The Southwest Prairie Conference (SPC) have been making strides ever since I began following it. But they are still a long way off before they can compete "top to bottom" with some of the premier conferences in the Southwest Suburban area. Nevertheless, there a couple of programs, such as Minooka and Oswego, who regularly produce highly competitive squads. And this season should not be any exception. However, talent is not something that is lacking in the SPC, and as such, whoever wins the title this season will have to earn it. Not that this is really anything new for SPC teams, but the 2012-2013 Football Season could shape up as one of the wildest rides in recent history. The way I see it no less than 6 of the 8 teams could vie for the title and it could very well come down to which team best survives their "out-of-conference" schedules.
The reason Minooka and Oswego have fared well as programs for so long is because they do not shy away from playing a tough schedule. The problem, though, is that an 0-2 start could very well sink any one of these team's chances this season after the loss of multiple year starters to graduation. However, it should be pointed out that both these squads had very good sophomore teams last season and have the players who can step right in and contribute.
Still, if any of these two prohibitive favorites were to lose their first two contests (and it is very possible) then one of them will also start the season 0-3 because they meet each other immediately after those two out of conference games. Talk about pressure?
Minooka and Oswego aren't the only two teams who will be playing a tough out of conference schedule. As a matter of fact about the only one's who aren't is Plainfield Central and Oswego East. But of those two teams the only one who I think would most likely start out with a quick 2-0 record is Plainfield Central. Not only do they have an experienced and outstanding backfield duo - but they will also benefit from having played so many underclassmen last season.
Just a word of caution though - Plainfield Central lost out on making the IHSA Playoffs last season to Plainfield South because they did not accumulate enough opposition points from playing their early season "ducks." And they are playing them again. Oswego East, meanwhile, have a new head coach and it is really hard to tell where they will be after week two despite beating the same opposition a year ago.
As for the other three Plainfield football programs; East, North and South, as well as Romeoville - they will no doubt have something to say as to who will win this conference. Now, all three Plainfield teams had good sophomore programs, but late season injuries make it hard for me to determine exactly who was the deepest in terms of having the "step right in" players for this season. And so far as Romeoville goes, well, unfortunately I think that they will again be a team that struggles. Although that is not to say that they won't be competitive because I have a hunch that they will be.
The Favorites: Oswego & Minooka
Minooka will again face Morris and Providence Catholic in Weeks 1 & 2. Whereas their two opening losses last season could have been games they could have won (actually should have) - these two opponents will be much stronger this season. Minooka, has a new head coach in Paul Forsythe and they will be employing a new offensive scheme. Gone is Kalvin Hill, whose 8.8 yards per carry gave the Indians a chance to control the game clock and that is a big, big loss. I suspect QB Joe Carnagio will be looking to use a lot of short passes to Max Brozovich and Luke Stovall to open up the running lanes for Fullback Dan Colvin or Nathan Gunn.
I have no doubt that the Offensive Line will do the job with 6'-5" 270# Northwestern Recruit Blake King anchoring them this season. My biggest concern for the Indians, though, would have to be on the defensive side of the ball as that was an area of weakness last season. Minooka, though, have Mark Greer, a 6'-7" three sport athlete who could galvanize that defense into a good tight unit.
Oswego, meanwhile, is going bold this season. They too have a new head coach in Brian Cooney but he has decided to install Freshman QB Steven Frank as the heir apparent to SPC MVP Ryan West. Now this could very well work out, but there will be a lot of pressure on this young man as people haven't forgotten the feats of Ryan West or the fact that even he had to wait until his Sophomore year to take over as the QB. But what will work in Frank's favor is that he has some very talented teammates who already know what playing SPC Varsity Football is all about.
Brett Wainwright and Jack Kwiatkowski are probably two of the best set of hands in the SPC and they will be dangerous targets for Steven Frank. The Oswego Panthers also have game-breaker RB's in Mickeel Stewart and Tyler Walsh who will be taking his share of direct snaps. Also back as offensive threats are Elliott McGaughy and Jamaal Richardson.
Oh yeah - did I mention that Ryan West's kid brother, Sophomore Zach West will be driving opposing defenses nuts with his catching ability? The Offensive Line, meanwhile, will be returning three starters in Jordan Smith, John Malatia and Andy Salazar. But like Minooka, Oswego will have to have their Defensive unit playing at their best as I don't think teams will be overly generous in giving up big leads to the Panthers this season. On Defense the D Line returnees are Bryce Holm, Chad Burdo, Justin Best and the secondary will be patrolled by two-way player Jamaal Richardson. It will be up to these young men to assert themselves as leaders and if they do then this is a unit that could be one of the best in the conference. Although I believe that that distinction will ultimately go to the guys over at Plainfield South.
The real test for Oswego will be how well they fare against their two opening opponents, Geneva and Waubonsie Valley. As I said earlier, Oswego and Minooka could very well be behind the eightball going into Week Three if they do not come out strongly to start the season. An 0 & 3 Start could be a killer this season because the SPC will be much more competitive given all the coaching changes, player losses and the obvious pitfalls a tough schedule (at least for most) can have on a team.
Part 2 of this post will feature the Best of the Rest.
Tags: 2012-2013 Prep Football Season, Football, High School Football, Minooka H.S., Oswego East H.S., Oswego H.S., Plainfield Central H.S., Plainfield East H.S., Plainfield North H.S., Plainfield South H.S., Prep Football, Romeoville H.S., Southwest Prairie Conference