A championship finish : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|A championship finish|
|Seven straight wins gives Oswego football team an SPC title|
|by Laura M. Medina|
After starting the season with a pair of contrasting results, the Oswego football team found its stride in the win-loss column almost immediately.
Seven straight victories later, the Panthers were not only able to establish consistency, but by the end of it all, they were also able to capture the coveted Southwest Prairie Conference championship.
Oswego continued its tear through the opposition last Friday night with a 42-13 defeat of Plainfield Central at Ken Pickerill Stadium in the final regular-season game for both sides.
It was evident that the Panthers (8-1, 7-0) could be something of a magical team during their 47-21 season-opening victory at Geneva on Aug. 24. But things took a bit of a downturn the following week, when they were on the wrong end of a 54-28 outcome to visiting Waubonsie Valley.
Since then, however, Oswego has yet to falter, reeling off those seven consecutive wins - including two shutouts - by an average of 34.4 points.
Playoff-bound Plainfield Central (6-3, 4-3 SPC) boasted a three-game winning streak of its own heading into last week's matchup, so the Panthers needed to be productive on both sides of the ball from the opening series.
In fact, Oswego forced and recovered a fumble in the third snap of the Wildcats' opening possession, as senior defensive back Jamaal Richardson interrupted running back Jordan Ellingwood's rush to give the ball to the home side in the early going of the game.
No sooner than four touches later did the Panthers tally their first touchdown of the game. Senior quarterback Brett Wainwright completed a 33-yard pass to senior wide receiver Elliot McGaughy, and although it was fumbled in the endzone, it was recovered by fellow senior wide receiver Jack Kwiatkowski to preserve the score just 2:42 into the game.
The teams exchanged eight scoreless possessions to bring them into the second quarter, where Richardson intercepted a pass from Plainfield Central quarterback Mike Smiles and returned it nearly 40 yards to put Oswego into prime position for another touchdown.
On the second snap of the series, junior running back Bryce Holm (five carries, 90 yards, touchdown) carried it 32 yards into the endzone, and senior kicker Jeremy Wine's extra point pushed the lead to 14-0 with 3:21 remaining in the first half.
After forcing the Wildcats into another punting situation from their own territory, the Panthers needed just one 38-yard pass from Wainwright to senior running back Mickeel Stewart and another point-after try from Wine to make it a 21-0 game with 2:05 left in the half.
Oswego increased its lead in the third, when Wainwright (2-for-4, 71 yards, touchdown and 10 carries, 17 yards, touchdown) called his own number from 12 yards out with 3:29 to go in the quarter.
Wine's point-after try was blocked, but the host team still held a 27-0 lead.
For as strong as its offense has been during its current winning run, Oswego's defense has been nothing short of impressive throughout the season.
Coming into last week's game, the Panthers had allowed a combined 21 points in three wins against the remaining Plainfield schools. And although that staunch defense was evident throughout the game, 16 penalties to the tune of 125 yards put the squad at a significant disadvantage to the Wildcats' five for 35.
It was a few of those Oswego miscues, including one for unsportsmanlike conduct and one pass-interference call, that allowed Plainfield Central an opportunity to get on the board with 16.8 seconds left in the quarter, as running back Gino Giarranto pushed through for the 1-yard score.
Kicker Mike Fisher's extra point then made it 27-7, but the Panthers would soon recover those points and then some, as Stewart (16 carries, 149 yards, touchdown and one carry, 38 yards, touchdown) ran 64 yards on the only snap of the ensuing possession to the endzone as time ran out.
Wainwright then completed a two-point conversion with a pass to McGaughy to increase the lead to 35-6 heading into the fourth.
Both teams traded possessions before Plainfield Central notched its second score of the game - a 28-yard pass from Smiles to wide receiver Duvane Goodlow - with 5:15 left. Fisher's point-after attempt was missed, however, to put the deficit at 35-13.
That figured to be the final score, but Oswego's never-quit offense continued to apply the pressure until the final buzzer, and with 30.2 seconds remaining in the contest, senior Jordan Noel (four carries, 82 yards, touchdown) broke through for 89 yards and a score.
Wine added the extra point to put the final exclamation point on the 42-13 victory, which could have been more lopsided had it not been that two Oswego touchdowns - a 46-yard run by Stewart in the first quarter and a 14-yard interception return by Richardson in the fourth -were recalled earlier in the game. Oswego has averaged 43.4 points of offense during its seven-game burst.
Last week's matchup wasn't the end of the line for either team, as Plainfield Central heads to Lincoln-Way East on Friday at 7 p.m.
"You could tell by playing Plainfield Central that they're a playoff-qualifying team," Oswego head coach Brian Cooney said. "They're very good. We played them on a sloppy track with the rain we had in the previous days. You could tell they deserve to be where they're at, and that's the playoffs. We were fortunate enough to do some things really well and come out on top."
Oswego learned its first postseason opponent last Saturday and Cooney was surprised to find SPC foe Plainfield North paired up with the Panthers for the first-round Class 7A game. The Panthers will host the Tigers on Friday at 7 p.m. at Ken Pickerill Stadium - just three weeks after a 35-7 Homecoming victory over Plainfield North on Oct. 5.
"I did not expect Plainfield North," Cooney said. ""It's kind of unique. I've never been through this experience having someone you just played three weeks ago, turn around and come back to your home stadium. We played one of our best games that night and I think the kids realize that. We played out of our minds against Plainfield North the first time.
"We are not going to be complacent at all. We aren't going to think that we did this once, we own this. That's not how we are approaching this. They realize the talent level and things that Plainfield North can do to hurt you. So far, I think the kids realize they're not going to walk onto this field and the scoreboard is going to light up in our favor. It's going to take work and it's going to take energy throughout the week. On Friday, we're going against a very talented team."
Unlike Plainfield Central - which was placed in the same bracket as distant teams like Edwardsville, Belleville West, East St. Louis and Pekin - Oswego is closer to home in the lower bracket.
The winner of Friday's first-round game will meet the winner between No. 7 Andrew (6-3) and No. 2 Benet Academy (8-1) in the second round. No. 1 Batavia (9-0) hosts No. 8 Downers Grove North on Friday and No. 4 T-F South hosts No. 5 Thornton on Friday to complete the eight-team bracket.
"If we're fortunate enough to keep winning and advancing as we'd like to, we're going to be close to home. Many of our away games, we're so well-represented with fans and parents, our student body. It would be great to stay near home," Cooney said.
The top half of the Class 7A bracket was seeded one through 16, with undefeated Glenbard West earning the top spot. The lower half of the bracket was seeded in two eight-team divisions. Lincoln-Way East is the other top seed with a 9-0 record.