Bolingbrook struggled last season and needed a season-ending victory over Lincoln-Way Central to get into the State Playoffs. Although they won that match-up, it didn't take long before Mount Carmel sent them home after a First Round IHSA Playoff loss. That, no doubt, was a very bitter pill to swallow and I am sure that they were more than eager to show the area sports writers that they are primed for a run at a State Championship in 2011-2012.
Now, I am not sure if the Bolingbrook Raiders (1-0, 0-0) will win a state championship or not this season, but, after witnessing their 40-16 mauling of the Plainfield South Cougars (0-1, 0-0), well, they definitely don't lack the offensive and defensive talent to make a heck of a go of it.
As for Plainfield South, even after going 9-2 last season, they may just be in for a very long season. I have to be honest, prior to last night's game I felt confident that the Cougars had the talent necessary to compete - in spite of the fact that they lost a good portion of their core team to graduation. After all, this is still a team that has kids who come from a very successful sophomore program over the past two seasons.
And believe me, these Cougars do know how to win!
Don't get me wrong either - Bolingbrook has one darn good football team and I would never take nothing away from this squad. With four standout players like Jr. QB Aaron Bailey, Sr. RB DJ Pruitt, Sr. DL/OL Robert Bain and Sr. LB Antonio Morrison it is easy to overlook how deep this team is. Never-the-less, the Plainfield South Cougars have some great talent of their own too and I would never have thought that there was a 24 point difference between these two squads prior to the game. But- stuff happens right? Unfortunately for the Cougars - it pretty much went the Raiders way all night long.
I have to admit, though, that I am more than a little bit perplexed as I sit here replaying last night's game in my mind. Plainfield South is a team that began playing a spread option offense last season with much success. Quite frankly, though, I am still looking for a glimmer of that long after this game has been played. However, the spread option is what I would still consider to be the Cougars strength given the athletic talent they have to execute it. This in spite of the fact that the formation looked impotent last night. Give the Raiders credit though - their defense read it and executed their game plan brilliantly.
Of course it didn't help matters much either that the Cougar Coaching staff maybe under estimated the Raider defensive schemes and failed to make the proper adjustments. Let's face it, 5 Offensive Lineman are going to have a problem when they are constantly blitzed by 6 rushing defenders and one of them is 6'3" 296 pound Robert Bain. Bain was clearing out everything in sight like a tsunami. But, even when the Cougars were lucky enough to get a nice pass over that defensive line, the Raider Linebackers were making the outstanding open-field tackles to limit the yardage.
So instead of seeing something similar to last season's successful offensive juggernaut, the Cougars looked a lot more like the New Orleans Saints of old and their beat up QB Archie Manning. Cougars QB Austin Howarth just couldn't get on track and was hurried all night. And that was just something that I hadn't envisioned when I wrote my preview post earlier in the week. Don't forget, I watch this team practice, so I see the work that these kids put in every day. Although I expected Bolingbrook to win - I never expected such a thorough dismantling . That has to be the number one shocker for me.
But hey, I am not a football coach and I certainly do not know with certainty what their exact game plan or adjustments are. I am just an observer and write what I see, you know? But I have to tell you that it seemed as though Bolingbrook was just more than just a little comfortable defending whatever the Cougar offense was trying to throw at them. I am also dismayed over the ineffectiveness of the Cougar Offensive Line but they were pressured relentlessly too. They will, however, have to keep up the intensity they are capable of and defend their QB, Austin Howarth if they expect to be successful. In my opinion, the Cougars were over-powered by Bolingbrook.
The Raider defense not only dominated the game but they pretty much forced the issue all night long with their 6 man defensive line. Naturally we can't forget that QB Aaron Bailey lit up the Cougar secondary as he burned them three times with long passes before finally throwing one for a long pick.
As for a bright spot - the best offensive drive for the Cougars occurred late in the game when both squads substituted their starters. But I have to tell you - they looked much better than the first team did in their execution of the plays. They were not only able get the blocks and traps as designed - but they scored quickly and impressively. Unfortunately, that TD came with a little over 2 minutes remaining and after a failed Plainfield South on-side kick - all Bolingbrook had to do was run out the clock for the victory.
As I reflect on the first game of the Ken Bublitz Era: All I can say is that it was a doggone shame that this game didn't measure up as I expected. The ability is there and I am sure that there isn't a young man among them who doesn't feel down after a performance like that. I am sure that they will pull together and be a solid team. I know most of these kids well and they don't lack the talent or the desire needed to pull it all together this week in practice. They will focus on getting a win over Joliet West next week.
I am not exactly sure as to what direction Coach Bublitz will go yet with his overall game plan, but I do know that he and his coaching staff will get a handle on what they want to accomplish. Fans must trust them as they are the only ones who know what is best for the team and what their perceptions are as to the talent level they think they have this season. I do think that last season's formula is still a very viable option for the Cougars if the earlier sophomore game is any indication. They defeated Bolingbrook 33-20 with stellar performances by Cougars QB Kody Voda and RB Mike Valentine.
For this observer, though, I am not sure if this Cougar team will reach the same level of success as last year's squad. This season didn't just begin with a little thump - this was kind of one loud T-H-U-D! If they are to compete this year there will have to be some re-adjustments made. The Southwest Prairie Conference is tougher this season!
Other SPC season opener scores:
Hinsdale South 22 Romeoville 20
Marian Central 47 Oswego 41
Metea Valley 38 Plainfield East 26
Morris 27 Minooka 21
Oswego East 27 Rich South 12
Plainfield Central 41 Amundsen (Chicago) 15
Plainfield North 36 Bradley-Bourbonnais 20