FRANKFORT, Ill. – Wheaton Warrenville South senior Jack Lipinsky was asked by classmates throughout the day Friday if he felt the Tigers had a real shot at beating undefeated Lincoln-Way East in the evening.
Lipinsky, a defensive end, assured them Wheaton Warrenville South would win as long as the offense could score once.
On Friday night, Wheaton Warrenville South’s offense gave him exactly what he sought, and Lipinsky and the defense handled the rest. The Tigers shut out Lincoln-Way East’s high-powered offense, and the two-time defending Class 7A state champs advanced to the state quarterfinals with a 7-0 upset win over the Griffins.
“Our defense has been outstanding the entire year,” said Lipinsky, who had 2.5 sacks in the win. “We put it on our back. Our offense just has to give us one score, and we’ll win the game.”
Wheaton Warrenville South (8-3) will play the winner of Saturday’s matchup of Oswego and East St. Louis in the Class 7A quarterfinals next week.
Wheaton Warrenville South’s offense did its part midway through the second quarter. Mike Shelton put the Tigers in favorable field position when he returned a punt 20 yards to Lincoln-Way East’s 24-yard line. After two consecutive runs, quarterback Thaddeus Armstrong connected with Sam Prete for a 17-yard touchdown with 6:33 remaining in the half.
It would the game’s one and only score.
“Coming back from two state championships back to back, we didn’t think we could get any better,” Prete said. “But our philosophy was to reach higher ground and work hard every day. We do have a lot of potential on this team, and it’s really starting to come together. It’s an awesome feeling.”
Lincoln-Way East (10-1) moved the ball on the Tigers, but couldn’t capitalize when they got into Wheaton Warrenville South’s territory. On the Griffins’ first two possessions, they missed field goal attempts of 38 and 46 yards. On their fourth drive, Lincoln-Way East quarterback Blake Winkler was intercepted by Zach Kyllonen on Wheaton Warrenville South’s 2-yard line.
Wheaton Warrenville South’s defense was even more dominant in the second half. The Griffins’ best chance to score was on the game’s final play when Winkler heaved the ball in the end zone from the Tigers’ 27-yard line, and the pass was broken up.
“We got [near] the red zone three times in the first half and came away with zero points,” Lincoln-Way East coach Rob Zvonar said. “You didn’t want to believe that was going to be the difference in the game, but what a defensive effort, especially in the first half.
“That’s why they’re the two-time defending state champs. We tip our hat off to Wheaton Warrenville South.”
Lincoln-Way East had been averaging 38 points and hadn’t scored less than 20 points in any of its previous 10 games.
Few gave Wheaton Warrenville South a chance to win its third consecutive state championship when the playoffs began, but Lipinky felt Friday’s win would change a lot of people’s minds.
“We definitely made a statement,” Lipinsky said. “I don’t believe there’s any team out there that wants to play us. We’re going up. We’re still peaking.”
Winkler was 13-of-17 passing for 129 yards.