Proven winners : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Oswego East football team wins historic fifth game|
|by Kristin Sharp|
The Oswego East seniors are determined to end their high school football careers on a winning note.
An unprecedented 3-0 start to the season and a first-ever win in the Southwest Prairie Conference season opener were just the beginning. Last Friday, the Wolves' defense posted its fourth shutout of the year against Minooka as Oswego East earned a 44-0 win over the Indians - the first varsity win over Minooka in program history.
But that's not all. The consecutive Homecoming victory also improved Oswego East's overall record to 5-4, making the Wolves the winningest football team in school history and guarantees Oswego East a winning record to end 2013. Now with two games remaining in the regular season, Oswego East is one win away from guaranteeing a playoff berth to enter uncharted territory for the Class 7A school.
"The first thing I said to them was that I wanted to be the first to congratulate them on being the first winning team in school history," Oswego East head coach Tyson LeBlanc said. "This senior group has worked their tails off to get to this point. In the short time I've been here, the leadership they provide and the things they did in the offeseason, the way they handle practice ... we've got a great group of leadership. They've earned what they've got."
Oswego East (3-2 SPC) scored on its first possession en route to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, with a running clock established late in the third quarter which allowed the starters to take a seat on the bench in the fourth quarter.
Minooka entered the game averaging 37.3 points per game over the last three games, but thanks to the Oswego East defense, the Indians failed to score for the first time this season.
\Minooka finished with just 22 yards rushing and 48 yards passing for just five first downs in the game.
"If they can't score, they can't win. Coach (Dan) Dunbar, what he's done with our defense this year, I think teams are having trouble figuring out what we're doing. It shows," LeBlanc said. "Minooka has put up some points the last few games coming into this game and for us to be able to shut them down means our defense is legit. As good as our offense has played the last few games and as much as they've improved, the mark of a good football team is the defense. The fact that our defense is playing like that is pretty exciting. We've got a tough test with Romeoville. That's one team we look at in our conference that, man to man, we don't match up with them, but the great thing about this is it's a team game."
Oswego East took the opening kickoff and moved the ball 80 yards on eight plays highlighted by a 40-yard pass from junior quarterback Tyler Kennedy to senior Conor Nally to put the Wolves at the Minooka 12. Nalley's 5-yard run was followed by a Minooka penalty to put Oswego East at the 2. After a short quarterback keeper, Nally took the handoff and scored the 1-yard touchdown with 9:04 to play in the first quarter.
"This was great. All week we've preached, 'Make history.' Get that first winning season, get that back-to-back Homecoming win, so it was a big game," Nally said. "As coach put it this week, this is almost a playoff game. It's win or go home.
"We were 0-9 against Minooka. This week was all about making history."
A miscommunication resulted in the Wolves opting for a two-point try, but the pass was incomplete for a 6-0 lead.
Oswego East senior linebacker Josh Lopez sacked Minooka senior quarterback Jacob Czerniakowski for a 9-yard loss on third down to force the Indians to punt on their first possession of the game. Five plays later, Oswego East was back in the end zone.
Junior running back Khalil Driver was explosive out of the backfield, rushing for 16 yards on the first play of the drive and when Kennedy could not find an open receiver, he carried the ball 14 yards to the Minooka 22.
One play later, Kennedy connected with Nally for a 19-yard touchdown, and senior Jason Evans' kick was good for the 13-0 lead with 5:15 to play in the first quarter. It was Kennedy's first of three touchdown passes on the night - all three to different receivers.
"With all our players back, now we have multiple weapons on the field and no one should be able to stop us. They make plays on the ball," Kennedy said.
Kennedy completed 10 of 19 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns and did not have an interception.
"He's put in the extra time in terms of film," LeBlanc said of Kennedy. "He's a junior and I think he may have felt a lot of pressure earlier in the year that he had to make big plays and the truth of the matter is that our receivers have stepped up. They've started to make the plays for him. (Davon) Burrell's catch in the end zone, that's nice. I had a personal conversation with him this week and he rose up. It helps when your guys are catching the ball for you."
Following another three-and-out series by Minooka, Oswego East used the final 4:06 of the first quarter to score again. Kennedy found junior Trevor Kalish open for a 23-yard gain and Nally ran for 6 yards to put the Wolves into Minooka territory. Senior receiver Ryan Garrigus roped in a 20-yard pass from Kennedy before Driver ran for 8 yards to the Minooka 15. He then covered the remaining distance on the next handoff for the touchdown at the close of the quarter. Evans' kick was good for the 20-0 lead.
Senior Jeremey Allen, junior Corey Kennedy and junior Zach Prinz stopped Minooka at the Oswego East 40 and forced the Indians to punt on their first series of the second quarter, but the Wolves couldn't move the ball on the ensuing possession and were forced to punt for the first time in the game.
On the next try, Oswego East found the end zone. Runs by Driver, senior Branden Lowe and Kalish put the Wolves at the Minooka 28 before Burrell caught the ball in the corner of the end zone for the score. Evans' kick gave Oswego East a 27-0 lead with 4:42 to play in the first half, but the Wolves weren't done yet.
After another Minooka punt, Oswego East started at the Indians' 40. An incomplete pass and a run for a 6-yard loss seemed to stall the Wolves' drive, but Kennedy hit Lowe in stride and the senior rumbled 66 yards downfield for the score. Evans' kick was through the uprights for a 34-0 lead with 2:37 to play. The 34-point effort in the first half is a season-best for the Wolves.
"Defensively, they're maniacs. Two shutouts in a row, fourth one of the year, they're killing it. They're putting the team on their back," Nally said. "Offensively, we're having better communication up front and the O-line is light years ahead of where they were at the beginning of the year."
A holding call and an illegal block penalty created a rough start for Oswego East in the second half, but the Wolves persevered thanks to an interception by senior cornerback Bobby Kallien at the Oswego East 39 with 5:00 to play in the third quarter.
After a 2-yard quarterback keeper, Nally handed the ball to Nally, who raced 59 yards into the end zone, and Evans added the point after for the 41-0 lead with 4:17 left in the quarter.
LeBlanc put his starters on the bench to start the fourth quarter, but Oswego East was able to add to its with the clock running. Led by senior quarterback Mike Santoria, the Wolves drove to the Minooka 10, but could not convert on third-and-9. Oswego East sent senior kicker Nathan Paisley onto the field to attempt the 27-yard field goal, and Paisley was good as the sideline erupted in celebration with 9:24 left in the game.
Oswego East's 44-0 lead remained untouched for the remainder of the night, and the Wolves locked in an undisputed fifth win of the season.
Oswego East finished with 287 yards rushing, led by Nally (71 yards) and Driver (68 yards) while Lowe made three catches for 83 yards to lead the receivers.
"The offensive line has turned it up a notch," LeBlanc said. "We had some injuries earlier in the year and we were able to get some depth back with some guys we can rotate in and out. But that's what happens when you don't turn the ball over. We felt like we had potential to have this type of offense earlier in the year, but we were killing ourselves with turnovers and penalties. Even tonight we had some penalties that took away from some things. When you don't turn the ball over, it makes a big difference."
Oswego East will travel to Romeoville on Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff with the Spartans. Romeoville holds a 3-4 overall record and 2-3 mark in the SPC after a 21-6 loss to Plainfield East last week. Romeoville enters the game averaging 23 points per game and the Spartans are the only SPC team to defeat Plainfield South this season, winning 34-7 on Sept. 27. Plainfield South (5-2, 4-1) will clash with Oswego (5-2, 5-0) on Friday.
"We can't underestimate them," Kennedy said of Romeoville. "We have to watch film on them and get prepared so we can come out firing.