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Time runs out : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Time runs out
Oswego East scores 27 second-half points, but Plainfield Central hangs on for SPC win

by Kristin Sharp


Trailing Plainfield Central by 21 points in the third quarter last Friday, the Oswego East football team needed some momentum on its home field.

The Wolves got just that with junior Jason Evans' perfectly executed onside kick.

Just moments earlier, Oswego East senior quarterback Sean Kennedy threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Scooter Smith to cap off a four-play, 60-yard drive.

Although Oswego East (3-3, 1-2) managed to turn a 34-13 deficit into a two-point game, the Wolves ran out of time to rally from behind, falling 42-40 in the Southwest Prairie Conference game.

"It's that resiliency and being able to battle through adversity that I've talked about (all season)," Oswego East head coach Tyson LeBlanc said. "We're getting better at that. We have some things we have to clean up, but we're fighting. We're going to keep fighting until Week 9."

With 7:56 to play in the third quarter, senior Cooper Fell kicked the extra point to bring Oswego East within 14 (34-20) and the Wolves' special teams unit took to the field for the kickoff. Evans' onside kick found its way into the hands of junior Conor Nally near midfield and the Wolves' sideline suddenly took on new life.

"Jason Evans couldn't have kicked it any better," LeBlanc said. "It's something that we work on in practice and our kicker does a good job with it. We almost got a second one right after that. It was a great kick and great execution by our special teams."

Kennedy found Smith for a long pass to the Plainfield Central 12 on the first play from scrimmage, and after a short run by senior Chris Cooper and a personal foul penalty on the Wildcats, Oswego East moved to the 9-yard line.

The Wolves' cut the score to 34-26 with Kennedy's 9-yard touchdown pass to junior Branden Lowe.

Oswego East tried to surprise Plainfield Central with another onside kick, but this time the Wildcats were ready and took possession on their own 30. The Wolves' defense made a big stop, holding Plainfield Central to three-and-out after holding the Wildcats to no gain on third-and-5, forcing the punt.

Oswego East was whistled for a holding penalty on its first play and could not overcome the setback. Facing fourth-and-2, Plainfield Central stopped Cooper short of the first down, and the Wildcats took over at the Oswego East 42.

Plainfield Central took advantage of the good field position to start the drive and reached the end zone five plays later on senior Gino Giarrantano's 5-yard run with 2:14 to play in the third quarter.

Giarranto ran the ball for two more points, and Plainfield Central led 42-26, but with one quarter still to play, Oswego East did not give up hope.

Oswego East senior Chase Skenandore caught a Kennedy pass on third-and-8 to put the Wolves at their own 42, and Kennedy found Smith for a 9-yard gain into Wildcat territory. Kennedy, who went 6-for-6 on the drive, connected with Nally and Smith before finding Lowe for the 28-yard touchdown.

Kennedy finished the game 25-for-35 passing for 326 yards and five touchdowns, along with one touchdown run.

Kennedy looked to Nally once again for the two-point conversion, and Oswego East cut its deficit to 42-34 with 19 seconds left in the third quarter.

Plainfield Central took possession at the Wolves' 45 after a long punt return from senior Derek Bernascik, and senior Tyler Erdman (14 carries, 120 yards) gained 26 yards on the ground before senior Jordan Ellingwood (27 carries, 216 yards) put the Wildcats at the 12.

Facing third down on the 12-yard line, Oswego East junior linebacker Josh Lopez led a pack of Wolves in bringing down Giarranto and forcing the Wildcats to attempt a field goal. The 30-yard attempt hit the upright and was no good at the start of the fourth quarter.

Oswego East's offense gained a surge of momentum from the defensive stop. Facing third-and12, Kennedy connected with senior tight end Joe Talton for an 18-yard gain and found Smith for an additional 12 yards to midfield.

After an 8-yard loss, Kennedy threw two passes to Smith to reach the Wildcat 30. Two incomplete passes and a 3-yard quarterback keeper put the Wolves in a fourth-and-7 situation.

Skenandore caught a long pass, but the play was called back by a penalty. Now facing fourth-and-25, Lowe roped in a Kennedy pass up the middle with a well-timed catch at the Wildcat 18.

