Lockport hands Wheaton North a nonconference defeat

Playing on the road against a tough opponent for the second straight week, Lockport looked to swing the momentum in its favor right away.

How about returning the opening kickoff 73 yards for a touchdown?

That's exactly what senior Austin Cichon did, and the Porters took the lead in the first 10 seconds and never looked back. Nate Blazewski booted four extra points and three field goals, and Johnny Wesolowski scored a pair of touchdowns as Lockport came away with a 37-22 victory over Wheaton North.

"We knew we were playing a tough opponent and we had to be ready," Cichon said. "Honestly, it was just huge. We had to set the tone right away, and I just took the ball, found a gap and scored."

The kick wasn't deep. Cichon took it at his own 27, and off he went.

"It was a great start," Lockport coach George Czart said. "Austin is one of our middle guys on the kick return, and he's got some speed."

Cichon thought it immediately sent the statement the Porters (2-0) were looking for.

"I thought they would kick it deeper, but they didn't," he said. "I guess they wanted us to show them what we were made of, and we did."

Lockport faced a third-and-20 on its next possession. Wesolowski burst up the middle for a 44-yard touchdown, and with 50.1 seconds left in the first quarter, it was 14-0. Wesolowski finished with 11 carries for 95 yards and the 2 touchdowns.

"We just knew we had to step it up on offense this week," Wesolowski said. "The O-line and the H-backs, they stepped up and held everyone accountable. On offense, we knew we didn't play how we wanted last week. So we had to pull our weight and not let the defense do everything."

Wheaton North (1-1) put the Porters defense to the test with a few big plays. Following a kickoff return to midfield, Max Howser found fellow senior Matt Kuczaj, who did a little button hook move on the left side and went 51 yards for a TD with 32.9 seconds left in the first quarter.

But the Falcons' next possession was thwarted by junior linebacker John Sherrod, who intercepted a pass and returned it 16 yards to the 1. Two plays later, senior quarterback Drew Gallagher scored from there on a keeper. Gallagher finished 8 of 14 passing for 74 yards and added 17 carries for 66 yards and the TD.

Back came Wheaton North, as Howser found Kuczaj again, this time on a post pattern down the left sideline for a 77-yard touchdown to make it 21-14 with 7:39 left in the second quarter.

Howser finished 18 of 34 for 330 yards with 3 touchdowns and two interceptions. Kuczaj had six catches for 159 yards and 2 TDs.

Blazewski answered with a 51-yard field goal with 28.5 seconds left in the first half. Lockport led 24-14 at halftime.

To open the second half, Howser hit junior Rich Schilling with a 61-yard touchdown down the left side. The 2-point conversion was good, and it was 24-22. Schilling had 7 catches for 136 yards.

But the Falcons were stopped on a fourth-and-2 play from just past midfield on their next possession and wouldn't get close to scoring again.

Blazewski booted field goals of 45 and 23 yards, and Wesolowski rounded out the scoring, bursting in from a yard out with 6:17 to play in the game.

"I'm just glad that Coach Czart gave me the chance," said Blazewski, who believes his range is 55 yards. "I'm happy that I was able to do my job. We need to keep this up and bring it again next week."

Both teams won state championships with dominating defenses just two years ago. The Falcons defeated St. Rita 35-6 in the Class 7A title game, and Lockport toppled Maine South 24-6 right afterward in the 8A game.

That season, the Porters won all eight of their road games in going 13-1 and capturing the title. So how good is this team, which has opened the season with a pair of big road wins?

"The way we started is huge," Wesolowski said. "We can be as good as we want to be."

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