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Defense helps Raiders drop Griffins

Bolingbrook senior running back Mike Valentine cuts around a Lincoln-Way East defender during Friday's home win over the Griffins. (Photo by Matthew Piechalak -
Bolingbrook senior running back Mike Valentine cuts around a Lincoln-Way East defender during Friday's home win over the Griffins. (Photo by Matthew Piechalak -

BOLINGBROOK – Defense wins SouthWest Suburban Blue championships.

Thanks in part to a dominating performance from linebackers Tuf Borland and Julian Huff, Bolingbrook’s defense willed the team to a 12-3 victory over Lincoln-Way East on Friday, securing no worse than a share of the SouthWest Suburban Blue conference title.

Huff forced a fumble and blocked a punt while Borland snagged a first quarter interception and added a pick six late in the fourth quarter to seal the Raiders’ victory. In all, the Bolingbrook defense forced five turnovers.

“The defense challenges itself to work and improve with every practice and every game,” Borland said. “We are a family – we work together and we play together.”

It was the Raiders’ first win over the Griffins since 2009, which was the last season that the Raiders captured a conference championship. Friday’s victory also marked to 100th career victory for head coach John Ivlow.

“[Reaching 100 wins is] a nice landmark, but it’s just another win,” Ivlow said. “We are in a good position – still undefeated – but we need to stay focused and finish off the regular season on the road against Sandburg.”

Ivlow credited the team’s fortitude and dogged determination to establish the run game after the offense was shutout and held to zero net yards in the first half.

“We have never had success running the football against their defense,” Ivlow said. “But we thought we had some different schemes in place that could work; it just took some time to get that going.”

A swarming defense kept the Raiders within striking distance.

On the Griffins’ second play from scrimmage, Huff deflected a Jordan Wirtz pass, knocking it right into the outstretched arms of his counterpart, Borland. But the offense squandered good field position and failed to convert in East territory.

Bolingbrook (8-0 overall, 5-0 SWSB) surrendered a 39-yard field goal on the successive East (6-2, 4-2) possession, but that’s all the defense would yield. Bolingbrook’s Bernard Flowers and Parrker Westphal added fumble recoveries in the first quarter to keep the Griffins at bay.

Trailing 3-0 entering the third quarter but ahead in the turnover battle and time of possession, Jaden Huff and the Raiders’ running attack slowly began to wear down East.

“Our defense played great and they gave us a lot of momentum in the second half,” Jaden Huff said. “We look for them to give us a boost and good field position and they did that all night.”

After a Westphal punt return to the Griffins’ 22-yard line, Jaden Huff needed only two carries break the scoring drought, giving the Raiders a 6-3 lead following a missed PAT.

Later in the fourth quarter, the defense put the game out of reach.

With the Griffins’ offense trapped inside its own 30, the Raiders stormed Wirtz with a blitz.

A wayward screen pass went right to Borland, who jogged into the end zone, giving Bolingbrook the 12-3 lead.

“We just kept battling and battling and battling and finally got some points on the board in the second half,” Borland said. “A lot of credit is due to the line and the rush, they were able to get to the quarterback all night.”

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