Defensive touchdown : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Wolves trail 14-0 early, but second half turnovers lead to 43-35 win at Woodstock|
|by Kristin Sharp|
With a combined seven interceptions and three fumbles, there were some first-game jitters at Larry Dale Field in Woodstock last Saturday.
In the end, Oswego East's defense rose to the occasion in the second half and helped lift the Wolves to a 43-35 season-opening win over Woodstock.
"It started off with our defense. Our defense played great (Saturday)," junior quarterback Tyler Kennedy said. "Getting big plays really got us momentum. When we got down, that really got us going."
The game was originally slated for a Friday night kickoff, but lingering storms to the south and persistent lightening in the area forced a decision to postpone the game at 8 p.m. Oswego East made the 90-minute trip home on Friday night, and the teams returned to the field late Saturday afternoon.
"I think the there and back wore us out, and (Friday) I think we hit every stop light on the way here and not to mention the construction we drove through. I think that was a little bit of a factor in the first half," Oswego East head coach Tyson LeBlanc said.
"We're building our resiliency one game at a time. My hat's off to (strength and conditioning) coach (Jeremy) Main. The tempo we practice wore them out. We're in shape."
Oswego East took the opening kickoff and drove into Woodstock territory, but facing second-and-1 from the 26-yard line, Kennedy's pass was intercepted by Woodstock junior linebacker Gus Siebert.
On Woodstock's first play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Alan Hafer handed the ball to junior John Kruse, who scrambled 70 yards along the Oswego East sideline to the end zone. The extra point was good for a 7-0 score.
Oswego East was forced to punt on its next series before Woodstock added to its early lead. On second down, Hafer threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to senior Jordan Sumner and the Blue Streaks led 14-0 with 8:08 to play in the first quarter.
Oswego East senior Branden Lowe returned the ensuing kickoff, and a personal foul call on Woodstock gave the Wolves good field position at their own 43-yard line. From there, Kennedy found senior tight end Conor Nally for a 57-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. A pass from Kennedy to senior Keagan Griffin was good for the two-point conversion, and Oswego East trimmed its deficit, 14-8, with 7:54 to play in the opening quarter.
"Nerves were going at the beginning of the game, but they left," Kennedy said.
The Oswego East defense held Woodstock scoreless through its next two series thanks to the efforts of senior Bernie Laskowski and junior Zach Prinz, who both had tackles for a loss of yardage.
With 2:17 to play in the first quarter, Oswego East punted the ball after a three-and-out series, but the ball was fumbled and recovered by sophomore Nik Wadsworth to put the Wolves' offense back on the field. Two plays later, junior Khalil Driver was in the end zone on a 3-yard run to tie the game. Senior Jason Evans came out for the extra point, and his kick gave Oswego East its first lead of the game, 15-14.
The lead was short-lived, however, after Siebert hauled in his second interception of the game and Woodstock capitalized on the turnover in just four plays. Senior Michael Santucci scored from the 2-yard line and the extra point gave Woodstock a 21-15 lead with 9:08 left in the first half.
"The offense at times gave them a short field, but as our defensive coordinator said, it doesn't matter where they get the ball. We still have to keep them out of the end zone. There are some things we need to clean up, especially on the offensive side of the ball with turnovers," LeBlanc said. "Defensive side of the ball being down and distance smart. Knowing that it's third and forever and they're going to chuck it deep. But if they had positive yards rushing, I'd be surprised."
(Woodstock did have positive yardage, but amassed only 75 yards in the game.)
After exchanging possessions, Woodstock threatened to score again after a 63-yard pass play from Hafer to Sumner put the Blue Streaks on the Oswego East 30. Instead, senior Tyler Engleman picked off Hafner's next pass attempt at the Oswego East 45 and returned the ball for a touchdown. Evans' kick was good for a 22-21 lead.
Woodstock had an answer just minutes later as Hafer orchestrated an eight-play, 86-yard drive with a 15-yard quarterback keeper, a 29-yard pass and a 36-yard pass before Santucci ended the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. The extra point was good, and with 40 seconds remaining in the first half, Woodstock led 27-22.
"Good teams play good in the second half. Last year we struggled in the second half outside of the Plainfield Central game," LeBlanc said. "For us to come out and play the second half the way we did, that's the growth we talked about. We're mentally tougher."
