Lincoln-Way West Seeks to Add Title of Road Warriors
Warriors look to extend historic football season in second round of 5A playoffs, travel to Peoria to face unbeaten Richwoods on Saturday.
Lincoln-Way West made school history last Friday when it claimed a win in its first game in the IHSA football playoffs.
Now, the Warriors get to meet up with a program that has had a regular presence in the postseason since the early 1980s.
On Saturday, West (8-2) plays at Peoria Richwoods (10-0) at 1:00 p.m. in a second-round matchup in the Class 5A playoffs.
The Knights are the top-seeded team in the quadrant and have been one of the state's top-ranked Class 5A teams all season.
Richwoods, which lost in last year's Class 5A semifinals, is making its 25th playoff appearance and 24th trip in 28 years.
Saturday's winner advances to next weekend's quarterfinals against either Sterling (8-2) or Joliet Catholic Academy (9-1).
Lincoln-Way West coach Mark Vander Kooi's Warriors bring a three-game winning streak into the game following their 42-35 victory over Dunlap.
Nick Bellamy rushed for 219 yards and two touchdowns to give him nearly 1,500 rushing yards and 19 scores so far this season.
"I'm proud of the kids," Vander Kooi said. "We have been in a lot of tight games and have found ways to win. The kids worked extremely hard and I am happy to see the results of their commitment.
"Nick Bellamy has been tremendous this year and our offensive line of Brendan Mahoney, Brent Hodge, Jake Hilt, Neil Kristenson, Erwin Ferriera and Jake Benson has been great."
Both squads are averaging 32.6 points, but the Warriors actually possess a better average in the last three games.
During that time, West has scored 127 points (42.3 average), while Richwoods has been limited to just 61 points (20.3 average).
Richwoods has had close battles on its hands in each of the past three weeks, winning each game by eight points or less.
Last weekend, the Knights held off a challenge from Ottawa before capturing a 27-19 victory in their playoff opener.
Prior to outlasting Galesburg 14-6 in Week 9, Richwoods edged Quincy Notre Dame 20-14 to win the Mid-State Six title.
Coach Roland Brown's Knights rely on sophomore running back Kendrick Foster, who has rushed for nearly 1,600 yards.
Senior Tevin Hicks, who earned all-state recognition a year ago for the semifinal squad, is once again Richwoods' fullback.
"We are excited for the challenge to play against Richwoods," Vander Kooi said. "They are very good and we will have to reach our highest potential. We have played well on offense over the last couple of weeks and our defense has played well at times.
"We are going to have to tighten things down this week because Richwoods has a tough offense that has a good mixture of power and quickness."