Conditioned to win : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Conditioned to win|
|Oswego East football outlasts Plainfield East in overtime, improves to 3-0|
|by Kristin Sharp|
The excitement of last Friday's Southwest Prairie Conference season opener at Oswego East was packed into just three plays during regulation. The remaining celebrations were reserved for overtime.
The Wolves withstood a late touchdown by the visiting Plainfield East Bengals, tying the game with 2:23 to play in the fourth quarter to force overtime between the SPC rivals.
Oswego East's offense took to the field to open the bonus quarter, and junior quarterback Tyler Kennedy handed the ball to junior running back Khalil Driver. The Wolves' offensive line created a hole up the middle, and Driver raced in from the 10-yard line to score on the first play from scrimmage in overtime.
Senior kicker Jason Evans put the ball through the uprights for the extra point, and Oswego East celebrated a 14-7 lead over Plainfield East. Then the defense held the Bengals to seal the vicory.
"It was the same scenario as last week. Our guys come off the field telling us that they're tired and we knew once we got that score at the end and we got to overtime, it was our game because of our conditioning and what coach (Jeremy) Main has done with those guys," Oswego East head coach Tyson LeBlanc said. "We're training for the fourth quarter and overtime. We weren't able to run the ball for snot, and at the end there in overtime, first play, we go right to the end zone because of our conditioning."
The Bengals' offense had four chances to reach the end zone following Oswego East's score, but Plainfield East junior quarterback Cole Kotopka went 0-for-4 passing under intense pressure from the Wolves' defense and Oswego East (3-0, 1-0 SPC) sealed its first overtime win in school history.
LeBlanc, now in his second season with the Wolves, knows there is plenty of uncharted territory still ahead for the Wolves, but the 2013 season has already experienced many firsts just three weeks into the schedule.
Oswego East is now 3-0 for the first time in program history after winning its first overtime game. The Wolves' 1-0 start to conference play is also a first for the varsity team.
"We talk about making history all the time," LeBlanc said. "I always give them the analogy that 10 years from now, they're going to walk back into this gym holding your little kid's hand and point to a banner up in the gym and say you had something to do with that. It's special. I always tell them that I was fortunate to play college football, but even when I'm with my college buddies now, we don't talk about college. We talk about what we did in high school. There's nothing like having the opportunity to ply with your buddies, and an opportunity on top of that to make history with your buddies. These kids are starting to grasp the concept of what that means and what they have an opportunity to do."
With neither team able to generate a scoring drive through the first three quarters of play last Friday, an overtime period seemed to be in the works. Oswego East was able to hold Plainfield East to three-and-out on its first possession of the fourth quarter, but a deep punt pinned the Wolves back to their own 9-yard line.
Kennedy's first pass from the line of scrimmage was intercepted by junior Donte Hartsfield at the 14-yard line, and Hartsfield returned the ball into the end zone to break the scoreless tie with 7:30 to play. Senior Jovany Urbieta's extra point kick was good for a 7-0 Bengal lead.
"The first game of the season at Woodstock we were down 14-0, so 7-0 is nothing. We're comfortable there," Oswego East senior tight end Conor Nally said. "I don't think any of us were nervous."
Oswego East was forced to punt on its ensuing possession after the drive stalled near midfield, but once again the Wolves' defense held the Bengals. Oswego East senior Dan Moran pushed Bengal junior running back Jake Mayon back for a 1-yard loss, senior Corey Kennedy stopped Mayon's next attempt for a 3-yard gain and senior Keagan Griffin game up with the third down stop as Mayon gained just 1 yard.
A short punt gave Oswego East excellent field position at the 48-yard line, and Kennedy hit Nally, who ran the ball into the end zone while Evans' kick tied the game with 2:23 to play.
"I don't know where that speed came from," Nally said. "We have a great after school strength and conditioning program and just great football conditioning since LeBlanc has been here - Warrior Elite we call it. It's really starting to show."
Plainfield East had one last chance to win the game in regulation, but junior Zach Prinz sacked Kotopka for a 6-yard loss and Mayon was hit behind the line of scrimmage on third down by a pack of Wolves, forcing the Bengals to punt with 44 seconds left on the clock.
