Sandburg junior quarterback Christian Evans, seen here earlier this season during a game against Andrew, completed 76 percent of his passes while throwing for 306 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-27 victory over Lincoln-Way East on Oct. 1. Photo by Jeff Vorva
Homecoming Wreckers: Sandburg ends 13-game winless streak v. LW East with stunning road victory
By Jason Maholy
Facing a perennial state power might not be considered by some people to be the best medicine for a struggling team coming off its worst game of the season.
But the only choice a team has is to play the next opponent on its schedule, so to Frankfort went Sandburg for a Homecoming date with Lincoln-Way East on Oct. 1.
And the Eagles turned out to be Cinderella, coming from 12 points down in the fourth quarter to stun the Griffins, 30-27, for what is arguably one of the more improbable victories for any team in Illinois this season — or maybe any season in recent memory.
Forget that Lincoln-Way East has won two of the past three Class 8A championships (and played in the other title game) and won 50 of its past 52 games, including those played last spring. Or that Sandburg has not made the playoffs since 2015. Or that the Eagles were coming off a 42-0 loss to Lockport, in a game they trailed 33-0 after one quarter.
The Eagles (2-4, 1-2 SouthWest Suburban Blue) had not beaten East (4-2, 1-1) since a 23-22 squeaker in 2007. The last five of the Griffins’ 13 consecutive victories in the series, which included a 28-0 dusting last spring, were by a combined score of 235-21.
Sandburg had not so much as scored against East since 2017.
But never mind all that; the Eagles have a coach with a championship pedigree and aren’t living in the past.
Sandburg jumped out to a 9-0 lead, got knocked down, then fought back to take the lead late in the final quarter when Christian Evans tossed a short touchdown pass to Walter Davis. The Eagles defense held off the Griffins and there you have it.
Sandburg coach Troy McAllister has seen progress from his team, and he saw on film some weaknesses in East he believed his team could exploit.
“We felt like the game plan was solid and getting off to a fast start helped,” he said. “Scoring on our first possession … any hesitation or reluctance the young men may have had was kind of thrown out the window because we were able to march down the field on the first drive and score. The we just stayed the course.
“Football has huge ups and downs, and we were able to just ride through the down moments and when we got momentum back we ran with it.”
The winning score was set up by a Griffins’ turnover, after Sandburg had pulled with four at 27-23. Kyle Peterson forced a fumble and Luke DeVito recovered it and returned the ball inside the East 10 yard line.
A couple plays later, Davis went up and over a defender to haul in the game-winner from Evans.
Evans ran for a touchdown and completed 19-of-25 passes for 306 yards and three scores. The junior is in his first season as the starting quarterback and is learning a new offense, and McAllister said he is coming along nicely.
“You can see the progression week to week, and this is the game where it kind of all came together,” McAllister said. “Overall, we’ve been pleased, but his decision-making Friday night was excellent. You can see he’s learned each game from the mistakes he’s made, and he makes those adjustments and improvements.
“He was efficient, took what was there and didn’t force anything.”
Two of Evans’ touchdown passes went to Davis, a junior who prior to this season had not played football since elementary school. Davis caught 6 passes for 194 yards.
McAllister, who is in his first season in Orland Park, believed from the start that Davis could be the difference-maker he was against the Griffins.
“He’s a talented young man and he’s been working so hard to get back into the football groove,” he said. “He’s had a couple good games but he just exploded this game.”
Jackson Schramm also caught a touchdown pass for the Eagles.
Evans’ and Davis’ big nights could be a sign the offense has turned the corner. Sandburg had scored only 32 points through their first five games, while the defense had been solid, allowing an average of 16 points per game over the same span.
“Offensively, it’s been little mistakes that were hurting drives and hurting points outcomes, and this game we put it together and we got a few breaks and we were able to get the outcome we wanted and worked for,” McAllister said. “We’ve had some good games along the way and we haven’t had the results we want, but the product has been getting better each and every game.”
The exception, he noted, was the loss to Lockport.
“We just had a terrible game,” he said. “They’re really good and we played bad, and that’s a bad combination. To rebound the way they did this week was obviously great for the program and for the young men to get the outcome they’ve been working for.
“If we play our best and limit our mistakes, we feel we have a pretty good ballclub here.”
The Eagles visit Stagg this Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
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