Prep Football: Southwest Prairie Conference Might Just Be A Wild Ride - Part 2

Prep Football: Southwest Prairie Conference Might Just Be A Wild Ride - Part 2

The Best of The Rest

The Best of The Rest in the Southwest Prairie Conference will not only be competitive, but almost any of them could snatch the top spot under the right conditions. All four of these Plainfield High School programs will be good - with the only question being - exactly how good? You know I have often wondered what it would be like if Plainfield had just one or two squads instead of four. There is so much talent in the district that it is almost a shame that it has to be the way it is.

Oh well time to stop dreaming as we must deal with what we have - right?

The Plainfield North Tigers and/or Plainfield South Cougars will probably be right there at the end. North, though, has the most starters returning between the two and that will be a big advantage. Coach Tim Kane and his Offensive Coordinator John Darlington have a special gift when it comes to motivating players. As such, I believe that Plainfield North will be a dangerous team again in 2012-2013.

Plainfield North

Kurt Palandech QB/DB will again lead the Tigers and could very well emerge as the best QB in the conference. It also doesn't hurt that Palendech has a top-notch RB like Jay Roberts who will probably surpass his 1,100 yards rushing from a year ago because he will have 215# FB Ben Meyers softening up opposing defenses. But aside from having good rushers and an athletic QB, the Tigers have the big Offensive Line that is crucial to any good running game. So just imagine what 6'6" 270# Kiefer Ketelhut and Zach Yost 300# at opposing Tackles with Nick Bergstrom and Dillon Rogers in the middle are going to look like to opposing teams. This is a heck of a line! Of course besides the starters they also have Ricky Johnson and Blake Glynn in the mix too, so when you think of a dominating O-Line - this could be one of the best in the conference.

Palandech will also have plenty of targets in addition to Roberts coming out to snare those short passes he turns into gainers. There is Brock Thomas, Matt Welch, Jake Vojslavek, Corey Johnson and Kendall Interial who are all very capable athletes and will test defenses all season with their speed and catching abilities. Now, another athlete whom I thought would be on the offense is Trent Cavin but it appears that he will be part of a dynamic Linebacker corp that consists of All-Conference Brett Fox and Collin Cassady. The secondary will be anchored by Kurt Palandech and Collin Holt - and they will contest every errant pass coming their way.

Plainfield North, like Minooka and Oswego, may have the same early season problem though. An out of conference schedule that is tough! They will open at Bradley-Boubonnais (whom they beat last season but will be better) and then face what I think will be a much improved Lockport Porter squad. My thinking is that they come out of this no worse that 1-1 and if that is the case - then that would be a good start. North not only has a great chance to improve over last season's disappointing 4-5 season, but will likely do so.

Plainfield South

What can I say about  "my home team?" The Plainfield South Cougars were able to beat the odds last season and qualified for the IHSA State Playoffs after a series of ups and downs. Their Homecoming defeat at the hands of district rival Plainfield Central could have been disastrous - yet this team did not fold. They rallied around each other and made the playoffs before losing to Lincoln-Way East. But they didn't go quietly, they put the Griffins back onto their heels and gave them a heck of a scare before they realized that it would take their best to avoid a First Round upset. Yes, Coach Ken Bublitz had a tough first year. But that is in the past as his first season at the helm is under his belt and with a measure of success. And that could very well translate into a good 2012-2013 season.

Plainfield South's strength this season will be a top-flight defensive unit. And in the grand scheme of things that may just be enough to propel them to a third straight state playoff appearance. Defense does win games, but hey let's not kid ourselves either - it doesn't hurt to put some points up either. And the Cougars have plenty of offensive tools to accomplish exactly that. If there is one weakness on this team, though, it will on an Offensive Line which lost players to graduation as well as a probable starting guard to a football ending injury. That, of course is no excuse because the good programs will make adjustments and as I see it Plainfield South is one. Besides, one of the greatest strengths of this South team is that these kids not only know each other - but they trust each other.

Since the Defense is where I think the biggest strength lies, we'll start there. The Cougars have perhaps the four hardest hitters of the SPC in D1 Prospect Clifton Garrett, Angelo Cervantes, Tito Torres and Sean McGrail. But it just doesn't end there - there is also Brandon Reyes, Nick Marks, Nick Cutro, Matt Vidican, Sean Dermody, Jashawn Franklin, Louis Palao and Mason Matsevic who will all be contributing. Anchoring the secondary is Tyler Butler and Joey Ruske while Terrance Russell, Mike Nowak, Nico Pickering and Sheldon Allen are in the mix at cornerback. This group could very well be the best defensive unit in the SPC this season if they stay healthy and play up to their capabilities.

FYI I: Keep your eyes on Sean McGrail - he is one of those special players that football coaches just love to have, especially when making those explosive hits.

