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!
Tags: High School Football, High School Sports, Minooka High School, Oswego East High School, Oswego High School, Plainfield Central High School, Plainfield East High School, Plainfield North High School, Plainfield South High School, Southwest Prairie Conference Preview, SPC Week 6 Preview, Sports