Oswego East stopped short : Sports : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Oswego East stopped short|
|Loss to Romeoville creates must-win game at Plainfield North|
|by Kristin Sharp|
With 30 playoff points in Class 7A and a 5-3 overall record, the Oswego East football team is facing an early postseason game on Friday night at Plainfield North.
A victory over the Tigers (3-5) would award the Wolves an opportunity to reach the playoffs for the first time in school history, but a loss would leave Oswego East with a 5-4 record and likely not enough playoff points to get into the postseason.
The Week 9 game is now a must-win situation for Oswego East after the Wolves lost a 21-14 game at Romeoville last Friday as the Spartans kept their playoff hopes alive with a 4-4 overall record. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Plainfield.
"It's going to be a huge game," Oswego East head coach Tyson LeBlanc said. "The thing I tried to challenge our seniors with is that, 'You're down to four guaranteed practices and one guaranteed game. After that, it's up in their air.' We have an opportunity to be celebrating at Plainfield North or hugging each other and crying."
Romeoville faces the same must-win scenario at Minooka, as a win would give the Spartans a 5-4 record with 40 playoff points - enough to reach the Class 6A playoffs. That is a vast improvement from Romeoville's 0-9 finish in 2012.
"The biggest thing is we played a lot of underclassmen last year, and the guys who were making plays for us were juniors and sophomores," Romeoville head coach Jeff Kuna said. "These guys are mature now, made a great offseason commitment and they knew what was at stake. It's great to see them get a win like this in a tight game. This was a playoff game for us because if we win, we've got a shot at the postseason. If we lose, it's out of grasp. We have enough playoff points. Now we've given ourselves a chance to play next week. We're in that playoff mode two weeks early."
The Romeoville defense, combined with the talented backfield of senior Miguel Ford (17 carries, 110 yards) and junior Gill Whitaker (17 carries, 54 yards) made it impossible for Oswego East to reach the end zone until there was under 2:00 to play in regulation. At that point, the Wolves were trailing 21-8 after two field goals and a safety.
Three turnovers also hindered the Oswego East offense, although Romeoville did not convert the two fumble recoveries or interception into a scoring drive.
Romeoville built a 21-6 lead with 4:39 to play in the third quarter, and continuously stalled Oswego East's offense. The Wolves drove down to the Spartan 6 early in the fourth quarter, but three run plays fell short of the first-down marker and the Wolves turned the ball over on downs.
On Oswego East's next possession, a 17-yard gain by junior Khalil Driver (14 carries, 66 yards) put the Wolves at the Romeoville 20, and junior quarterback Tyler Kennedy (17-for-36, 102 yards) found Driver for an 11-yard gain to the Romeoville 5. But three incomplete passes created a fourth-down situation, and although Kennedy found Driver for the reception, Driver was tackled at the 4-yard line and Romeoville took over on downs.
"We knew up front that they were really, really good defensively and it showed. They brought pressure and we had trouble stopping it," LeBlanc said. "We had some situations where we had some penalties, but I think some of those penalties were caused by them giving us the trouble that they did. Our guys were trying to get a jump on their ends and Anthony Love is a great player. He gave us fits all night. They're a good football team. They've beat some good teams this year and they played tough with some good teams this year. The thing we talked about with our conference is you've got to show up to play every week because if you don't, you're going to be sent home with a loss."
After a run for no gain and an incomplete pass, Romeoville quarterback Kelvin Jones faced pressure by Oswego East senior linebacker Josh Lopez, who finished with a team-best seven tackles. Jones got rid of the ball in the end zone, but was whistled for intentional grounding and Oswego East was awarded a safety with 3:45 to play in the game.
Trailing 21-8, Oswego East returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield, but a penalty and a run for a 2-yard loss gave the Wolves negative yardage on the possession. Romeoville put its offense back on the field, but fumbled the ball on the first play from scrimmage, and senior CeCe Schaefer recovered the ball to put Oswego East at the Romeoville 25-yard line.
Kennedy reached senior Ryan Garrigus for a 6-yard gain, but a sack for a 2-yard loss and an incomplete pass into the end zone created a fourth-and-6 situation. Senior Branden Lowe roped in a Kennedy pass at the 5-yard line with 1:36 to play, and one play later, Garrigus caught Kennedy's pass for the 5-yard touchdown to create a 21-14 game with 1:27 to play.
