Back on track : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Back on track|
|Oswego East football records fourth win to match program best|
|by Kristin Sharp|
After two tough losses in previous weeks against Plainfield Central and Minooka, the Oswego East football team expected nothing less than a victory last Friday.
The Wolves welcomed a winless Romeoville team on Homecoming and dispatched the Spartans 37-12. The victory not only matched a program-best four wins for the season - improving Oswego East to 4-4 overall - but captured the school's first Homecoming victory since 2008.
"We're glad to come out and get this Homecoming win. It's always good in front of the fans," Oswego East senior quarterback Sean Kennedy said.
Oswego East did not have a Homecoming game in 2005 and 2006, as there were not yet any alumni to welcome home. The Wolves lost their first Homecoming game to Morris in 2007, but defeated Romeoville 7-0 the following season.
For Oswego East running back Chris Cooper, it was the first Homecoming win for his senior class, who were in eighth grade the last time the Wolves earned that victory.
"This is our first Homecoming win, so we're very excited. We still have to win next week and be 5-4 and try to make the playoffs for the first time in school history," Cooper said.
Oswego East took an early command of the game last Friday, holding Romeoville after an initial first down run by junior Miguel Ford. Oswego East junior Branden Lowe had his first of several big punt returns, taking the ball almost to the red zone before a Romeoville penalty gave Oswego East possession at the Spartan 18.
On the first play from scrimmage, Oswego East senior quarterback Sean Kennedy found Cooper for the 18-yard touchdown.
Kennedy connected with junior tight end Conor Nalley for the two-point conversion and the Wolves enjoyed an 8-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Romeoville found its way onto the scoreboard after senior Caleb Bailey intercepted Kennedy near the 30-yard line with about five minutes remaining in the first quarter. Romeoville senior quarterback Jacob Bambule found Ivan Diaz for a 22-yard gain to the Oswego East 5, and Ford covered the remaining distance for a touchdown score on the next play. The extra point kick was unsuccessful, and Oswego East held an 8-6 lead with 4:21 to play in the opening quarter.
"We knew what we had was working; we just had a couple miscues," Kennedy said of the early turnovers. "Those can be corrected. You've got to keep the guys up, especially against a team like this with athletes. We had to stay positive and I think that was a big thing to be able to bounce back and score."
Oswego East junior Zach Hutten had a strong kickoff return across midfield, and Kennedy followed with a quarterback keeper to the Romeoville 25. Senior Chase Skenandore (six catches, 103 yards) roped in Kennedy's pass before stepping out of bounds at the 2-yard line, but Cooper ran around the right end of the Spartan defensive line to score with 3:38 left in the quarter.
Kennedy's run was good for the two-point conversion and a 15-6 lead.
Oswego East turned the ball over on a fumble late in the first quarter, but the Wolves' defense stopped the Spartans on a fourth down attempt at the Wolves' 23-yard line.
"We've had nine (turnovers) in the last two weeks after having none against Plainfield Central. It's a little bit, with as much option and reading and throwing the ball as we do, it's a bit of give and take. I'm OK with it as long as we have triple the amount of big plays," Oswego East head coach Tyson LeBlanc said. "The turnover we had right before the half was my fault. It's a play we've worked on for four weeks and I thought the opportunity presented itself."
Oswego East put together another scoring drive to start the second quarter. Kennedy connected with Lowe for a 19-yard gain before Romeoville was whistled for a facemask penalty and sent the Wolves to the Romeoville 16. After an 11-yard gain by Cooper, Kennedy found senior tight end Joe Talton three plays later for the 8-yard touchdown catch.
Senior Cooper Fell's kick was good, and the Wolves enjoyed a 23-6 lead with 7:51 left to play in the first half.
Romeoville was pinned back at the 10-yard line following the kickoff and was held to three-and-out. The Oswego East special teams unit was once again impressive on the ensuing punt, after Evans' kick rolled to the Romeoville 4, and the Spartans were unable to make up any ground on the field.
The Wolves took one final possession with 37 seconds remaining in the half and orchestrated a 50-yard, five-play drive to find the end zone and take a 30-6 lead into halftime.
Nally caught an 8-yard pass from Kennedy, and a personal foul on the Spartans moved the ball to the Romeoville 12. After two incomplete passes, Kennedy (16-for-26, 200 yards) found senior Scooter Smith, who had a well-timed leap in the end zone for the score with six seconds left.
Oswego East took advantage of a Romeoville fumble on the Spartans' first possession of the second half, using 10 plays to score once again. Cooper did much of the damage on the field, gaining 12 yards before Skenandore took a pair of handoffs to go 14 yards.
After two short gains, Cooper scored on a 7-yard run, and Fell's kick was good for a 37-6 lead with 5:14 left in the third quarter.
Cooper eventually finished with 87 yards on 14 carries and had another 27 yards receiving on three catches.
"Compared to last year when I got the ball 35 times, teams knew what was going to happen. Sean is a great quarterback and we have a lot of stuff mixed together with great receivers and a lot of options," Cooper said of the Wolves' offensive output this season. "It helps me out a lot and makes me a better player, and makes Sean better too."
Oswego East junior lineman Jeremy Allen (8 tackles) recovered a Romeoville fumble with 9:58 to play in the game to stop the Spartans at the Oswego East 36. After Romeoville stopped the Wolves on their next possession, the Spartans put together one more scoring drive when Ford found Diaz for the 61-yard score. The two-point conversion was no good for a 37-12 score with 4:09 left to play.
Oswego East recovered the onside kick, and the Wolves expired the remaining time on the clock.
Oswego East, now 2-4 in SPC action, will close out the regular season Friday at home, hosting Plainfield North at 7 p.m.
"It's win or go home and I know we're not in the playoffs yet, but that has to be our mindset," Kennedy said. "We had to win to put ourselves in a (playoff) talk at all. Coach gives us the 24-hour rule to think about the game, but I'm going to go with 24 minutes. It's Plainfield North. We've got to get out of that."
A win would move the Wolves to 5-4 - a new program record for wins in a single season - and would make the Wolves playoff eligible, entering with 29 opponent wins.
In Class 7A, 21 of the 32 teams have clinched a playoff berth, with 14 others entering Week 9 with 5-3 and 4-4 records.
"We're probably going to need some help, but if we can take care of business next week, we've got a shot at getting in the playoffs," LeBlanc said. "We've talked about it at the beginning of the year that being the goal. We're closer to having a winning season, and obviously Plainfield North is a great team. Anything can happen.
"More than playoff-eligible, but win and get over that hump. It would be real nice to be over (.500)."