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Backyard battle : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Backyard battle
Oswego East strikes early, but Panthers score 43 unanswered points to clinch win

by Kristin Sharp


The Oswego East football team was ready to play from the opening whistle last Friday night in the crosstown matchup, and kept the home crowd on its feet for much of the first half.

Visiting Oswego found itself trailing 15-7, and the Panthers responded with 43 unanswered points for a convincing 50-29 win in Southwest Prairie Conference play.

It is the second time in as many seasons that Oswego East has built a lead on Oswego after the Panthers rallied from a 21-7 deficit in 2011 to win 35-28.

"They got up on us and we knew going in - we always shoot for a shutout, but we were realistic and we knew this was a high-powered offense that coach (Tyson) LeBlanc has, and we knew they could put points on the board," Oswego head coach Brian Cooney said. "You keep your composure, stay with the game plan and realize that we, too, can put up points.

The win marks the fourth time this season Oswego has surpassed the 40-point mark as the Panthers improve to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in SPC action. Oswego travels to Plainfield East on Friday.

Oswego East falls to 3-2 on the season and 1-2 in conference, hosting Plainfield Central on Friday in a 7 p.m. kickoff.

"We were a little too over emotional," LeBlanc said. "The one thing about our kids is they fought to the end. I'm not a big believer in moral victories, but this is something we will carry us through the rest of this season. We talked all week that even though this is a big game, our eyes are on the bigger prize, which is the state playoffs. Anything can happen once you get there. Obviously we'd have liked to win this football game, but they're a heckuva football team. They're just a little more physical than we are."

Oswego East's defense was impressive to start the game last Friday. On Oswego's opening possession, the Panthers were poised to score after senior Mickeel Stewart's 29-yard run to the Wolves 8. Stewart attempted three more carries, but he was met by Oswego East junior Keagan Griffin, sophomore Zach Prinz and senior Chase Skenandore. Oswego was forced into a fourth down situation on the 3-yard line.

Stewart took the handoff from senior quarterback Brett Wainwright, but was stopped at the 1-yard line by a wall of Oswego East linemen.

The Wolves were held to three-and-out, and three plays later, Oswego broke onto the scoreboard. Set up by a 16-yard pass completion from Wainwright to senior Elliot McGaughy, the Panthers scored on Stewart's 21-yard run with 3:55 to play in the first quarter.

Senior Jeremy Wine's kick was good to give Oswego an early 7-0 lead.

Oswego East took possession and marched 76 yards on seven plays to take the lead. Senior quarterback Sean Kennedy found Skenandore for a 13-yard gain, but on the next play the Oswego defense suffered a huge loss with a knee injury to senior defensive lineman Chad Burdo, who was helped off the field and did not return to the game.

"Chad was a fifth captain this week and he's one of the hardest workers we have on this team. He leads the defensive line," Cooney said. "We're going to hope for the best. I'm sure his head is down, and I feel for him. It doesn't look good."

Facing third-and-10 on his own 40-yard line, Kennedy responded with a 60-yard touchdown pass to senior Chris Cooper, who was wide open downfield. Kennedy followed up with a successful two-point conversion to put Oswego East ahead 8-7 with 1:42 remaining in the first quarter.

Oswego was held to three-and-out thanks to Oswego East junior Tyler Engleman's quarterback sack for a 15-yard loss, and Oswego East put together another scoring drive on its next possession.

Kennedy found Cooper for a 20-yard pass play before his quarterback keeper gained 14 yards to put the Wolves at the Oswego 21. After a run for no yards and an incomplete pass, Cooper took the handoff and received a block at the 10-yard line before making his way into the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown with 10:20 to play in the first half.

Oswego East senior Cooper Fell kicked the extra point for a 15-7 Oswego East lead.

The Oswego East defense put together another strong series on Oswego's next drive. Stewart gained 17 yards on four carries before junior Bryce Holm took the handoff for a 1-yard gain.

