The battle of the elite running backs proved to be no contest Saturday at Triad High School. And thanks to the (New Lenox) Lincoln-Way West defense, neither was the game.
Gabriel Montalvo ran 56 yards for touchdown on the fourth play from scrimmage to give his team the lead and the Warriors never looked back as they went on for a 31-7 win over Triad in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Running behind a big and experienced offensive line, Montalvo streaked through a huge opening up the middle of the field then used his speed to score untouched as the seventh-seeded Warriors took a 7-0 lead just 1 minute 52 seconds into the game.
The 5-10, 170-pound Montalvo then put the finishing touch on an eight-play 67 yard Warriors drive on their next possession, with his second touchdown — a three-yard run — and with still two minutes left in the first quarter, Lincoln-Way West had a 14-0 lead over the stunned Knights.
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“Our offense is really built around the three big linemen up front and the two younger kids on either side. We were able to come out and establish what we wanted to do,” Warriors coach Dave Ernst said. “I thought the difference in the game was scoring on our first two offensive possessions and got a lead.
“That was big because if they (Triad) gets in front they are tough to catch because they’ll keep the ball away from you.”
Montalvo added a 34-yard scoring run late in the first half and finished with 175 yards on the ground. Triad senior Adam Nelson, who became the Knights all-time leading rusher last week in a first round win over Mattoon, was held to just 18 yards on 13 carries.
After Lincoln-Way West built a 14-0 lead, the Triad defense settled down and held the Warriors to just two first downs on their next three possessions. Triad looked like it would make it four straight possessions when LW West had fourth-and seven from the Knights 39-yard line with 2:25 left in the frist half.
However after Triad was whistled for a 5-yard penalty for lining up in the neutral zone, Ernst decided to go for the first down. The decision proved to be correct as Montalvo ran 34-yards for the score on the next play .
Kevin Siemeck booted a 35-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to increase the lead to 24-0 and when quarterback Connor Lowman conencted with Jake Mauney on a 51-yard scoring pass with just under nine minutesleft in the third quarter, Lincoln-Way West led 31-0.
Still Salopek and the Knights didn’t quit.
“We never gave up,” Salopek said. “We just couldn’t get anything going.”