fuessel, who threw for 143 yards and a touchdown and ran for 98 yards and two touchdowns against Benet. “We want to relive that. We were sitting in the stands. Back then it was a dream. Now it’s a goal.”
Nick Colangelo, a senior running back who carried the ball 38 times for 198 yards and two TDs against Benet, had a different experience that year.
“I was going to the playoff games but then I got sick and didn’t go down to Champaign,” he said. “But I was watching it home on TV. It was rough. But now we’re going back. I’ll try my best not to get sick this week.”
Lincoln-Way East (13-0) takes on Glenbard West (13-0) for the 7A title Saturday in Champaign. Glenbard West beat Lake Zurich 19-13.
This is just the second time East made it to the state title game — the first came in 2005 when it won the class 8A crown with a 30-24 double overtime win over Maine South.
The Griffins owned a 31-0 lead and a 352-34 yardage advantage at halftime Saturday night and held the Redwings to minus-1 yards on the ground.
When Benet’s defense had Fuessel in the most trouble, he delivered his most lethal blows.
When the Griffins faced a third-and-22 from their 45 on their first drive, he broke free of two sack attempts and threw a 29-yard completion to keep a scoring drive alive.
On their fourth drive, the Griffins had a third-and-13 at their own 17 and he was in trouble as two Redwings defenders were bearing down on him. He reversed the field for an 83-yard TD run to help give his team a three-touchdown lead in front of an estimated crowd of 5,000 at Benedictine University in Lisle.
“I work hard on my leg strength,” Fuessel said of escaping after contact. “It’s also determination. Do it for your teammates because they do the same for you.”
Heading into this season, East never had a 1,000-yard rusher. Fuessel is at 1,498 after Saturday’s action and Colangelo is at 1,049.
Benet sophomore quarterback Jack Beneventi had a rough 9-for-28 night with 80 yards and three interceptions but figures to have a great career ahead of him. He said he was amazed by some of the Northern Illinois University-bound Fuessel’s moves.
“I’m happy I was able to see him play because I think that’s going to make me play better,” Beneventi said. “I watched what he could do in certain situations. He kept rolling away from the pressure and makes a cross pass to his receiver. And his running ability — that (83-yard) run was amazing to see.”
Benet ended its season at 11-2, which was a huge turnaround from the 1-8 campaign in 2011.
With Beneventi and running back Porter Ontko scheduled to return to the Redwings next year, the team could have another big season in 2013.
“You can’t ask for more this season,” Beneventi said. “No one expected us to go this far. We weren’t expected to win conference or some of the games we won. When we made the playoffs, people thought maybe we would win a game.
“Making it to the semifinals was a dream. I remember sitting in bed in sixth grade dreaming about making it far in the playoffs. It’s really special.’’