The football series between and Sandburg remains a relatively young one as the schools will be meeting Friday night in Frankfor for the 11th consecutive year.
"I know at one point this game was a pretty serious rivalry," Sandburg coach Dave Wierzal said. "I don't know if it still has that same focus because the rivalry has changed with new schools being brought into the conference, but it's still a very important game for us."
It's been a one-sided series as the Griffins are 9-2 lifetime against the Eagles, and even in defeat have been competitive. The two victories by the Eagles have been decided by only a single point (23-22 in 2007) and by two points (12-10 in 2004 regular season).
Meanwhile, when on the winning end, the Griffins have enjoyed their share of routs and historically have been led by tremendous defensive efforts. They've blanked Sandburg on six occasions, while also scoring 30 or more points in eight of the 11 games.
"It's always been a tremendous rivalry, starting with Lincoln-Way Central in the 90s with some fierce competitive games before we broke off to (Lincoln-Way East)," Griffins coach Rob Zvonar said. "It's been a positive rivalry with lots of intensity."
"Coach Wierzal is one of the best guys in the business and we have tremendous respect for them and are excited to play. There's a natural rivalry. I'm not sure if it's from playing youth sports as kids or knowing each other, but the kids are always excited to play them."
Something will have to give Friday night as both teams will enter with 4-0 records. Both are 2-0 in Southwest Suburban Blue Conference play. It will be Wierzal's fifth time coaching against the Griffins, while Zvonar has been at the helm throughout the series.
“(Lincoln-Way East) has had a very good year and has some goals they’re going after,” Wierzal said. “They’re doing a great job so far, so I would hope that it would be an exciting, competitive game with teams that have shared a rivalry in the past.”
In reverse chronological order, Patch takes a brief look at five of the most memorable meetings between the two schools:
2007: Eagles Pounce on L-W East Miscues
Sandburg appeared as if it was going to drop to 3-5 and have its playoff hopes erased by visiting Lincoln-Way East. The Griffins took a 22-7 lead into the fourth quarter but saw things unravel quickly when they turned the ball over three times.
Sandburg quarterback Terry Kowalski turned a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak into a 57-yard touchdown run to open the quarter. The Griffins would turn the ball over on a bad pitch on their ensuing possession and the Eagles would close to within 22-17 on a 32-yard field goal from Ryan Salerno.
Hanging on for dear life apparently wasn't enough for the Griffins as once again they coughed up the ball and Sandburg's Frank Pereiro recovered. The Eagles made the Griffins pay dearly five plays later when Kowalski connected on a 6-yard TD pass to Tony Stramaglia to rally the Eagles to a 23-22 victory.
"We felt pretty good at the half after seizing the momentum by going up two scores," Zvonar said. "But, in the fourth quarter, we had a combination of penalties, turnovers and every type of error you can make."
2005: On the Way to Champaign
Lincoln-Way East picked up win No. 4 with a 30-0 victory over Sandburg in Orland Park. The Griffins would finish the 2005 season undefeated. They clipped Maine South 30-24 in double-overtime in a thrilling Class 8A title game.
Looking back to the win over Sandburg, though, it was twin brothers Joe Mau and Al Mau who had games to remember. Joe Mau had two touchdown receptions and seven catches for 129 yards. Al Mau intercepted a pair of passes. They weren't the only players to shine. Quarterback Anthony Kropp completed 11-of-21 passes for 193 yards and three TDs, Colin Luczynski had two sacks, Jon Olofsson blocked a punt and Tom Lynch booted a 30-yard field goal.
2004 Playoffs: An Unforgettable Rematch
Who would've thought it? When the teams met during the third week of the regular season, each was still in pursuit of its first victory. Now, they were meeting with a trip to the Class 8A state semifinals on the line. The fans certainly understood what was at stake, as it was estimated that more than 7,000 people were in attendance for Lincoln-Way East's 14-0 victory.
"Walking off the field after our loss to Sandburg (in September), if somebody would have told me we would be playing again, I would have thought it would would have been a pickup game in somebody's yard," Zvonar said.
The Griffins became the first 8A team to advance to the state semifinals with four losses. Defense was the name of the game for the Griffins as they held the Eagles to 37 rushing yards in the shutout victory.
Colin Luczynski had two sacks and Al Mau intercepted two passes. The Griffins scored a first-quarter touchdown on a 7-yard pass from Anthony Kropp to Gus Olofsson and added an insurance score in the third quarter on a 4-yard Vince Zager run.
Obviously, as the only playoff matchup ever between the two schools, and with it occurring in the state quarterfinals, it goes down as the biggest game in series history.
"It was a great season for our kids," Sandburg coach Marty Balle said. "Nobody expected this. Every week in the playoffs was like opening a new present for Christmas."
2004: Winless Teams Meet in Week No. 3
One thing was for certain when Sandburg traveled to Frankfort to face Lincoln-Way East during Week 3 of the 2004 season: Someone was going to leave with a victory.
Sandburg was able to enjoy a big sigh of relief and celebrate a 12-10 win when Lincoln-Way East placekicker Andy Gerritsen, who booted a 30-yarder earlier, came up short on a 43-yard try as time expired. Sandburg quarterback Tom Grogan had a 42-yard touchdown run, but the biggest play came with 2:24 remaining when he connected on a 13-yard touchdown pass to Bob Sirvid to give the Eagles the lead. Lincoln-Way East quarterback Andy Ramus completed 11-of-21 passes for 151 yards, including a 2-yard TD pass to Gus Olofsson, while Kyle Bookhout's block of a PAT and field goal kept the game close enough for the Griffins to attempt a game-winning field goal in the waning seconds.
"This is the first time we have ever been 0-3," Zvonar said. "We'll see how we respond Monday. It is up to the kids to determine how we respond."
The Griffins would ultimately respond quite well, turning that 0-3 record into an 8-5 one, which included three post-season victories, advancing all the way to the Class 8A state semifinals.
2001: The Doozy Beginning
The first game in the Lincoln-Way East vs. Sandburg series was played during the final week of the regular season and was the only year that the Eagles (8-4) finished with a better record than the Griffins (6-4).
The game went down to the final seconds. Actually, it went all the way down to when there was no time left on the clock! Lincoln-Way East's Dustin Powell threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Neil Linhart in the end zone as time expired. The touchdown cut the Eagles' lead to 39-38. Rather than attempt the PAT kick and go into overtime, Zvonar elected to go for the two-point conversion and the win on the road.
Playoffs were not on the line for either team, as even with a loss, the Griffins would have made the playoffs in their inaugural season with a 5-4 overall record. The Eagles had already punched their ticket with six victories coming into the game.
"We had nothing to lose," Zvonar said. "There was never a doubt we were going for two. These kids never stopped believing in each other."
Powell connected with junior wide receiver Mike Cholipski for the two-point conversion to lift the Griffins to a 40-39 win.
"The coaches had it all planed out," Choplinski said. "I ran a hitch and Dustin threw a great pass."
Powell threw for 309 yards and three TDs. The Eagles finished just short of 600 yards of total offense and had 29 first downs, but they hurt themselves with six turnovers and had a punt blocked. Dan Anthony rushed for 156 yards on 22 carries, including three TDs.
Decaded of Dominance: A complete list of scores from the football series between Lincoln-Way East and Sandburg highlights the 10-year period of Griffin dominance.