Southwest Prairie Football: Week Six Preview

Southwest Prairie Football: Week Six Preview



The Skinny:

Five Teams are at 3-2-0 overall  and this week's games will go a long way in determining who will most likely win the conference and more importantly, who will make the IHSA State Playoffs. So if there was a point in the season where it collectively all hits the fan - this is one of them. Looking at the Southwest Prairie Conference schedule, it would appear to most that there is only one premier game on tap; Oswego at Plainfield North - but there are a couple of must win games too. Minooka will be traveling to Oswego East in what most certainly puts the Wolves' season into clear perspective - win or else. Then again, that also holds true for the Plainfield Central / South game as both teams are jockeying for a playoff bid. As for a slam dunk game? Well, this would have sounded strange at some point earlier than now, but, I believe that Plainfield East should dispose of Romeoville in the the only certain game in my mind this week.

Still , the on any given day saying shall apply here - as any of these teams are capable of winning this week.

Minooka at Oswego East:

The Minooka Indians (3-2-0, 3-0-0 SPC) are clicking on all cylinders right now and that must have the Oswego East Wolves (2-3-0, 0-3-0 SPC) scratching their heads and wondering when, and if, their season will get any better. After opening the season 2-0 there was a buzz at that campus. After all, the Wolves had never began a season undefeated going into the conference opener. Their two victories were against teams that are collectively 5-5 at this point, but if you take a look at the opponents, Rich South (2-3-0) and Oak Lawn Community (3-2-0), well they aren't bad teams and are very competitive. So, there was a reason for optimism, right? Oswego East, inspite of being 0-3 in conference play, have been in each and every game thus far. Their losses to date: Plainfield South 34-27, Oswego 35-28 and Plainfield Central 14-13. Sadly, though, all of their losses have been late in the game and it must feel as though they have a monkey on their backs.

Well, I have a strong suspicion that that monkey will remain there after this week. The Minooka Indians are the cream of the crop in the Southwest Prairie Conference and a team that could go very deep in the state playoffs later this year. When the season began, their biggest concern was probably at the QB position, but I don't think that is the case any longer. QB Joe Carnagio has taken over where Mitch Brozovitch left off and this team is in good hands. Luke Stovall, meanwhile, has been a pleasant surprise for the Indians as he is fast becoming one of Carnagio's most reliable targets. Of course, the Indians also have a powerhouse in RB Kalvin Hill as well as Nate McGuire. But it is Hill who has the ability to blow up opposing defenses with his deft running and keen eye for open lanes. Last, but not least, Minooka's defense is opportunistic and force teams into making mistakes. You just can't say enough about Luke Carey, Alex Hamilton, Walter Vesper, Jake Residori and Jake Petrovic. I am most impressed with Luke Carey and Alex Hamilton, though, these kids are real gamers!

Naturally, Oswego East has some fine athletes too. QB Dakota Skenendore is an able leader and having a RB like Chris Cooper allows him to use the pass efficiently to set up the run. However, after watching the Indian defense shut down Plainfield South's running game last week, Cooper might just be in for a tough night. Will he get yards? That is a given, but I don't think he will be running rough-shod over the Indian defense. Skenendore will instead have to try and use his contingent of soft hands; Jimmy Bitner, Chase Skenendore and Scooter Smith. Oswego East also plays a TE, Ryan Kossakowski and he could open up some opportunities for the Wolves.

Unfortunately for the Wolves, though, they are getting a Minooka team that has all its parts humming at the moment and I don't think there will be a letdown in this game. The Indians are taking it "one game at a time" and it looks like another scalping unless the Wolves play at an even higher level than they have. Yes, they have had three narrow losses thus far, but this is a different opponent all together. I am guessing that Minooka wins this one 42-22.

Oswego at Plainfield North:

This appears to be the premier game of the week in the SPC! These are two of the three early season favorites to win the conference and both have yet to play Minooka after this match-up. So both teams know the gravity of this game and I expect this game to be contested to the final whistle. The Plainfield North Tigers (3-2-0, 2-1-0 SPC) will have the advantage of playing in their den, but the Oswego Panthers (3-2-0, 3-0-0 SPC) have never shown that they are bothered at playing on the road. The Panthers have been one of the conference's better teams over the years, but have fallen short of late. But 2011 is a year in which they are expected to be "right there." They certainly have the pieces of the puzzle, but then again Plainfield North has built a solid program and will have something to say about it.

