Panthers freeze out Tigers : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Panthers freeze out Tigers|
|Homecoming win secures Oswego's postseason bid, positions team atop SPC|
|by Kristin Sharp|
The roar of celebration coming from the postgame huddle capped off a rewarding night for the Oswego football team.
The Panthers capped off a frigid Homecoming night at Ken Pickerill Stadium with a 35-7 win over Plainfield North last Friday to break the tie atop the Southwest Prairie Conference standings and assume sole possession of first place in the championship race.
For their efforts - and to allow for extra Homecoming preparation - Oswego head coach Brian Cooney excused his players from practice on Saturday.
"I think they were more excited about having no practice (Saturday) than they were about winning 35-7," Cooney said with a laugh.
Plainfield North (5-2, 4-1 SPC) came into Oswego with a five-game win streak after dropping a 27-22 game to Bradley-Bourbonnais in the season opener. Despite giving up an early touchdown on Oswego's first possession of the game, the Tigers showed they might put up a fight on Friday.
Oswego closed out an eight-play, 52-yard drive with Oswego junior Bryce Holm's 6-yard dash into the end zone with 7:19 to play in the first quarter. The drive was sparked by a 22-yard gain by Oswego senior Mickeel Stewart to the Plainfield North 18, and the standout running back eventually finished the game with 167 yards on 27 carries.
"It was the coldest night so far this year, but thank God for getting us through this," Stewart said. "It was freezing and our offensive line did great again and our defense is unbelievable. They give us chances and we just need to continue to take care of what we need to do."
Plainfield North responded, and senior quarterback Kurt Palendech found senior receiver Kendall Interial for a 44-yard touchdown just two minutes after Oswego's score. The extra point was good to tie the scoreboard at 7 points.
"They put the ball in a talented quarterbacks' hands. He's quick and he can do some things to hurt you," Cooney said. "Our kids stuck with it. We prepared a lot for the power game and we didn't see a lot of that. Their quarterback is hard to simulate in practice so at times we had to use our starting quarterback to our defense some looks. Our defense did a great job taking away the power running game."
The teams exchanged possessions into the start of the second quarter, when Oswego senior quarterback Brett Wainwright connected with senior Elliot McGaughy for a 21-yard pass completion and Stewart found room to run for a 21-yard gain to the Plainfield North 33. On the next snap, Stewart covered the remaining distance for a 13-7 score.
"We started out slow the last two weeks and we knew if we came out on our opening drive and score, we were going to click the whole game," Wainwright said.
"At halftime we made some great adjustments and we went on a roll."
After the Oswego defense held Plainfield North to three-and-out, Wainwright was back under center and pitched the ball to Stewart, who converted on third-and-6 for a 12-yard gain. Once again facing third-and-8, Holm gained 3 yards to create a fourth down situation.
Wainwright kept the ball and ran down the left side of the field for a 19-yard gain and a valuable first down at the Tigers' 18. Oswego senior receiver Jack Kwiatkowski roped in a long pass from Wainwright, but was down at the 1-yard line, and Holm covered the remaining yard for the score. With 7:10 left in the first half, Oswego opted for the two-point conversion and Wainwright ran in the ball for a 21-7 Panther lead.
Plainfield North drove into the red zone twice in the second quarter, but failed to close the drive both times. First, the Tigers reached the Oswego 17, but a pair of incomplete passes forced Plainfield North to turn the ball over on downs.
The Oswego offense stalled after a holding penalty pushed the Panthers back to their own 8-yard line.
A short 7-yard punt gave Plainfield North good field position at the Oswego 30, and the Tigers reached the 5-yard line after Palendech's 8-yard pass completion to senior Brock Thoms.
Plainfield North spiked the ball to stop the clock at 34 seconds, but the three remaining downs was not enough to reach the end zone, as McGaughy had strong pass coverage on fourth down to force an incompletion on fourth down as time expired in the first half.
"That's one of our defensive goals coming in; we recognize that's a deficit we've had in the past couple years is our red zone defense," Cooney said. "A lot of times teams got into our red zone and we caved. This year we flipped the script on that and we take pride in that when the ball crosses the 20, we're going to buckle down."
Oswego extended its 21-7 halftime lead early in the third quarter after Oswego senior Jamaal Richardson intercepted Palendech's pass 22 yards to the Plainfield North 3.
"Jamaal Richardson came through and I'm proud of Jamaal," Cooney said. "I challenged him this week to make his presence known on the field because he's a hecukva athlete. We looked closer at some tape together, one-on-one, and I said I thought he could make more of an impact on the field. He stood out, and that's what talented athletes do."
Stewart found the end zone on the first play from scrimmage, but a penalty called back the score and put Oswego at the 8. Wainwright dove over the right pylon on second down, and with 8:34 to play in the quarter, Wine's kick helped extend the Panthers' lead, 28-7.
The score remained unchanged into the fourth quarter, and Oswego junior Charlie Jakubowski helped secure the Panthers' lead with his quarterback for a 13-yard loss on third down.
Oswego took over at its own 38-yard line, and four plays later, Wainwright was in the end zone on a 23-yard touchdown run. Wine's kick was good for a 35-7 lead with 9:02 to play.
"Marc Kersting is our offensive coordinator and he's your Power-I guy," Cooney said. "He's the guy behind every offensive call. That's something he implements; I think Plainfield North sat heavy on Mickeel. He didn't have his typical night - he still had a great night - but I don't think they took into account what Brett can also do for our running game and you saw No. 3 running all over the field."
Plainfield North punted the ball back to Oswego with 7:02 still on the clock, and the Panther offense took enough time off the clock to keep the Tigers out of the end zone for the rest of the game.
With the victory, Oswego also secures its place in the postseason - it's 24th playoff appearance in the last 27 seasons. The Panthers will continue working toward an undefeated SPC season when they travel to Plainfield South (3-4, 2-3 SPC) on Friday to take on the Cougars.
Plainfield South lost 21-6 last Saturday at Plainfield Central.
Oswego closes out the regular season on Oct. 19, hosting Plainfield Central.
"Some say this (game) was for the title, but we don't look at it like that," Cooney said. "We have (Plainfield) South, who has some weapons, and (Plainfield) Central, who has some weapons. Nothing's over 'till it's over.
"We said you can meet your goal this week to qualify for the playoffs. We take one week at a time and we'll see how the conference unfolds, but we're not going to let any opportunity slip by."
Notes: The 1992 Oswego state championship football team was recognized before the start of last Friday's Homecoming game between Oswego and Plainfield North. The 1992 team, which included Cooney at linebacker, clinched the Class 4A state trophy by defeating Geneseo Darnall 14-6 to close out a 13-1 season under former head coach Karl Hoinkes.
The state championship was the first for Oswego High School in any sport. The Panthers would repeat the honor in 2004, winning the Class 7A title.
"It was a good night. It was good to see those guys," Cooney said.