Offensively, QB Ricky Luna finally gets his chance to lead the offense. And believe me when I say he deserves this. Luna not only has great vision and a smooth release but is tough as nails. He is capable of being one of the top QB's in the conference if the O-Line gives him the time to execute the game plan. The offensive scheme is such, though that you will also see Kody Voda taking snaps even though he will be primarily be used as a receiver this season. He has good natural passing skills and can scramble on defenses when it gets too hot. The Cougars could also use Tyler Butler at QB in certain situations even though he will be the leader at Safety.

FYI II: The strongest and most accurate arm on that team belongs to Tyler Butler who split time at QB with Ricky Luna during their Sophomore year.

Now South is more fortunate than many teams because they can use three quality weapons at QB if they want to.Will they - not sure. But let's not forget about the bread and butter okay? The Cougars have RB John Kosirog and speedsters - Josh Harris, Jason Ochoa and newcomer Mike Valentine coming out of the backfield. This is a potent foursome! Few people will ever forget the on-field sonic booms that Dondre Adams once used to provide Cougar fans, but Josh Harris, Jason Ochoa and newcomer Mike Valentine will be providing some of their own  explosions from the line of scrimmage. Those three kids are quick once they get through the hole while Kosirog will probably just run people over as he picks up a head of steam. In addition to what I like to call the Big 4 - there is Davonte Taylor, Donny Oswald, Tyler Smith, Brandon Johnson, Patryk Stafinski and Anthony Woods that will be contributing to the excitement too. Oh yeah before I forget here- if the Cougars get within 35-40 yards of the end-zone they also have K Matt Imburgia who is more than capable of hitting from that distance consistently. All in all, South has a lot of Offensive Weapons!

Still I hate to belabor the point, much of South's success rests with the development of the O-Line. But, this is a committed group and am sure they will gel. In a surprise move, Sophomore Nathan Karas might just wind up as a three-year starter at Center after apparently beating out last year's regular, Thomas Thompson. Thompson, though, will still handle the long-snapping duties as he is considered the best long-snapper in this conference. Jacob Hall and Alex McClelland appear safe as starters while David Oyewo, Craig Krueger and Joe Miggins will be battling it out for the other starting positions. In another surprise move - All-Conference Guard Nick Cutro was moved from the O-Line to Defense. I'll be hinest here, I don't understand this move at all,  especially after Coach Bublitz was quoted by Herald News' Dick Goss as saying that the O-Line was "experience mixed with inexperience." Well? In my opinion, that is a move that could come back and bite them.

Oh well, what are you gonna do? But I have about seen it all in my lifetime and if there is one constant - some moves work and some don't. In the end football is a game where execution will determine who wins more times than not. I have played against championship teams we were supposed to lose to and wound up winning and on also experience the flip side to that. Teams have a way of figuring out what they need to do and have no doubt that the Cougars will too. It is a team with many natural athletes and as such can be put all over the field. My only concern is how long it takes for all the pieces to gel into that cohesive unit they can be?

Plainfield South will probably start the season at 1-1 with games at Bolingbrook and home versus Joliet West. Aaron Bailey and the Brook will be out to show why they are state champs and as good as South can be this season, I think they won't win that game. At least not in the opening game of the season. They should defeat Joliet West, though. One thing though - South cannot take West for granted. As the team found out last year, they are very athletic and a second early season loss could derail their chances for a third consecutive playoff appearance. Still - don't count Plainfield South out this season!

Plainfield Central

Coach John Jackson has to like his chances this season. Plainfield Central will open up against two teams they not only defeated last season, but went a combined 4-14 to boot. And quite frankly, I don't see Chicago Amundsen or St. Charles North being all that much better this season. As I see it, Plainfield Central should start the 2012-2013 Season with a 2-0 record. And in Week Three they will be looking to avenge a bitter 49-46 season-ending loss (and their missed playoff opportunity) versus Romeoville. This time, though, they will be playing at home and if a 3-0 start is in the cards it could just provide the Wildcats with enough of an opportunity to control their own destiny this season. Of course, the Wildcats would then meet Minooka and Plainfield North the following two weeks, but hey a split there could put them at 4-1 before traveling going to Oswego East in a game they should win. So you see a 5-1 start is very, very possible here - but can they do it? We'll just have to wait and see right?

FYI: WR Duvaun Goodlow, the kid whose 2 TDs knocked the Wildcats out of the playoffs last season has transferred to Plainfield Central.