Plainfield North were stunned 38-12 in the conference opener by district rivals, the Plainfield East Bengals. As a matter of fact, everyone that gets their scores via WJOL must have thought there was an error being reported that night - but it was no error. Plainfield East, as the newest program in the SPC and in spite of their overall record, have been competitive all season. Still, Plainfield East beating North? Man that was the shot heard round the conference. Plainfield North, though, has rebounded by winning their last two games on the road, a 35-28 victory at Plainfield Central and a 42-0 pasting of Romeoville, but those were one's in which they were expected to win, right? Now comes the big test. Can QB Kurt Palendech outduel Oswego's Ryan West and his array of targets?

The Oswego Panthers have so many players that could burn you; QB Ryan West, RB Mickeel Stewart, WR's Jack Kwaitkowski, Josh Mapalo and Brett Wainwright and they are just the obvious ones. But, people forget that they have decent O and D Lines as well. This is about as balanced a team as Minooka is and that is scary! And even though they started their season 0-2, they have played two very tough opponents in Marian Central (one that got away 47-41) and Waubonsie Valley. WV did, however, dominate the Panthers in their 34-14 victory. Perhaps the only thing that should concern Panther fans is that they give up a lot of points, but that is the nature of a spread offense - they score quick and often! But that leaves defenses in precarious positions. It allows teams the opportunity to come back. And in three conference games; Oswego defeated Romeoville 25-14, Oswego East 35-28 and Plainfield East 43-36 with the last two being games that the opposition could just have easily as won.

That, of course is the opening Plainfield North needs. Although they also play a spread, the Tigers can slow down the game and control the ball, and clock too. The question, though, can they overcome the TD's Oswego is sure to score? There is no doubt in my mind that the Tiger O-Line will protect QB Kurt Palendech and give him the time necessary to find his primary target Matt Fenza or that they will open the lanes for RB's Jay Roberts and Alex Starks. But I am not sure it will be enough. This looks like it going to be a shootout and I do like Oswego's chances in that regard, but playing Plainfield North in the Tiger Den is tough, tough, tough. This game can go either way!

Plainfield Central at Plainfield South:

The Plainfield Central Wildcats (3-2-0, 1-2-0 SPC) will travel to the other side of town to meet their district rivals, the Plainfield South Cougars (3-2-0, 2-1-0 SPC) in a game that must be considered a must-win game for both. Getting to that magic 6 Win mark has to be the Number 1 thought for both teams, but Plainfield South has yet to play Plainfield North and Oswego. Central, meanwhile, only has Oswego left of the Big Three after losing to both Minooka (52-20) and Plainfield North (35-28). This, then, is probably even more important for Plainfield South, as they try and regroup from a tough 23-7 loss at Minooka. Most people would probably give the edge to the Cougars, given the number of offensive weapons on the roster, but the Wildcats have made it something of a habit of stealing games on South's Turf. Besides, this is also a pretty big in-district rivalry since they are the two oldest schools in the conference, although some would point to Plainfield North as a more natural rival for South.

Now, I have been told that I have a bias towards Plainfield South, but hey I have never hidden that fact. After all, when your own kid goes to the school and even plays for the program - well what do you expect of me? Hopefully people would agree, though, that I have tried to be fair in my respect for all the schools in the conference. However if there is an impression otherwise - then please accept my apologies. But I would like to point out that my bias hasn't been by wearing blinders either as I have probably been more critical of my home team than others.

As for this game, I will have to be honest here - this is somewhat of a toss-up in my mind. Although South has more weapons, it is Central who may hold the intangibles in this game. The Cougars are a talented bunch and on paper should win this game, but I have had my concerns on the offensive side of the ball. There have been inconsistencies and I hope that they don't rear their ugly head this week.

Plainfield Central has a decent QB in Tim Blake. Blake, though, must rely on his running backs to soften up defenses. The RB's, Jordan Ellingwood, Gino Giarrantano  and Tyler Erdman are a solid trio too. It will be necessary for the Cougar defense to stop the run in this game, and given the way they have played of late they should be more than up to that task. As I said in my last post, the defense has really elevated their game especially Angelo Cervantes and Jake Meeder. Clifton Garrett, meanwhile, will be back in the lineup and that should give the defense some extra pop this week.

However, the Cougar offense has been struggling a bit and making some uncharacteristic mistakes, so that concerns me. Naturally the Minooka defense was so fired-up last week that they played a big role in that too, but it is my guess that Head Coach Bublitz will have the offensive unit working much harder in their preparation for this game. Plainfield South does have a lot of talent and they will need it against Plainfiield Central. QB Austin Howarth will have Dantrell Wright, Josh Harris, Jonathan Kosirog, Ricky Luna, Ryan Turk and others to help him move the ball up field. The big thing, though, will be not to make the same mistakes inside the Red Zone as last week. If Plainfield South plays their game then they should win this game. But this is no slam dunk either. Still, I'll take Plainfield South 28-17.