The second half belonged to Oswego East as the Wolves scored 14 unanswered points in the third quarter and held on for the win in the season opener.
Senior cornerback Sam Wilson intercepted Mitch Kohley on the first play of the second half and Oswego East took advantage of the turnover with a touchdown drive. Kennedy had a nice 10-yard pass play to junior Noah Mlsna to put the Wolves at the Woodstock 28, and Lowe gained 18 yards on his next run before Driver scored from the 10-yard line. Evans' kick lifted the Wolves to a 29-28 lead - one they would never relinquish.
"All week our coaches had been riding us. They look at the little things and they were trying to get us to look at the little things as well," Prinz said. "It's not an individual sport. It's a team sport. The big thing about this is our coaches would have us run plays over and over again, and if he saw a small thing he didn't like, we'd re-run it. They know that they'll do whatever they have to to get us to that next level. That's what we were showing today."
Senior Josh Lopez and junior Corey Kennedy sacked Hafer for a 4-yard loss and Nally and Prinz dropped Hafer for a 6-yard loss on the next play, effectively stalling Woodstock's next possession.
Less than two minutes later, Oswego East was back in the end zone. Tyler Kennedy found Nally for a 36-yard gain, and after a 4-yard run by Driver, he reached the end zone for a 1-yard score and a 36-28 lead with 5:43 to play in the third quarter.
"(Friday) was kind of a bummer not being able to play so it gave me that little bit more to my game today," said Prinz, who finished with a team-best 14 tackles including two for a loss and three sacks. "I've been waiting for this game ever since last year because I missed the last few games due to a concussion. Now that I'm back and healthy, I'm taking every advantage to better myself and go out there and do what I can. Our coaches are the greatest guys you can ever meet. They're like my father. They treat our entire team to a higher standard. I like to be able to go out there and show to them that I do appreciate what they're doing and that hard work they're making us do. We may hate it at times, but it's working."
The scoreboard was quiet for the remainder of the third quarter, but the turnover game returned in the fourth quarter. Sumner recovered an Oswego East fumble at the Oswego East 31-yard line, but after an incomplete pass by Hafner, he was sacked for a 10-yard loss by senior Jeremey Allen and Nally and then intercepted by Wilson, who returned the ball to the Oswego East 36.
Driver ran for a first down on the next possession as Oswego East approached midfield, but Tyler Kennedy was intercepted by Alex Shannon at the 39-yard line. The Woodstock offense didn't stay on the field long, however, as Corey Kennedy intercepted Hafer at the Oswego East 27 and returned the ball 73 yards into the end zone. Evans' extra point was good for a 43-28 lead with 6:52 remaining in regulation.
Woodstock's final score of the game came after a recovered fumble. Although the Oswego East defense appeared to hold the Blue Streaks on third-and-long, a pass interference call gave Woodstock new life. Woodstock capped an eight-play, 31-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass by Hafer.
Nally recovered the onside kick, and on fourth-and-1, Driver ran for a 4-yard gain to keep the drive alive with under 2:00 to play, and Oswego East maintained possession until the final horn.
Tyler Kennedy finished with 148 yards on 10 completions, three interceptions and one touchdown. Nally finished with three catches for 71 yards. In the backfield, Driver had 23 carries for 140 yards and three touchdowns while Lowe had 11 carries for 55 yards.
"We try to be balanced and spread the ball around," LeBlanc said. "Khalil played a heckuva game. He's a tough back and very physical for his size. I'd still like to give B-Lowe more touches. Conor Nally caught the ball well. I felt like we were a little stagnant in our passing game. We had a couple big plays early, but we weren't consistent with it. Just little things here and there."
Oswego East will play its first home game of the season on Friday, hosting Glenbard East at 7 p.m. The Rams are 1-0 after defeating Willowbrook 28-21 in the season opener last Saturday.
"Glenbard East is going to be a tough team," LeBlanc said. "To look at their record from the past, that's not indicative of the type of team they are. As I told the kids, three-quarters of their conference could win our conference. Let's make sure we don't underestimate them."
Correction: The Aug. 29 Oswego East season preview incorrectly identified Tyler Kennedy as related to 2012 Oswego East graduate Sean Kennedy. The Ledger-Sentinel regrets the error.