But on third-and-7, Wainwright's pass fake was perfectly read by Oswego East junior linebacker Hector Mendoza, who sacked Wainwright for an 11-yard loss.

But just as the game seemed to be playing in Oswego East's favor, Oswego junior lineman Tyler Gibson forced a fumble on the punt return.

The Panthers took possession at midfield after the turnover, and Wainwright found senior Jack Kwiatkowski, who made a spinning catch before reaching the 2-yard line for a 49-yard gain.

Stewart covered the remaining distance with a strong push from his line, and Wainwright connected with Holm for the two-point version, tying the game at 15 with 6:00 left in the half.

"We prep to score a lot and we focus a lot on production," Stewart said. "Our O-line is doing great and they have been all year. Tackle to tackle, they've been doing amazing. When they're doing good, everything seems to roll along."

Oswego East could not overcome an intentional grounding penalty and was forced to punt on fourth-and-12, and Oswego reached the end zone just 60 seconds later. Wainwright threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Stewart, who broke two tackles to cross the goal line. Wine's kick was good for a 22-15 score with 3:54 on the clock.

Oswego junior Sean Graff (10 tackles) sacked Kennedy on the Wolves' next possession, and senior Justin Best stopped the Wolves on third-and-16.

Oswego took possession near midfield, but after a 12-yard run by Wainwright, three incomplete passes forced the Panthers to punt, sending Oswego into halftime with a 22-15 lead.

"The one thing I was most impressed with the team is we came off the field at halftime up 22-15 and our players looked dejected. They looked down. I told them I thought that was a good sign," Cooney said. "I like the fact that we come in at halftime only up seven and know we realize we haven't played our best football and feel like we let ourselves down. I congratulated them on not being satisfied with what's on the scoreboard, but realizing we're capable of playing better football. We challenged them to do that in the second half, and they did that."

Oswego scored on its first possession of the second half thanks in part to Holm's first down run to the Wolves' 28. Stewart covered the remaining distance, and Wine's kick was good for a 29-15 lead.

The Panthers went on to score three more touchdowns in the third quarter for a 28-point production in the 12-minute span.

Stewart broke free for a big run to reach the Oswego East 10, and he gained 7 more yards before junior Tyler Walsh scored from the 3-yard line. After the extra point kick, Oswego led 36-15.

On the Wolves' next possession, Kennedy was intercepted by senior Alain Dixon at midfield with 6:31 to play in the third quarter.

Wainwright found Kwiatkowski (two catches, 68 yards) for a 19-yard gain and Holm covered 24 yards before scoring from the 5-yard line with 4:57 on the clock. Oswego led 43-15 after the scoring drive.

The Oswego defense held the Wolves to three-and-out, and Walsh returned the ensuing punt 48 yards to the end zone for a 50-15 lead with 3:36 still remaining in the third quarter.

Oswego East added two more scores in the fourth quarter. The Wolves put together a 63-yard drive capped off by Cooper's 6-yard touchdown run.

On the Wolves' next possession, Cooper scored on an 81-yard screen pass from Kennedy, and junior Branden Lowe caught a pass from Kennedy for the two-point conversion with 6:16 to play in the game.

Cooper finished with 69 yards on 18 carries and made five catches for 167 yards. The Wolves outgained the Panthers, 391-376.

"He had a great game," LeBlanc said of Cooper. "Coop is a guy that, going into the week with the game plan, I didn't know if we put enough in for him, but we improvised. He was hot and we did what we could to get him the ball."

Oswego was led by Stewart's four touchdowns as he compiled 147 yards on 18 carries. Wainwright was 4-for-9 for 127 yards.

"Nothing that No. 7 (Stewart) does amazes me anymore. I tell our guys that every week someone does something that I never thought, and I'm done thinking that about No. 7.

"Mickeel Stewart ran like a man tonight. We've got that weapon clicking for us."

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