Prep Football: Southwest Prairie Conference Might Just Be A Wild Ride - Part 1

Prep Football: Southwest Prairie Conference Might Just Be A Wild Ride - Part 1
ESL QB Lamontiez Ivy Finds Tamaji Jackson In Flyers 41-0 Victory Over Oswego 2011 IHSA Playoffs

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.

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  • Michael my friend, good to see you back up and running again! I hear Plainfield North has 18-19 starters returning so I think you'd have to factor them into this equation too. Personally, I think Minooka and Plainfield North will be the top dogs but Oswego is always tough. We'll see how starting a freshman quarterback goes early on...gonna be tough with that schedule. I'm going to go out on a limb and say Minooka rights two wrongs from a year ago and beats both Morris and Providence to open the year. I think a little payback for Oswego will be in order too in Week 3. South and Central will be in the mix...and MAYBE Plainfield East will take a step forward. Oswego East? Not sure...but I won't be a believer until they can prove it on the field. Romeoville? Same deal as Oswego East...prove it. Here's how I see it:

    1. Minooka
    2. Plainfield North
    3. Oswego
    4. Plainfield South
    5. Plainfield Central
    6. Plainfield East
    7. Romeoville
    8. Oswego East

    Let's see how I do at the end of the year. I'll be at the Minooka-Morris game this Friday...I'm going with 28-13, Indians.

  • In reply to adamminooka:

    Hello my friend, yeah football is here time to post. By the way my kid (who is not playing this year because doc won't let him) and I will be at Minooka game Friday Night. We decided going to the "Brook" wasn't gonna yield a good night. Probably have to sit on Visitor side but maybe we can meet up anyhow - text number the same!

    Like your predictions - will see how they fare. I give Oswego the nod even with a Freshie because as my son tells me the feeder system at Oswego (from pre H.S. league up to H.S.) is such that the game book is the same. Great program! Just like Minooka....

    Pretty heady predictions but I wouldn't expect any less from a top Indian Fan. I'd like to agree with you (and actually hope you are right) but I am looking at a 1-1 start at best. Morris lost plenty of players but they too have a tradition of having hungry and ready players and from what I have heard this is another exceptional group. Providence will be tough too and this time you go there. Little different dynamic I think. But I am with you in spirit and hope you are right.

    I will post my second part of the preview after some more fact gathering. Worried about South's O-Line - could be a mess, but wow their defense will be top flight.

  • I have heard through the grapevine that the QB position at Morris is shakey at best. If Minooka holds onto the ball (which they didn't last year), I think they roll. Morris will NOT be able to run the ball up the middle against Minooka, I guarantee you that. I look at the Morris game this way...Minooka turns the ball over 6 times last year and loses by 6 points. Morris never scored on a drive that wasn't the direct result of a Minooka miscue and also never had a scoring drive of longer that 35-40 yards. Their offense didn't move the ball well at all. Now you have to give Morris all the credit in the world for taking advantage of the position they were in but realistically, if Minooka only has 3 turnovers, they probably win that game by 2-3 touchdowns.
    As for the Providence game, a friend of mine close to that program tells me they are going to struggle on offense. The QB situation there is tenuous at best and this is coming off a season where they struggled to put up points. Minooka lost to the Celtics 7-0 last season and that one TD came off of a fake punt. Again, give Providence credit for making it work but had it not, this game may still be going on because neither team could drive the ball inside the other's 30.
    My biggest issue with Minooka last year was that they were FAR, FAR too predictable on offense. The most frustrating part about it all was that it didn't have to be that way. They had, and still do have, a QB with a good arm and capable receivers. I have said it before and I'll say it again...the double-wing offense will not work against good 7A and 8A teams on a consistent basis unless you can figure out a way to keep the defense on their toes by throwing. This offense is designed to confuse defenses with misdirection, multiple handoffs, and quick hitters. In theory, it's great but when the defense just stacks the line and fills their gaps, it becomes ineffective and you have to go to the air to loosen things up, which Minooka has been VERY hesitant to do throughout the history of it's football program.
    If Minooka is going to ever be a serious state contender at the 7A or 8A level, they have to become more diverse on offense and be able to better defend the pass on the other side of the ball, which is another thing they have never really done all that well going back many, many years.
    I have hope that this may occur this season but as someone who has watched several coaches and systems come and go at Minooka, I'll believe it when I see it. To date, I'd still take the 2003 Minooka team over any other they've had, including the 4A semifinal team of 1996 and the quarterfinal teams from 6A in 2001 and 7A in 2010. That team was NASTY on both sides of the ball and just manhandled their opponents. No other team Minooka has had could match their physical play and sheer will to win.
    Here's to a great and safe season for everyone! I will be up top on the home side at Minooka Friday night looking forward to another Grundy County slugfest.