Three plays later, Oswego East was sitting at the 4-yard line on fourth down. Kennedy looked to pass, but found an opening and ran in the touchdown with 4:08 to play in the game.

"That was a heckuva catch by Brenden Lowe and a good throw by Sean Kennedy," LeBlanc said. "That's one of our core plays that we work on quite a bit. The guys were able to execute. We would have liked to get a W in this game, but we fell a bit short."

With the Wolves trailing by two, they needed the extra points and Kennedy handed off to Cooper, who was hit before the goal line to preserve the Wildcats' 42-40 lead.

Evans had a long kickoff to the Wildcats' 5, and the Wolves pinned Plainfield Central back to its own 15. The Wildcats received a first down on an Oswego East penalty of illegal participation.

Ellingwood ran the ball twice for a total of 4 yards, but on third-and-6, Ellingwood broke up for a 13-yard gain and much-needed first down for his team. Plainfield Central was able to run out the clock and junior quarterback Mike Smiles took a knee with 11 seconds left to play. Smiles finished 7-of-10 passing for 143 yards and three touchdowns in his second start for the Wildcats under center this season.

"We didn't take Oswego East lightly," Plainfield Central head coach John Jackson said. "We knew they were a good football team. They looked good on film. We felt we could run on them, and we did do that. We knew their offense was explosive. ... I'm happy with the way the boys played (Friday). Coach (LeBlanc) has a good football team. They gave us everything we wanted. We made some mistakes defensively, but you've got to give them credit; they made plays when they had to. They performed and they didn't give up.

"He's just starting this year and it's something he can hang his hat with those kids. He's doing a good job with them," Jackson said of LeBlanc.

In the first quarter, Oswego East broke onto the scoreboard with Kennedy's 32-yard touchdown pass to Skenandore to put the Wolves' ahead 6-0 less than two minutes into play last Friday. Plainfield Central answered on its next possession, and Ellingwood scored from the 6-yard line, with a successful point after kick good for a 7-6 Wildcat lead.

Plainfield Central struck again late in the first quarter on Smiles' 58-yard pass to senior Dane Moscatelli, and added a third consecutive score to start the second quarter when Smiles found Moscatelli for a 10-yard touchdown.

Plainfield Central added to its lead on its next possession, moving the ball 79 yards on eight running plays, highlighted by Ellingwood's 25-yard scamper. The Wildcats scored on an 11-yard run by Erdman, putting Plainfield Central ahead 27-6 with 5:55 to play in the first half.

With 5:19 to play, Cooper raced 65 yards downfield before he was brought down at the 16, but the Wolves finished the drive with Smith's 16-yard touchdown catch from Kennedy. Fell's kick was good for a 27-13 score, which remained unchanged through halftime.

Plainfield Central returned the opening kickoff of the second half to its own 38, and seven plays later scored on Smiles' 15-yard pass completion, giving the Wildcats a 21-point lead early in the second half.

With nearly an entire half to play, the teams would score a combined 35 additional points before the final horn in a game that the teams combine for 813 total yards over four quarters.

Plainfield Central recorded its first SPC win, improving to 4-2 overall and 1-2 in conference heading into Saturday's Homecoming game against Plainfield South.

"We feel we can run the ball; that's always been our strength ever since I came to Plainfield Central," Jackson said. "We're 4-2 now and we have to win a couple more games if we want a shot at the postseason, and it's not going to be an easy road. We're in the meat of our schedule."

Meanwhile, Oswego East's playoff hopes lie in Friday's road trip to Minooka. Romeoville and Plainfield North wrap up the Wolves' regular-season schedule, with no guarantee of a playoff berth with a 5-4 record.

Finishing the season 3-0 would secure the Wolves' first-ever postseason appearance at 6-3. Oswego East is still playoff-eligible heading into Friday's game, with 24 playoff points in Class 7A.

"Playoffs started (on Friday)," LeBlanc said. "We told our guys in the second half that this is the start of playoffs and they came out and played a heckuva second half. We just couldn't get stops when we needed to get stops and in the first half we didn't score like we needed to."

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