Cautiously optimistic : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Oswego East football improves in Week 2, ready to shake SPC slump at Plainfield East |
|by Kristin Sharp|
On Friday night, the Oswego East football program achieved their first goal of the young season: a 2-0 start.
The 31-6 win on Senior Night against the Spartans gave the Wolves an undefeated non-conference start for the second straight year, but the seniors know that record means nothing when Southwest Prairie Conference play begins this week.
The Wolves went 0-9 in 2011 league play and have won just one of their last 13 SPC games dating back to October 2010. Oswego East will face its first conference challenge Friday at Plainfield East (0-2) at 7 p.m.
"We did this last year and we ended up losing every game in conference," Oswego East junior running back Branden Lowe said. "We just need to take a huge step next week. Practice harder than we ever have and keep taking steps forward.
"We don't want to take any teams easy. We want to pound them until we can take the game out and get the win."
Last Friday, Oswego East took the opening kickoff and needed just five plays to find the end zone thanks to a 21-yard run by Lowe to reach midfield. The drive was capped off by a 54-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Sean Kennedy to senior Scooter Smith. The extra point kick failed, but the Wolves were on the board, 6-0, less than two minutes into the game.
"We tried to focus on the red zone. We had a couple mistakes last week and we still have some things to clean up, but I think we made a big jump this week," said Kennedy, who finished with 86 yards rushing on six carries and went 10-for-22 passing for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
The Oswego East defense held Oak Lawn (0-2) to three-and-out on the Spartans' first drive, and three minutes later the Wolves were celebrating a second touchdown. Starting with good field position at the Wolves 45, Lowe ran for 23 yards. Oswego East drove to the Oak Lawn 20, but soon was faced with fourth-and-10 after two incomplete passes and one for no gain.
On the last play, Kennedy found senior receiver Chase Skenandore in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown with 5:49 to play in the first quarter. Senior Cooper Fell's kick was good for a 13-0 lead.
The Wolves and Spartans exchanged possessions into the second quarter of play before Oswego East put together a three-play, 80-yard drive sparked by Kennedy's 55-yard scamper after Oak Lawn was fooled by a fake handoff to Lowe.
Kennedy threw a 20-yard pass completion to junior tight end Conor Nalley to put the Wolves at the 5, and Lowe ran into the end zone on the next play for a 19-0 lead with 10:20 on the clock in the second quarter.
Oak Lawn's defense had little time to regroup as Oswego East senior safety Nolan Kopplin intercepted quarterback Bob Olsen and returned the ball 19 yards to the Oak Lawn 9.
The Wolves' offense stalled after three incomplete passes and a 5-yard gain, forcing Oswego East to attempt a field goal. The kick was wide, and with 8:54 to play in the first half, the Spartan offense returned to the field.
Oak Lawn took nearly 7:00 off the clock and reached the red zone, but on fourth-and-6, Oswego East junior Bobby Kallien broke up Olsen's pass in the end zone to keep the shutout alive.
The Wolves tried to put together one more touchdown drive in the final 2:00 of the first half - eventually reaching the Oak Lawn 31 - but Kennedy's final pass attempt on fourth down with no time left was just out of Smith's reach in the end zone.
Oswego East extended its lead on its first possession of the second half after Skenandore's big 34-yard run to the Oak Lawn 26. Kennedy scrambled to the 2 before being tackled, but Lowe took the handoff on the next play and scored with 8:35 on the clock for a 25-0 lead.
Lowe finished with 134 yards on 16 carries, two rushing touchdowns and one TD pass in the game, proving a solid player in the backfield with senior Chris Cooper still sidelined with an injury.
"B-Lowe is a great player. It's funny; any time you get a kid who is 5-4, 150 pounds and runs that physical and has great vision, he is an ideal back for our offense," Oswego East head coach Tyson LeBlanc said. "Chris Cooper is the ideal back for our offense as well, but B-Lowe is so close to the ground and he's great at hiding behind our line. We did the halfback pass all week with Chase throwing the ball and I didn't want to give it away. I thought (Lowe) was having a great game and he was excited when I called it. We're hoping we get (Cooper) back and healthy. If we don't, I have the utmost confidence in Branden."
The Oswego East defense continued to cause problems for Oak Lawn throughout the second half as junior Keagan Griffin (8 tackles) sacked Olsen on second-and-11, junior Sam Wilson had a near interception on solid pass coverage and sophomore Zach Prinz pressured Olsen for an incomplete pass late in the third quarter.
Oswego East put together a four-play, 60-yard scoring drive with 1:52 left in the third, scoring on a 26-yard halfback pass from Lowe to Skenandore to put the Wolves ahead 31-0.
"We drew that up in practice and just kind of winged it. I just threw the ball up, saw Chase and he caught the ball. It was a tough play, but we blocked well and everything just worked," Lowe said of his touchdown pass.
Oak Lawn, however, was determined to find a way onto the scoreboard. The Spartans pushed down to the Wolves 18 after a long pass from Olsen, but Kallien intercepted Olsen's second pass attempt in the end zone and put the Wolves at their own 20-yard line.
Oswego East could not convert on the turnover as Kennedy fumbled on a quarterback keeper and Oak Lawn recovered at the Wolves' 24 to start the fourth quarter in good field position.
Skenandore, Kallien and junior linebacker Josh Lopez all tried to stall the Spartans at the 5-yard line, forcing two incomplete pass attempts. On fourth down at the Oswego East 5, both the Wolves and the Spartans called timeouts.
Then, Oswego East was whistled for pass interference and Oak Lawn received a first down at the Wolves 3. The defense held for two plays, but facing third-and-1, Olsen snuck in for the score with 8:31 to play in the game.
"When a team has the ball first-and-goal from the 2-yard line and it takes them four plays to score, that's an accomplishment in itself," LeBlanc said. "Obviously we would have liked to have had the shutout and our kids were hoping we'd get the shutout, but we're getting more and more physical up front. In the Southwest Prairie, you need to be physical because everybody is going to try and shove the ball down our throat. If we let a team come in here and march down the field, it gives Plainfield East something to talk about."
The scoreboard remained unchanged through final minutes of the game and the Wolves secured their 2-0 start to the season.
"It feels great - Senior Night, first home game, this is awesome," Kennedy said.
Now, the Wolves begin pursuit of their next goal of an improved conference showing.