  • In reply to adamminooka:

    Very, very interesting my friend. Thanks for the inside poop.

    Yes those games last year should have been wins absolutely. No argument from me. But we must remember, mistakes are part of the game. I agree that Minooka (and Plainfield South for that matter) were just way too predictable. It is the nature of that offense though. Besides, I don't know about Minooka but here at South it seems players have been getting smaller. Hell we always seem to have a small O-Line except for like one guy and I see that almost everywhere in the SPC. Oswego and North seems to more consistently get a complete Big Line and that allows them to play smash-mouth.

    Yeah that 03 Indian Team was special no doubt - as was the Dergo years at Morris. That was always a good rivalry you know? Wish we had Morris back in SPC sometimes. Oh well.

    As for your predictions - I hope you are right. Minooka has stellar athletes that is for sure. Always have. I guess there is certain attitude too, but hey goofy things happen in any game and the best team doesn't always win either. As they say - execution! But you know me - I love that program over there and if it isn't us winning then I'm pulling for the Indians. So let's see what happens this year and hope for the best - especially that our kids stay healthy. My boy is out - doc says no more football, but hey he still has track and field.

  • As far as I have noticed (at Minooka anyway), size on the O-line is generally not an issue. I'm with you on wishing Morris was back in SPC....never happen though. They were still competing in football but their other sports were really taking a beating. Their enrollment has been under 1,000 for quite some time now and all of the SPC schools are 1,800+ and Minooka, Oswego, and Plainfield South and Central are all 2,500+.

    I'm with you on the whole execution ting in sports too. Maybe it's just me but it just drives me insane to see Varsity level athletes making bonehead mistakes. Sometimes a defender puts his helmet right on the ball and it pops loose...it happens. But bad handoffs, dropped passes, fumbles without a helmet on the ball, missed blocks, etc...are tough to swallow. That's one thing I always liked about Coach Briscoe and admired about the old Darlington teams at Morris...they executed and did all the little things right that make winning a more likely outcome. They weren't always the most talented teams but they were always competitive. because they were smart and executed.

    I see the same things on the baseball diamond when calling games in the Spring. It just kills me when I see players make stupid mistakes (mostly because it lengthens an already sometimes long game). I know in both sprts we are talking about 15-18 year old kids but sometimes the lack of focus really baffles me.

    This year's Minooka football team, on paper, has all the pieces to be REALLY good but games aren't won on paper, as we both know all to well. Sorry to hear your boy can't strap on the pads anymore but it sounds like it's for the best. The academics and track and field will still take him places. I have to agree that a trip to Bolingbrook Friday would probably not be too pleasant for the two of you...the Raiders look stacked again. Hope to see you Friday at Minooka!

  • In reply to adamminooka:

    For sure - we'll see so long as my back doesn't act up. We should finally meet face to face anyhow. My kid isn't too broke up as Discus Throwing is really his passion anyhow, but he was a three-year player and not finishing out, well that has gotta have a little bite. Plus he probably would have been in at LG and the O-Line is the problem area from what I have heard from the players. But I'll be honest too, a few players walked away too and there seems to be some "confusion." Read Part II.

    As for your observations - yes, yes, yes to all of it. See ya.

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