Southwest Prairie Conference 2010 Tri-Champion Plainfield South Cougars will open their 2011 - 2012 High School Football Season at home on Friday Night against a very formidable Bolingbrook Raider squad. And by all accounts this game should be a dandy. While many are wondering what the prospects are for last year's 9-2 Cougars, I am sure that followers of Raider Football are wondering pretty much the same thing after an early exit in last season's IHSA Playoffs left them with a disappointing 5-5 overall season record.
They say the first game of the year is the most important, but I really don't buy into that so long as the game is a hard fought one. And even though these student-athletes have all been getting ready since the summer break began - there just is no way of determining what you have until you put the team on the field in "a true game situation and at full speed" for the first time.
Plainfield South, at least on paper, would appear to face a much tougher road for success this season than Bolingbrook. Not only have the Cougars lost many of its key players to graduation but they have also had to adjust to new Head Coach Ken Bublitz. The good thing though is that Coach Bublitz is fortunate enough to have much of former Coach Briscoe's staff intact and that has made the transition easier.
But, I have also seen most of these players develop over the past couple of years and I am confident that these players are more than ready to compete alongside the holdovers from last season. As a matter of fact, I even think that some of the underclassmen might be better than some of the Seniors if given the proper chance. Naturally that is just my opinion, but the last two Sophomore Teams had piled-up a very solid 13 Wins during their journey to the Varsity. So knowing how to win is the least of these kid's problems.
However, there will be something missing for the Cougars, though. Last year they had multiple players with super explosive speed and that caught many teams by surprise. But they do have what I like to call "sneaky speed" and that too could catch a few teams napping in the secondary. In addition, many of these kids are also much tougher and durable than last season's team and that will be exactly what will be needed this season in a conference that should produce four IHSA Playoff teams.
There is no doubt in my mind that Bolingbrook Raiders fans know exactly what I mean by that since their Southwest Suburban Blue Conference will more than likely produce four (if not five) playoff teams again this season. Bolingbrook's greatest strength this season will be the fact that they come back pretty much intact with last season's squad. And that is always a big plus in a tough conference. Bolingbrook's defense will be anchored by Senior LB Antonio Morrison. On offense, the Raiders will be led by Senior QB Aaron Bailey and he will have many eyes upon him as he comes back from a season in which he was injured. The greatest pressure on this team, though, will be the extra burden of fans having higher expectations this season.
Then again, Plainfield South has some high expectations on them too. They will be led primarily by Senior QB Austin Howarth, but South will again play the Spread Offense which will put some early pressure on Junior QB Ricky Luna. Luna must fill the gap from last year's stellar combo of Sheldon Magee and Howarth. But hey, I have seen Luna develop over the years and when this kid is on - he is dead on! Besides, there are other options and weapons available for this team because of the Spread. One such weapon will be Dantrell Wright. But I can assure you that there are many others as well. Plainfield South should stretch some defenses pretty thin again this season.
The only thing I don't like about the Spread, though, is that it tends to put the defense onto the field for longer stretches. And that can make even a good defense look bad. I certainly understand that fans and coaches alike enjoy high-scoring games and a "running clock," but I would still rather see a little more of a conservative approach taken after taking a decent lead on your opponent. Naturally it requires a good Offensive Line when it comes to managing the clock, but I think that could very well be an area of strength for the Cougars. I realize that people will say that the Cougar O-Line isn't a particularly huge one, but they are a smart and quick one.
As for Friday Night, I do not believe that the first game will make or break either one's season - but it will still offer an opportunity for each team. Specifically the opportunity to prove their detractors wrong when it comes to the the early conference predictions! Hopefully the victor will be Plainfield South, but then again I am always biased when it comes to my home team. However, these teams will both give you their all and it should be one of the better games to watch in the area.
So let's get on over to the South Side and see two good teams battle it out!
Tags: 2011 High School Football Preview, Aaron Bailey, Antonio Morrison, Austin Howarth, Bolingbrook High School, Bolingbrook Raiders, Dantrell Wright, Football, High School Football, Plainfield South Cougars, Plainfield South High School, Ricky Luna