QB Tim Blake is gone and in his place will be last season's backup, Brian Blair. Blair may not possess the same arm strength as Blake, but he has three veteran backfield starters returning from last season. The duo of FB Tyler Erdman and All-Conference RB Jordan Ellingwood could be the best 1-2 punch in the conference. In addition to those two players they also have another All-Conference two-way player in Gino Giarratano coming out of the backfield. Brian Blair should have no problems dumping off short passes to any one of these three players and letting them do the rest. And considering that the Wildcats are typically a team that eats up the clock that will take some of the pressure off their QB. At least for this season. Other offensive players who will be in the mix are: A.J. Apiquian, Dom Sterr and Eric Rech. When Blair does throw, though he has Duvaun Goodlow, Derek Bernasik and Dane Moscatelli - although I believe that Goodlow is the only real deep threat here.

Plainfield Central's O-Line is not going to be one of the best ones in the conference but if they execute, they could be more than capable. Returning starters include T Joe Fisher and C Kyle Mitchell. Others hoping to land starting positions are Nick Gregorash, Nick Yusko, Alex Julian, Matt Houghton and Greg Cybulski at 6'-6" 280#. The D-Line will be anchored by 6'-2" 320# Nose Tackle Bryce Douglas. By the way, Douglas has committed to Illinois) and complimented by Tyler Erdman, Jordan  Ellingwood, Brian Hernandez and Tyler Shank. The reserves will likely be Peter Rokush and Marc Almaguer. The Linebacker corp consist of A.J. Apiquian, Matt Wurster and Gino Giarratano. The secondary will see Mike Leffler at Safety along with Akwasi Aikens while Ryan Rodriguez and Derek Bernasik will handle the Corners.

Coach Jackson will be employing the "best athletes on the field" game plan that so many high school coaches use. Although I am not a big fan of that because one or two key injuries could result in a lost season, I can't really knock it either. Not only does it seem to work for many coaches, but it is often a necessity for some programs. In the final analysis, the Wildcats could be in a very good position this season if they can achieve those early victories.

Plainfield East

The Plainfield East Bengals under Coach Mike Romeli were definitely heading in the right direction last season, but they have been hit pretty hard by graduating players. Whether or not they will be able to emerge with enough victories for their first playoff spot is difficult to tell. But the players believe in Coach Romeli and he has instilled something very special at East. We should not forget, though, that Plainfield East was the last school built in the district and has had to endure those early growing pains. But Romeli has had a plan and players have executed it in a manner that has this team on the rise. They will be more than worth watching in 2012-2013.

Even though the Bengals are only returning 11 players from last season, the glue of this team will be three year starter Tyler Lancaster. Lancaster is also a 6'-3" 275# Center that has been rated as a three-star lineman by both Rivals.com and Scout.com.. By the way, Lancaster has committed to Northwestern. This is a very special player for East and the SPC. As a matter of fact  Lancaster will be joining Minooka's Blake King at Northwestern in 2013.

In addition to Lancaster the O-Line will feature Shaquille Perez, Kevin Ramirez and Stephen Franklin. All four will also be playing the D-Line as two-way players. It won't be easy - but this isn't anything new to Plainfield East either. Coach Mike Romeli has a real knack at getting the best out of his two-way players and then builds a solid squad around them.

Offensively, there is no doubt that Plainfield East has taken a big hit. QB Robert Zamora, RB's Myles Walters and Shekeal Taylor and WR Jawan Straughter are all gone. So there will be plenty of pressure on those who will be stepping into their cleats. But the core of Brennen Rompa and Aris Irizarry along with the likes of Adrian Simbulan, Joey Anderson and Sterling Gladney could surprise many teams. Also, Brennen Rompa's younger brother Cullen will abe in the backfield. If memory serves me right the QB job will probably be split between Jake Kotopka and Jr. Jordan Blackman. So all in all, this is a pretty darn good group. And let's not forget something very important here - this is a team that is unafraid to stun opponents with trick plays at anytime, in any game. Romeli can be a risk taker with such plays, but wow have they paid off in the past.

Of all the Plainfield Schools, though, East has the most rebuilding to do. But as I said earlier, Coach Romeli has a knack and his players believe in him and his methods. They will be good and they will be competitive. I am sure of that although probably not a legitimate contender for the conference crown this season. Their two opening games versus Metea Valley and Batavia will go a long way in telling us exactly waht sort of team they have and where they may end up. Bear in mind, though, the first two games are on the road and that makes it just that much harder at the start of a new season. They could either go 1-1 or 0-2 - but here is the bad news. The Bengals conference games after that have them playing at Plainfield North, and then Minooka and Oswego at home. That is one tough start!

The Bottom Two? Too Hard To Tell.

The Romeoville Spartans and Oswego East Wolves do not appear to be contenders for 2012-2013 Season based on their last three years of performance. However, I do not believe for a second that these teams lack the talent or the desire to succeed towards that goal. But these are two teams definitely in need of some re-energizing. Especially after both lost so many players to graduation. Oswego East also brought in a new Head Coach to change the culture there and I expect them to begin showing progress quickly.