Following Driver's 10-yard touchdown run in overtime to put the Wolves ahead 14-7, Kotopka looked for an open receiver on the Bengals' first down play but Oswego East senior Sam Wilson had the receiver covered in the end zone.
On second down, senior Bobby Kallien was responsible for Kotopka's incomplete pass into the right corner of the end zone. Griffin pressured Kotopka's next pass, which landed incomplete, and Kotopka's fourth pass attempt also missed its target to end the game.
"Coach (Dan) Woulfe, our defensive back coach, has done a great job with these guys," LeBlanc said. "We got torched in Week 1 and we refined what we were doing. He's done a good job with those guys keeping their confidence up and play the next play. To go even further, from the 10-yard line, to throw four passes and not attempt to run the ball says a lot about our run defense that they didn't even want to attempt to run the ball."
Oswego East will remain on its home field for a third straight week, welcoming Plainfield South in Week 4 for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
"It feels good, but we've got to stay humble," Nally said after last Friday's win. "This game is over now and it's all Plainfield South now."
"Any time you can start the conference season with a win, it's a big thing - especially in this conference because it's going to be very balanced this year," LeBlanc said. "We're three wins from an automatic qualifier in the state playoffs, and again, not looking too far ahead, it's nice to be in that situation ... but one week at a time."
During regulation, Oswego East drove into the red zone just once while Plainfield East threatened to score three times during the game, but the Wolves' defense shut down each scoring attempt.
"They're a big play team, so they're scary any time. Our defense had another week where they played light's out," LeBlanc said. "I felt like at any moment they could get a big play because that's the kind of team they are, but I had confidence in our defense. The utmost confidence in our defense, and they had a second straight shutout on the defensive side of the field."
The Wolves took the opening kickoff and drove to the Bengals' 22-yard line after a 30-yard pass play from Kennedy to Nally, an 11-yard pass completion to senior Ryan Garrigus and four rushing attempts from Driver. After a pair of incomplete passes, Oswego East faced fourth-and-3 and opted for a field goal, but Evans' 40-yard attempt was no good against the side wind blowing across the field into the Oswego East stands.
Sophomore safety Nik Wadsworth gave the Wolves huge momentum when he intercepted Kotopka at the Plainfield East 38 with 7:53 to play in the first half. Driver ran for a first down, and a personal foul on the Bengals on fourth-and-5 put Oswego East at the Bengals 7. After a short quarterback keeper, the next handoff was fumbled and recovered by Plainfield East at its own 3-yard line.
The Bengals were unable to convert the turnover into a scoring opportunity, but Oswego East fumbled the ensuing punt and the Bengals' offense was back on the field at the Oswego East 38.
Senior Jeremey Allen sacked Kotopka for a 4-yard loss, Prinz pressured for an incomplete pass on second down and eventually Plainfield East sent its field goal unit onto the field with two seconds left on the clock.
Oswego East's special teams blocked the field goal attempt and kept the game scoreless at intermission.
The third quarter was littered with penalties and defensive stops by both teams, but none bigger than Urbieta's interception return to the Oswego East 14. A pair of false start penalties on the Bengals pushed the visitors back to the 24-yard line. Senior CeCe Schaefer sacked Kotopka before Schaefer broke up Kotopka's pass in the end zone.
Plainfield East looked to score on fourth down, and although Kotopka's pass was incomplete, a flag on the field revealed pass interference on the Wolves to give the Bengals new life with fourth-and-6 from the 11.
Plainfield East attempted a field goal for the second time on the night, but this time the 26-yard attempt was tipped by the Wolves and failed to reach the uprights to keep the game scoreless with 2:55 to play in the third quarter.
"Sam Wilson and Bobby Kallien are two-year starters and Corey Kennedy is a guy we knew coming up could be a good defensive back for us," LeBlanc said. "Nik Wadsworth had a big interception and he has the potential to be a special player. A guy like CeCe Schaefer is a kid who transferred from Lisle and over the summer he really wanted to play running back and we put him on defense because we were stockpiled at running back and we knew he was an athletic kid. ... He's been a huge, huge asset to the team."
The Oswego East defense did not allow any points for the second straight week after a shutout win over Glenbard East in Week 2, as Plainfield East's only touchdown came on the interception return.