Romeoville at Plainfield East:

As I said earlier, this is a game that I believe will be won by the Plainfield East Bengals (1-4-0, 1-2-0 SPC) straight up. The Romeoville Spartans (1-4-0, 0-3-0 SPC) have had a rough go of it in 2011. Their Points For / Against of 28 - 101 in three conference games seem to tell the story too. Spartan QB's James Rooks and Jacob Bambule haven't been able to find the right formula yet while replacing last season's laser armed QB Matt Gillis. Meanwhile Perez Ford and Manuel Ford have also been limited in their ability to open up the field as opposing defenses key in on them every week. Of course they have to! But the one bright spot for Romeoville has been Duvuan Goodlow. The Spartans are still trying to get their chemistry right and right now I think the Bengals just have too many weapons for them to handle.

Plainfield East stunned Plainfield North 38-12 in their conference opener, but they have also put quite the scare into their other two opponents too. They were only down to powerful Minooka 21-26 at halftime of their game and then gave Oswego all they could handle last week. Give Head Coach Romeli a lot of credit for using the strengths of his players talents. Even Romeli's penchant for using the on-side kick is exciting and has caught teams flat-footed already. Plainfield East is particularly good when it comes to their Special Teams play and I can see this game as being another highlight reel type game for them.

Myles Walters has been an offensive weapon and one-half for the Bengals. His kick-off / punt returns are becoming a regularity and Bengal opponents better respect that speed - he can be a game changer. Bengal QB Robert Zamora is also getting very comfortable and having a supporting cast of Myles Walters and Juwan Straughter doesn't hurt them in the least. That is a heck of a dynamic duo for sure, but Zamora has yet another target with soft hands to rely on in Adrian Simbulan. Meanwhile, Bengal RB Shekeal Taylor is worth the price of admission. On any given night, this is a kid who can put the nail in the coffin against any team. Yes sir - the Bengals are getting better and better.

I think I will take the Bengals 40-12 in this one.

As always though, this preview is just one man's opinion and I wish all the teams good luck in their games.

Play Hard and Play Safe!

Week 5 Standings

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  • 3 blowouts this week: Minooka smokes Oswego East, Pfield East smokes Romeoville, and Pfield South will beat Pfield Central by at least 2, maybe 3 TDs. I've seen both and Central's defense isn't in the same league as South's-especially if South can get their passing game going early. You can throw all day against Central. Oswego/Pfield North should be good. You're right-it could go either way. I'd like to give Oswego the edge but their defense is BAD and though I've yet to see North, I can't imagine they're as bad as the blowout loss to Pfield East or playing Central to a one score game. There's too much talent there for that. I'm with you, Mike-I can't call a winner here. I could see this one being a 43-42 shootout. Last team with the ball wins. Looking ahead in the conference race, I don't see anyone beating Minooka. I think the Pfield South/Oswego matchup could be interesting and of course North vs South should be good as well. I think South is the next best team behind the Indians but who knows by Week 9? Any of the 3 (Oswego, South, and North) should be good for a playoff spot at 5-4 but getting to 6-3 is always a good idea just to be sure. Not sure if anyone else will be able to sneak in. Central will have a shot but they can only afford one more loss (they will NOT get in at 5-4 because of their weak opponents Weeks 1 and 2) and with South and Oswego (and Pfield East) still to play, that may be too tall an order for the Wildcats. Pfield East cannot afford to lose either realistically and again, with a couple tough games remaining, I just don't see them being able to get to the 5 win plateau and they may need 6 wins anyway. Oswego East just isn't there yet and I don't know what to think about Romeoville. Every year, I keep hearing that this year's team will challenge for the upper division and every year just getting to 3 wins is a struggle. As far as Romeoville football having a winning team goes, I'll believe it when I see it. Good luck to your Cougars this week, Mike. If they can finish 7-2, they'll have a shot at a first round game at home.

  • Nice Assessment and I hope you are right about South. I had them pegged 3rd or 4th behind Minooka and Oswego. Oswego reminds me of last year's Cougars - lots of points (both ends). I just think it is the nature of the beast though with the spread offense. Our defense wasn't particularly great last year and actually think we may be better there this season. The Cougars though are struggling offensively, in spite of the talent and I can't put my finger on it. And I see them just about every day.

    Romeoville is an enigma Adam. I am with you.

