Full steam ahead : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Full steam ahead|
|Oswego defense posts first shutout in 20-0 win over Plainfield East|
|by Kristin Sharp|
After allowing a combined 69 points in its first two games of the season, the Oswego football team's defense made the necessary adjustments entering Southwest Prairie Conference play.
The Panthers allowed just 13 points against Romeoville and held Oswego East to 10 points one week later. Last Friday, Oswego showed just how far it has come since the beginning of the season with a 20-0 shutout win over Plainfield East, holding the Bengals to under 40 yards total yards on the night.
The victory improves Oswego's overall record to 4-2 with a perfect 4-0 mark in SPC play to remain one game ahead of Plainfield South in the standings entering Week 7.
"It definitely feels good. We knew that Plainfield East was one of the better teams in our conference coming into this and we always have a defensive goal of holding a team under 10 points, so any time we can hold a team to a shutout it's great," said Oswego senior linebacker Sean Graff.
Plainfield East, which boasted a 4-1 record entering the game, now has an identical record with Oswego, but fell to 2-2 in SPC play after the loss to the Panthers.
"We knew they were a better team in the conference and we needed to come out and show that we have confidence, and that's what we did," said Oswego senior running back Tyler Walsh, who rushed for 215 yards on 22 carries for two touchdowns.
Oswego will travel to Plainfield North (3-3, 2-2) on Friday for a 7 p.m. game before returning home on Oct. 18 for a Homecoming game against Plainfield South (4-2, 3-1). Plainfield Central (0-6) rounds out the regular season schedule for Oswego on Oct. 25.
"Our kids played well in all three phases of the game. I think our offense left a lot of points on the field. The penalties - we've got to clean that up. A lot of silly penalties, dropped passes, things like that," Oswego head coach Brian Cooney said. "The defense played extremely well. How do you argue with a shutout?"
The defense was impressive from the start last Friday against Plainfield East as senior defensive back Charlie Jakubowski intercepted Plainfield East junior quarterback Cole Kotopka on the Bengals' second play of the game to set up the Panthers' first scoring drive.
Starting at the Plainfield East 44, Oswego reached the end zone eight plays later. Sophomore quarterback Steven Frank found junior receiver Zach West for a 14-yard gain and West would make two more catches for 15 yards, but a holding penalty on Oswego forced the Panthers to a fourth-and-6 situation on the Bengals' 26.
Frank (13-for-23, 174 yards) connected on a 10-yard pass to Walsh for a first down at the 6, and after Walsh was stopped short on a run to the 1-yard line, Frank scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak with 8:12 to play in the first quarter. Senior Jason Kaney's kick was good for the 7-0 lead.
Kotopka ran for a first down on Plainfield East's next series, but senior Sean Graff tackled Kotopka for a 2-yard loss shortly after and the ensuing pass was dropped to force the Bengals to punt.
"We knew we had to stop the run in the box with our front seven and let the defensive backs do their work on the outside," said Graff, who finished with seven tackles. "Once we shut down the run, everything fell into place."
A pair of penalties for a loss of 20 yards stalled Oswego's next possession despite reaching the Plainfield East 30. The next time the Panthers reclaimed possession, they turned the ball over after a fourth down run measured short of the first down marker to start the second quarter.
Oswego maintained its 7-0 lead through halftime as Graff, senior Bryce Holm and Jakubowski continuously stopped the Bengals, but penalties continued to hinder the Panthers' offense. Oswego drove to the Plainfield East 20 on strong efforts by Holm and Walsh on the ground, but two calls against the Panthers forced a fourth-and-9 situation. After an Oswego timeout, the ensuing pass play was incomplete to take the game into halftime.
"For some reason, I felt like we had come through because we were our own worst enemy in the first half. I felt OK," Cooney said. "I let them know that 7-0 was unacceptable for what we're capable of doing. They came out and opened it up and put an extra 13 points on the board in the second half."
Walsh was on a mission to start the second half, running the ball for a 24-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage that saw him shake off a defender for extra yardage on the play. He gained more yards on the next play, but a penalty put Oswego back 5 yards. Frank found senior Trevor Matczak for a 38-yard catch at the 2-yard line, and a personal foul call on Plainfield East put the Panthers at the 1. Walsh covered the remaining yard for the touchdown with 11:02 to play in the third quarter, and Kaney's kick was good for a 14-0 score.
"Last week (against Oswego East) we were very heavy on the pass and it worked for us and we were glad because the run game wasn't working. Our offensive coordinator and coaches decided this game we needed to pound the ball and run the ball a lot and we were very successful," Walsh said. "Our O-line had a very good week and I just put it all on them now. They had an awesome week of practice and an awesome game."
Plainfield East was held to three-and-out over its first two possessions of the second half, but with 2:48 to play in the third quarter, Oswego fumbled the ball and junior guard Forrest Pewett rumbled into the end zone for an apparent score. But with a flag downfield, Plainfield East was whistled for a personal foul and the Bengals assumed possession on the Oswego 33.
Plainfield East was unable to convert on the turnover thanks to a pair of quarterback sacks by seniors Peter Laughlin and David Vanden Houten for a combined 12-yard loss.
"We're jelling as a team and we're coming out with more intensity at games and more intensity at practices," Graff said. "We're just coming together as a team."
Kotopka completed a 20-yard pass to create a fourth-and-2 situation for the Bengals, but junior Mason Memming made the stop for the Panthers on the fourth down play to give Oswego possession at midfield to end the third quarter.
Oswego turned the defensive stop into a 48-yard scoring drive as Walsh carried the ball five times to eventually score a 6-yard touchdown with 10:33 to play in the game and give the Panthers a 20-0 lead.
"Everyone was doing their jobs and sticking to their assignments," Walsh said. "Everyone blocked really well. My fullbacks, Connor Cavins and Bryce Holm, did very well tonight."
Cooney utilized many of its players throughout the closing minutes of the game as Oswego sealed the SPC win.
Still two games shy of clinching a secure place in the postseason, Cooney is focused on winning Friday's game at Plainfield North before the Panthers have a chance for the all-important sixth win the following week at home against Plainfield South.
"I don't know what to make of the schedule. Coaches say one team is down, another is beating another. All I care about right now is Plainfield North," Cooney said. "It's one week at a time."