Oswego East recovered its onside kick to give the Wolves a chance to win the game. After three incomplete passes, Kennedy found senior Conor Nally for an 11-yard gain to the Romeoville 38. Three more incomplete passes forced a fourth-down situation, and when Kennedy could not find an open receiver, he ran the ball himself for an 8-yard gain, but was down at the 30-yard line and Romeoville regained possession with 45 seconds left to play to seal the win.
"Part of it was they were doing a good job of stuffing our run, and part of it is that when the ball hits the ground, the clock stops," LeBlanc said of the heavy passing attack late in the game. "We were trying to conserve time and move the ball down the field a little bit better. They're a good football team. They're as athletic as any team we've played and it showed out here tonight."
The game opened with Romeoville fumbling the opening kickoff return, and Oswego East recovered at the Spartan 27. Kennedy's quarterback keeper put the ball at the 15, but a false start penalty pushed the Wolves back 5 yards. Senior Davon Burrell caught a 12-yard pass and Nally ran the ball twice before being tackled inside the Romeoville 1-yard line. But Oswego East was whistled for a personal foul call on the play, and Oswego East was sent back to the 15. There was another flag after Lowe's run, and Oswego East moved back to the 19. After a 9-yard pass play from Kennedy to Driver, the Wolves faced fourth-and-goal on the 10.
Senior Jason Evans stepped onto the field and his field goal was good from 27 yards with 8:31 to play in the first quarter to put Oswego East on the scoreboard.
A holding penalty and a big quarterback sack by Lopez stalled Romeoville's first possession of the game, and Oswego East was on the move once again. Starting at midfield, Oswego East junior Trevor Kalish caught a 12-yard pass and Kennedy kept the drive going with a first-down quarterback keeper to the 24-yard line. Romeoville's defense stepped up, tackling a receiver on a pass completion in mid-air and forcing the ball loose. Romeoville recovered the fumbled ball late in the first quarter, but Oswego East gave the Spartans little room to run. Lopez made two stops on the drive including a sack for a 6-yard loss while junior Corey Kennedy and senior Sam Wilson kept Ford and Whitaker in check.
Oswego East's next possession ended with an interception by senior Steven Serdzinski - his second turnover of the day after recovering the first fumbled ball. But the Wolves held the Spartans to three-and-out and Oswego East took over at midfield early in the second quarter.
Kennedy completed consecutive passes to Lowe for a combined 43 yards to reach the Romeoville 8-yard line. But a run for a 2-yard loss was followed by a sack for a 7-yard loss and an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal from the 17.
Once again, Evans came on for the field goal attempt and was good for a 34-yard kick to give Oswego East a 6-0 lead with 8:01 to play in the first half.
Whitaker returned the ensuing kickoff to the Romeoville 39, and a big run from Ford resulted in a 23-yard gain, and Ford took the next handoff into the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown. The extra point was good fore a 7-6 Romeoville lead with 6:40 to play in the first half.
"We have two very good tailbacks in Gill Whitaker and Miguel Ford and that's a nice one-two punch where we can rotate them out," Kuna said. "When we have Miguel at tailback, we move Gill to fullback so he's still in the game and he plays almost every down on offense. It's nice having two quality running backs and they can make things happen."
Romeoville added one more score before halftime, driving the ball 73 yards on nine plays and Jones connected with his tight end for the 13-yard touchdown. The extra point gave the Spartans a 14-6 halftime lead.
Oswego East fumbled the ball on its first possession of the second half and Romeoville recovered at the Wolves' 32, but eventually faced fourth-and-4. Jones handed the ball to Whitaker, but Oswego East senior Keagan Griffin tackled Whitaker short of the first-down marker.
The teams traded possessions until Romeoville put together another scoring drive with 4:39 to play in the third quarter. Thanks to two big runs by Whitaker, the Spartans drove into the red zone and eventually scored on Jones' 19-yard touchdown pass to Charles Hunter, who juggled the ball while Wilson made the tackle, and maintained possession in the end zone for the score. The extra point kick gave Romeoville a 21-6 lead.
"One thing that has never been a problem with us in my time here at East is our effort. Our effort was great tonight," LeBlanc said. "Our defense did a great job building our offense out and keep us in the game. Offensively, we just couldn't get it going. Never, ever am I disappointed with the effort that our kids give. We're never going to quit. We fight until the end because you never know what's going to happen."