    The middle tier is getting better though and there will be some upsets yet before it is over. Central played a lot of underclassmen last year and that has paid off in experience so you never know. They do have a whammy on South at South though. So I hope you are right.

  • In reply to Michael Ciric:

    I really would've though Oswego East would've figured it out by now. They're not the new kid in town anymore as far as the conference goes but they still can't seem to get out of the bottom 3. A good running game is a necessity to be successful at the high school level and every year I see the Wolves, all they seem to want to do is spread it out and throw it. When they do run, it's out of the spread which, if it works is fine, but you have to have a lot of speed for that to work.

    As for South, I cannot understand why they have so much trouble with Central. If you put both teams to the so-called "eye test," it's not even close-South by a mile, maybe 2. The rivalry thing is worth something though-look at the Packers and Bears. The Packers are by far the superior team, at least recently, but Chicago plays them tough and the scores are rarely lopsided. If South can clean up their offensive miscues, I think they'll steamroll the Wildcats. South's QB is a good athlete. I remember umpiring him in youth baseball years ago at Whiteford Park in Joliet. I always though he'd make a fine QB-he always had a heck of an arm.

    Personally, I don't think the spread offense is a long-term offensive solution in high school. I think the best coaches adjust to what they have as far as athletic ability. Mike Briscoe always had "pound the rock" type teams at Minooka because he had HUGE linemen and enormous backs that could run over, around, and through just about anyone in their way. At South, things went year to year, depending on the skill set. His team last year had so much speed that the spread was a natural fit. THAT is just one reason (but a big one) why Mike was so successful over the years as a coach. He adjusted to his players. There are too many high school coaches who want to play "their system" regardless of whether or not it fits their players and those guys with their big egos are usually sent packing either before the playoffs or in the first round.

    After seeing the way Minooka shredded the Plainfield Central secondary, South would be foolish not to come out slinging it. If you can get a big lead, the game will be over because Central is not a big-play type of team. If Howarth has a big game, I think you and all the other Cougar fans will be happy with the result. Again, good luck Friday.

  • Absolutely! You pegged it! BTW Cooper at OE can run you over - but yeah they shouldn't be playing the spread. I mean look at Morris. They aren't necessarily different in team makeup, because OE has big lineman (always have) so that model would work. matter of fact, it would work for both Oswego schools. They have big boys there.

    Briscoe was gem, no doubt; his spread idea was borne when our track team program began excelling and players came out for the team. So yeah, that works. Especially last year with the McGee's and Flores. This year's type of speed is different though and a "modified spread" is what is needed. At least that's how I see it and I know these boys.

    Howarth is everything you say he is. Fine athlete and a good kid to boot. About the only thing I see wrong is the errant passes. Of course there are a lot of reasons for that and not all his fault. Great Arm! Believe it or not, maybe the best arm on South plays Wide Receiver - Tyler Butler a natural lefty! But he is an underclassman and Austin has earned that QB spot. If the O Line protects him - Austin can hurt you badly. But that has been the $1 Million Dollar Question this year. it has been a bit painful too, like I said I know these kids and it isn't that they don't try hard - they do. We need to get better that's all. No excuses.

    p.s. I would throw all night versus Central too - lol.

    Hey how is Minooka's BB team gonna be this year? Loved those youngsters last year and I bet they are ready to go after their summer league play. Great outside shooters - ouch!

  • Minooka should have a pretty good basketball squad this year-and it's about damn time. The only thing that could screw it up is their coach. I am not a fan of his and MANY others in the community echo that sentiment-and the reasons are NOT only because of his questionable strategies.

    One thing, as far as strategy goes, that I don't like about him is that he runs that 3-point shooting offense regardless of what type of players he has. He was a shooting guard when he played so in his eyes, you live and die with the 3. Unfortunately, if you play that style in high school, you're going to die more often than not because the shooting isn't usually as consistent as it needs to be.

    I hear South is absolutely loaded as far as basketball goes. Minooka will likely not match up athletically with South so they'll have to shoot well to beat them. Personally, I think this conference still has a ways to as far as its basketball goes. Football and baseball, the top teams can compete with anyone but for some reason, basketball is a step or two behind.

  • In reply to adamminooka:

    Boy I really enjoyed watching Adam Holstine and Jake Hogen lighting up the treys last season, and there was this kid Ben Heide. Wow! You could see they were developing last season - but they are talented!

    South may be loaded but my son says there is some dissension and some of last year's players are thinking of not playing. ??? Don't ask me beyond that cause I don't want to break any confidences but not all is Cherry Pie if you will. That's a shame too, but I understand the why behind it.

