After Saturday's game between Joliet West and Plainfield South was suspended due to lightning, many of us in attendance were wondering who that would exactly favor when the game would resume on Monday. After all, Plainfield South had just taken a not-so-commanding 12-8 lead before the heavens opened up for the second time and forcing officials to stop the contest. Plainfield South's game plan hadn't been effective in stopping the athleticism and running abilities of a sprite Joliet West Tiger team up till that point.
For whatever reason, Plainfield South Cougar Linebackers were caught time and time again out of position. The running lanes were left wide-open and that was all the Tigers needed to rack up some serious running yardage. In Saturday's portion of the game, SaVaughn Alexander burned the Cougars on a 69 TD run after the running lanes were again left wide open. It became clear, at least on that day, that the Cougars were unable to stop a running game. Yet as luck would have it for the Cougars, the Tigers began throwing the ball after they fell behind 12-8. And that, I believe was MISTAKE #1 for them. Perhaps the reasoning was that had the game gone into the 4th Quarter - it could have been called a complete game. Now I am not sure if that is the rule for High School, but I know it is true in the NCAA.
Never-the-less, the Tigers offered-up some needed relief to the Cougar Defense as they are definitely better defending the pass than they are defending the run. As the game was suspended, though, it dawned on me that if the Tigers came out running on Monday they could very well steal this game. After the game resumed, it was as if they were both still feeling each other out instead of just going after it. Then again, the Cougars did have to restart the contest by punting immediately because it was 4th and 5 to go from their 36 yard line at the time of resumption. Still, after both defenses held each other it still seemed to me that both were unsure of how to open up against each other.
Finally, on a 3rd and 8 play to open the 4th Quarter, Plainfield Cougar QB Austin Howarth found Wide Receiver Josh Harris near the Tiger 30 Yard Line, but still short of the 1st Down marker. Although Harris was drilled by two Tiger defenders, he managed to stay on his feet and turned up field until finally being forced out at the 1 yard line. Well, that was MISTAKE #2 for the Tigers - giving up BIG PLAY #1 to the Cougars! Not finishing a tackle will more times than not lead to a score and this was no exception!
That play set up Dantrell Wright to rush for his third TD of the contest, as well as catching the 2-Point Conversion. And just like that it was 20-8 and it seemed as if the Cougars had finally found some momentum on their way to a victory. Joliet West, though, were not about to lie down and started to tear apart the Cougar Defense again with their run game. Cougar linebackers continued to leave the gaps wide open and SaVaughn Alexander and Ramarr Jordan had no problems exploiting them. However, on a 2nd Down and 1 To Go from the Six Yard Line, Alexander attempted to spin into the endzone and wound up fumbling the ball. Well, that was MISTAKE #3 for the Tigers and BIG PLAY #2 for the Cougars as Brandon Reyes fell on the fumble to prevent a score! That was a huge play too because that recovery led to an 80 Yard Game Clinching TD, by none other than Dantrell Wright, who had now chalked-up his 4th Rushing TD of the game. Of course the drive was also aided by some very bad penalties against a now very frustrated Tiger team. That made it 26-8 and the Game was effectively over!
But hey, this was still a game that the Joliet West Tigers could have very easily taken away from the favored team. And quite frankly - I am a little concerned right now with the conference opener just 4 days away! The Cougar Game Plan relies far too much on one or two players and opposing defenses will figure that out real quick. The Defense is porous and the Offensive Line has lacked the speed and pop to offset what they are giving up in size. The Quarterbacking has also been erratic, but much of that is due to being hurried. But, the first two games haven't been pretty.
I know, I know - it is still early in the season, but, this is a team that I know well and there isn't anything wrong with the talent level. THE TALENT IS DEFINITELY THERE. The question, at least in my mind, are the coaches going to employ a different game plan that will take advantage of their talent pool? I am not sure - but of course I am not a coach either. As I've said before, the staff will know what adjustments to make. I just hope it is sooner than later. Otherwise this will be a long season for Cougar fans.
From my perspective, the first two games have been more than a little disappointing and this team will be hard-pressed for victories if changes aren't made ahead of the conference opener on Friday. Granted, South did lose to a much better team in Bolingbrook, but something should have been learned from that game, right? Perhaps it will come down to offering a game plan that will get more of the players involved into the flow of the game. After all, the Cougars are loaded with offensive weapons. It really would be a shame to let them wilt on the sidelines rather than confuse opponents.
Plainfield South's Coach Bublitz got his first win, but maybe Herald News Reporter Dick Goss said it best in his game report - "South first-year coach Ken Bublitz has his first victory at the helm in most bizarre fashion."
Well Mr. Goss - this season may get even more bizarre yet if we aren't careful.