Lockport's defense stymies Maine South in Class 8A title game
DeKALB -- Maine South's hopes for another state football title were dashed Saturday at NIU's Huskie Stadium.
The Hawks turned the ball over five times and had difficulty slowing Lockport's offense as Maine South fell to Lockport 24-6 in the Class 8A title game.
Maine South (12-2) was making its 10 state title appearance. The loss left the Hawks 6-4 in championship games with two of those losses coming to Lockport.
"We were in this until the last eight minutes of the game," Maine South coach Dave Inserra said. "And that was about 20 minutes of life and that does not make up a season. The run that these guys have had and their courage and the heart they have given us to be one of ten Maine South teams to be in championship."
Turnovers came at key times for the Hawks, four of which came in Lockport territory.
"We moved the ball in the first half a couple of times and we didn't move it far enough," Inserra said. "We moved it in the second half and I thought we had momentum on offense but turned it over."
Lockport was also able to slow Maine South running back Mike Sajenko, who finished with 76 yards on 15 carries.
"We had a tough time moving their D-line," said Sajenko, who had scored 14 touchdowns in the playoffs coming into Saturday's game.
"It was a great season and I got a chance to play with my brothers. We made the most out of games together. We had a lot of fun."
"I thought our guys did a phenomenal job of slowing him down," Lockport coach George Czart said of Sajenko.
Lockport (13-1), which won its third state title in school history, leaned heavily on Ty Schultz. The senior had 231 yards on 32 carries and 2 touchdowns.
Maine South moved the ball well early, but was not able to convert those scoring drives into points.
Lockport struck first near the end of the first quarter.
The Porters took over at their own 42 after a short punt. They then went 58 yards in 8 plays with Schultz scoring on an 11-yard burst over the left side to make it 7-0.
Maine South came up with a huge defensive play on the Porters' next possession. Lockport drove to the Hawks' 2, but fumbled and the Hawks' Tommy Locascio recovered at the Maine South 15.
The Hawks returned that favor just before the end of the half. Maine South had a nice drive rolling and moved the ball down to the Lockport 35. But the Hawks then fumbled the snap and Lockport recovered at its own 42.
It was give and take for both teams to begin the second half.
Maine South's Emmett Wolf blocked a punt, giving the Hawks the ball at the Lockport 39. But on the very next play, Maine South threw an interception and Lockport took over at its own 2.
Lockport proceeded to drive 12 plays to the Maine South 9. The Hawks' defense then stiffened and Gabriel Czako kicked a 26-yard field goal with 5:29 left in the third quarter to make it 10-0.
The Hawks then came flying back thanks to a huge heads up play by Sajenko.
Starting at its own 20, Maine South moved to the Lockport 38. On third-and-11, Rowan Keefe was sacked and fumbled. Sajenko smartly scooped up the ball and picked up a block to race to the Lockport 13.
After a pass to Evan Agosto got the ball to the 1, Keefe scored on an option run. However the kick failed and Maine South trailed 10-6 with 2:13 left in the third quarter.
"Lockport is a very good team," said Keefe, who was 24-of-41 for 201 yards. "We poured our hearts out in this game and left it all out there. I am proud of everyone on this team."
The Hawks did turn it over on their next possession and Lockport made them pay. Schultz would power over on a 7-yard touchdown run and the Porters led 17-6 with 11:16 to play.
The Porters would add a late touchdown from Andrew LoPresti with 2:50 left to put the game away.
"We fought hard," said Teddy Gianaris, who was a three-year starter for the Hawks. "We came a long way, even though we lost. We are proud of our fight."