The Southwest Prairie Conference 2010-2011 Season could not have been any more exciting as three teams split the conference championship. Plainfield North, Minooka, and Plainfield South all finished with identical 6-1 Conference Records. However, Plainfield North was awarded the top spot (per tie-breaker rules for deciding IHSA Playoff Pairings) based on their final week's 43-35 win over Plainfield South. Ironically, for all the thrills and spills that star running back Kapri Bibbs gave fans with his stellar running, it was a 73 yard option pass that broke the Cougars back that night.
It was more than an unfortunate loss for South that night. And please, I don't want anyone to take what I am going to say next the wrong way, because all three teams earned that co-championship. However, going into that last week, Plainfield South was in good position to have an undefeated season if it weren't for the stupidity and immaturity of some its players. Due to disciplinary reasons, a number of starting players were kept off the field and it cost their team dearly. After an early injury forced Dondre Adams out of the game, it took one heck of an effort to keep the game as tight as it ended up. But, that also showed a lot about the character of that team.
Still, they came up short and it was a doggone shame. But I do wonder what the season would have looked like had it not been for that disciplinary breakdown.
But hey, that was then and this is now. I have to look forward and as I do I see a schedule that could very well derail a couple of early favorites. Minooka, who had a great season last year, will have a new Quarterback under center. I am not sure who it will be, but anytime a new person takes over there are bound to be growing pains. As I watched all the sophomore teams last season, there wasn't one particular standout QB for any team, so if Minooka, or any other team for that matter must start out anew - then we have to expect the new QB to grow into the position.
My preseason thoughts are that the Minooka Indians, Oswego Panthers, Plainfield South Cougars and Plainfield North Tigers will compete for the conference championship. The Plainfield Central Wildcats, Oswego East Wolves and Plainfield East Bengals as well as the Romeoville Spartans will all be competitive, but I think they have more question marks than the other teams do.
Getting to the schedule Minooka will open August 26th at the Morris Redskins and then host the Celtics of Providence Catholic on September 2nd. I don't know folks, but an 0-2 start is not out of the realm of possibility here. And even though both opponents are "quality one's" that will generate playoff points during the season, starting at 0-2 is asking for difficulties. I suppose the only Saving Grace is that the first two conference games will be against Plainfield Central and East who are not expected to compete for a championship.
Another conference favorite, Oswego, will open non-conference play against the Marian Catholic Hurricanes and the Warriors of Waubonsie Valley. Again, here is another possibility for an 0-2 start. Not that I am saying anything is written in stone, but Minooka and Oswego are definitely looking at some difficult contests against quality teams used to winning. Although Providence faltered last season, I don't see them having another bad year. But they may already be 0-1 coming into Minooka after having opened against the Morgan Park Mustangs the week before in Soldier Field. If that is the case, then Providence will be looking to rebound quickly. A note about Oswego, they will be led by QB Ryan West and he may very well be the conference MVP this season. There is no question that Ryan West has all the tools and an offensive line to protect him. So, I would keep an eye on him!
Meanwhile Plainfield South will open at home against the Bolingbrook Raiders on August 26th and travel across town to meet the Joliet West Tigers on Saturday, September 3rd. My guess, and again this isn't written in stone, is that South could be 2-0 or 1-1 after non-conference play. Bolingbrook eked out a playoff berth with a late surge, but were eliminated right away last season. Exactly how they stack up right now is anyone's guess, but then again the Cougars have also lost a number of their star players to graduation. Having watched the sophomores all season, though, they have some capable replacements ready to step in. The wild card for Plainfield South will be more about the coaching than the players, though. Mike Briscoe stepped down and Ken Bublitz has taken over. Bublitz is more than capable, but can he put his stamp on the team right away? I don't know, but I remain confident. Then again, I have to!
Plainfield North has also lost some key players due to graduation, but none bigger than Kapri Bibbs. North, though has some positive upsides with capable players moving up and an offensive line that will be as good as any in the conference. Kurt Palandech will be at QB, taking over for his brother Kyle and he is another one who could vie for conference MVP. But, North, like the others have some tough non-conference games too. They will open at home August 26th against the Bradley-Bourbonnais Boilermakers and although they have a new coach with Mike Kohl taking over for Craig Bundy, they are accustomed to playing tough teams coming out of the Southwest Suburban Red. North's second opponent will be on the road against the Lockport Porters. Lockport didn't have a great year last year, and they too will have a new Coach (Don McKillip) after Coach Kooi retired. But I wouldn't take them lightly just the same as they play in a very competitive Southwest Suburban Blue Conference. Never the less, North could just as easy open up 2-0 or 1-1.
One thing is for sure, the early contenders will have their hands full as the 2011-2012 Season opens and these early games could make or break a season. But right now the way I see it, Minooka and Oswego are the prohibitive favorites to win the Southwest Prairie and big wins against worthy non-conference foes could go a long way. At the same token, rosters change as kids go to the next level and getting the chemistry to gel early is difficult.
There have been some changes in the Southwest Prairie from last season, that is for sure. Still, I still expect this season to be every bit as exciting as the last. There are a multitude of questions, but we will know how good these teams are after completion of their two non-conference games.
But it will still come down to head-to-head play in the conference in the end.
So, get ready for another wild season!
Filed under: Football, High School Football, High School Sports, IHSA, Minooka, Oswego East High School, Oswego High School, Plainfield Central High School, Plainfield East High School, Plainfield North High School, Plainfield South High School, Romeoville High School, Southwest Prairie Conference, Sports