BOLINGBROOK, Ill. -- Kevin Bayer proved Friday Lincoln-Way East’s playmakers can come in all sizes.
The 5-foot-11, 235-pound Bayer ignited the No. 3 Griffins to a 20-14 comeback win over No. 12 Bolingbrook in the match up of Southwest Suburban Blue unbeatens with two runs that will likely go down in the program’s folklore.
With Lincoln-Way East trailing 14-6 and facing 4th and 2, the Griffins called their special short-yardage package. Bayer took his place in the backfield. Quarterback Blake Winkler was snapped the ball, handed it to Bayer and he took off. Bayer barreled his way for the first down and more. While dragging a Bolingbrook defender and following his blockers, Bayer pushed ahead for a 29-yard gain before he was finally brought down.
“It’s called Tarzan,” Bayer said of the play. “They tell us to run like Jane. We’re running the ball like Tarzan. I can tell you that.
“I was pretty nervous. I’m not going to lie. I was really nervous. This is the biggest game of the season, and they finally gave me a chance to run the ball.”
Two plays later, Winkler scored on a 14-yard run. Winkler then connected with Jay Yancy for the 2-point conversion, and Lincoln-Way East (6-0) tied the game with 3:05 remaining in the third quarter.
Bayer wasn’t done.
On 3rd and 1 from the Bolingbrook’s 13-yard line in the fourth quarter, Tarzan was called upon again. Bayer took the ball, burst through the line and didn’t stop rumbling until he arrived in the end zone. The Griffins’ extra point was blocked, but they had taken a 20-14 lead with 5:09 remaining in the game.
“His nickname is Bear, and he was a Bear,” Lincoln-Way East wide receiver J.J. Robertson said.
Again, Bayer wasn’t done.
Bayer returned his true position on the defensive line and helped the Griffins halt Bolingbrook on its final drive to secure the win. On 4th and 6 from Lincoln-Way East’s 22-yard line, Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey scrambled, was tackled a few yards short of the first down, and the Griffins’ celebration began.
Early on, it looked as if Bolingbrook (5-1) might literally run away with the contest. On two of the Raiders’ first three drives, Bailey burned Lincoln-Way East defense for long touchdown runs. His first was for 59 yards, and he followed that with an 86-yard run to put Bolingbrook ahead 14-0 in the first quarter.
Lincoln-Way East’s offense struggled throughout the first half, but did find the end zone once when Winkler connected with Justin Corbett for a 59-yard touchdown. Despite being outplayed in the first half, the Griffins only trailed 14-6.
“You watch that first half, as dominant as their defense was, and the big plays Bailey had, we were real fortunate to be only down 14- 6 at half,” Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar. “To come back out, stay steady, to keep our composure, stay persistent against a great football team, I’m proud of these guys for having that perseverance tonight.”
The Griffins made the needed adjustments on defense and made sure Bailey didn’t get free for a big run again. After rushing for 173 yards in the first half, he only had 41 in the second half.
Bailey chose to look at the positives after the loss.
“This was a great game,” Bailey said. “This was an actual real test. It doesn’t matter that we lost. This game doesn’t define us at all. We’re just going to go out there, perform our best and not worry about anything.”