Junior Braden Tischer and senior Jimmy Curtin are a year apart in school but as close as can be as partners in the Lincoln-Way East passing game.
“They played together growing up here and were big-time players for the Frankfort Falcons back in the day,” Griffins coach Rob Zvonar said.
Now they’re making big plays for a Lincoln-Way East offense that isn’t as run-heavy as in past years. Tischer found Curtin open twice in the first half for touchdowns of 23 and 80 yards, getting the Griffins off and running to a 35-14 victory Saturday afternoon over visiting Warren in the Class 8A quarterfinals.
Tischer completed 12 of 16 passes for 151 yards, with Curtin making five catches for 111 yards.
On the 80-yarder, which helped stake Lincoln-Way East (12-0) to a 14-0 halftime lead, Curtin took a short pass and went into another gear to run away from the Warren defense down the right sideline.
“Coaches were making fun of me the last 5-10 yards, said I looked a little slow,” Curtin said with a smile. “But I scored so it’s all right.”
It’s an example of offseason work — three or four days of speed drills every week with his uncle, former college football player Kevin Curtin — paying off. “I feel like I got faster for sure,” Jimmy Curtin said.
“He’s been working on his speed in the offseason and it showed,” Tischer said. “But I mean, now it’s like another level of speed and he just accelerated past everyone. That was something special to watch.”
It’s not like Lincoln-Way East is going to abandon what is an effective running game. James Kwiecinski grinded out 20 carries for 86 yards on Saturday and Petey Olaleye added 46 yards on 11 runs.
But the Griffins have the personnel to do damage in the passing game and will do so if the opportunity presents itself as it did on Saturday.
“In the past we’ve run a lot, and to just air it out a little more today felt great,” Tischer said. “Especially for me to show off what I can do and what our receivers can do. And our O-line did a great job blocking.
“We saw that [the Blue Devils] like to man up so we knew we had to have some one-on-one battles there on the outside. And that was our focus for the week on offense.”
Tischer’s third TD pass of the day, a six-yarder to Olaleye, pushed the lead to 21-0 through three quarters. Kwiecinski added a 24-yard touchdown run early in the fourth and when Warren fumbled the kickoff, Dylan Weathers ran it back for another TD and a 35-0 lead with 8:55 remaining.
Warren (10-2) didn’t quit, scoring a pair of TDs on a blocked punt return by Jaden Turner and on Adam Behrens’ pass to Niko Mantzoros. But it wasn’t enough to prevent the Griffins from advancing to the semifinals for the eighth time.
“You don’t expect it to be 35-0,” Zvonar said. “Just a great all-around effort on ‘O,’ ‘D’ and specials to be able to control a game. … It’s unbelievable.”