    Minooka has always been football, baseball and wrestling! Man what a program - almost wish we would have bought a little farther up the road as I think even my kid would have benefited in his development oh well.

    But I wouldn't believe that Minooka won't be good at BB this year - that was a young team and experience from last year will push them into another level this year - I am sure of it. Seems to me that there are a lot of good athletes there and they all play multi-sports - so these kids are tight as it gets. That's a positive as far as I can tell. They are my next favorite program outside of our own of course (I mean it would be pretty bad if I didn't huh? LOL). But as programs go Minooka does a lot of things right so they should be proud in that community.

    Plainfield's talent is all over the place with four schools - man could you imagine if they had less schools? I know so many kids at every school - I have often wondered how good things would be if we could corral them into one or two programs.

    Say as you get info on Minooka pass it along and I'll add it to the blog. I even have the Facebook site with the same name so if you wanted to be an administrator and contribute there - by all means.

  • Well, I also have it on good authority (my own, being a certified umpire) that South should be the team to beat on the baseball diamond in the Spring in the SPC. They have a TON of returning players from a solid team last year. Of course North will be good as well (that will always be true-tons of talent and a top-flight coach) and Minooka should be much improved after last year's uncharacteristic down year. Oswego East and Plainfield East could surprise too. Central has a new coach and he's a good one so the Wildcats are likely on the upswing. That leaves Oswego and Romeoville. Romeoville's head coach stepped down so that program is in a bit of flux. Oswego is usually competitive but they always seem to struggle with the better teams. We'll see though; again, the Panthers always have talent-it's just a matter of putting it together. But baseball is a game where the team that you think SHOULD win doesn't always come through. Of the big three (football, basketball, and baseball), baseball is certainly the most umpredictable. That's what makes it so great. The old addage "That's why they play the games" definitely holds true on the ball diamond.

    As for basketball, we'll see what happens with South but until something is official (as far as who's playing and who isn't), I'd peg them as the favorites. I think both Oswego schools and the other 3 Plainfield schools could all be pretty solid too, along with Minooka. I don't know much about Romeoville but they usually finish somewhere in the middle of the pack so you cannot write them off either. Every game should be meaningful and the conference race will likely come down to who takes care of the ball and gets the most out of their bench. Unless it's South, I don't see anyone else being able to run away and hide from the rest of the group.

    As for wrestling, I think the Earth exploding next week may be a more likely occurence than anyone in the conference unseating Minooka as champions. The Indians will be loaded again and will likely make another run at a state title (whether they win it all or not, I don't know but they'll be in the mix). I'll admit that I don't follow wrestling especially close but I have managed to see Minooka wrestle a couple times over the past few years and it is impressive. Top to bottom, the quality they throw out on the mat is second to none.

  • In reply to adamminooka:

    Wow - I like that! Adam you should do a blog from the perspective of a sports official - I think that would be interesting - maybe you should pitch it as an idea here at Chicago Now. They are always looking for new stuff, especially out here in Suburbia. You could also contribute to this one via FaceBook too! (Just a thought you should entertain).

    Last first - Yeah Minooka is the Wrestling Program in this entire area, let alone the conference! I agree 1000%.

    Basketball - I believe there will be some serious parity. Many teams played well last season and were pretty much all in the mix down the stretch. South will pretty much have their core players intact, except the few that graduated. There are some players who should have gotten more playing time last season and I heard there was an "undercurrent." I will leave it at that. But yeah South should be right there. Oswego, with West and Kwiatkowski, et al..have their entire team back. They will compete!Matter of fact all the teams have many of their players coming back and that should make it an exciting season with as you say - all games being important. I know this, Minooka will be way better than last season too.

    I love Baseball (behind my sport - I played Soccer at every level and that has always been my game) ever since this dumb foreigner came to America. Most people don't understand the strategy and I find it exciting trying to outguess the manager. What a game! I really should write more about it. There are so many non-conference games, like soccer - you wind up following so many teams, you know?

    I did not know that about South's team either - so thanks! North had a heck of a run and I thought Minooka did pretty darn good, especially down the stretch. Did I confuse them with someone else? But I do tend to agree with your breakdown, although I think Oswego will be better. Romeoville is about the only one I see having problems. They did lose quite a bit of athletes to graduation last season.

    Ahh but that brings up what I have always believed - coaches who use underclassmen more often in their overall mix - will have a solid program every season. We do have some coaches in our conference who defer to Seniors first (all sports) and I think hurts some programs. All the top notch schools from JCA to Maine South use a generous mix of players. They may not start, but they certainly get that all important playing time just the same. Just another point to ponder?

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