So as it stands right now this is what I do know: Both teams have very good and dedicated coaches who will get their players prepared and competitive. But at the same token, I am behind the eight-ball too. I currently lack sufficient information to make a fair and objective preview of these two teams. I apologize for that. I will, however, be taking a much harder look at both programs as the season begins and will report back later.

In the meantime - I must defer to past performance, observation and the conference schedules.

These are probably the bottom two teams this season.

Hopefully it will not be long before the Southwest Prairie Conference have parity from top-to-bottom.

Let the season begin!

Comments

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  • I see a heap of trouble for any team employing a lot of 2 way players. I can see a lineman or two if you have to but when you start asking your skill position players to go both ways and in some cases, play special teams too, I think you're just asking for trouble. It may work in the smaller classes but not in 6A, 7A, and 8A. The good teams at those levels have too much depth and teams that employ the 2 way players simply wear down and there's really no way to prevent it from happening.
    The preview article for Romeoville in the Herald news suggested that Coach Kuna will be using several 2 way players at Romeoville. Add that to an already suspect team and I think it has disaster written all over it. I don't see this team being able to improve on their 3-6 mark from a year ago and 3 wins may be a stretch...we'll see.
    The one team in the SPC that I can't figure out is Plainfield Central. Here you have a team that beats South last year, battles conference champion Oswego late into the game but gets smoked by Minooka (by 32 points) and with the playoffs on the line somehow loses to a bad Romeoville team with the playoffs in their own hands. Certainly Coach Jackson has some talent but if, as you say he is, he is planning on utilizing a lot of guys on both sides of the ball, I see trouble. You have to assume they should be 2-0 going into conference play but I don't see them beating Minooka, Oswego, or Plainfield North and I think South will be tough for them as well. Plus I'm sure South will have revenge on their minds. So even if they beat Oswego East, Romeoville, and Plainfield East (which are not guarantees), this would likely put them at 5-4 and on the outside looking in again because of a lack of playoff points. 6-3 is possible but it won't be easy.
    The other team I'm a little curious about are your Cougars. I'm sure they will have good athletes and speed but beyond that I just don't know. You seem to think their defense will be their strength so I'll go with that unless they show otherwise. It'll be interesting to see how this strength holds up against a potent Bolingbrook attack. The key there will limiting the big plays. You won't stop the Raiders altogether but if you can eliminate or limit the big plays, you can keep yourself in the game. I'm thinking this team goes 5-4, maybe 6-3, and makes the playoffs. After that, anything is possible.
    I still see Plainfield East as a 5 loss team even in a best case scenario. And overall, I don't think they'll beat Batavia but Matea valley is winnable and they should be able to handle Romeoville and Oswego East. So that puts them at 3-6. I do think they'll pull a surprise against either South or Central but not both, which would puth them at 4-5 overall and 3-4 in the league.
    I'll admit that I don't know a ton about Oswego East. I do know that a 2-0 start is a distinct possibility with their non-con schedule but it will be really tough after that. I don't see the Wolves being able to win more than 2 league games at best and honestly, I don't think they'll even do that. Hopefully, a new coach will breathe some much-needed life into their program. I saw this team once last year (at home against Minooka) and you could just tell this group was beaten before kickoff.
    I guess my overall thoughts are that Minooka, North, and Oswego will all survive tough non-conference slates and make the playoffs with records ranging anywhere from 6-3 to maybe one of them being able to run the table at 9-0, maybe 8-1, if things fall into place and the injury bug is avoided. South will likely throw a monkey wrench into things somewhere along the line and Central could do the same if their better players can hold up. Either one of these two teams could end up being anywhere from a 2 loss to a 4 or 5 loss team.South and Central's margin for error is less, I feel, than Minooka's, North's, and Oswego's so they'll have to limit the mistakes and execute in order to keep pace.
    I see the records shaking out this way (I'll give a range):

    Minooka, North, and Oswego: All have an outside shot at a 9-0 season. I don't see any of these teams going any worse than 6-3 and that's if they have several things go wrong or get bit by injuries. More than likely, they'll wind up somewhere in between. I'll predict 7-2 for all three as a strating point but won't be surprised if one steps up and gets to 8 or 9 wins.

    P'field South and Central: I see a couple of teams here in the 5-4 to 6-3 range. I still think there are too many questions in both camps for either to win a conference title but they certainly will have a say in who does ultimately win it. It is possible that one or both of these squads could make the playoffs and in that regard, I would give the edge to South. 5-4 will NOT get Central in because of their weak non-con schedule so they will need to beat South or one of the top three league teams (Minooka, North, Oswego) and avoid being upset by P'field East (a potential problem in my opinion), R'ville (see last year's 49-46 shocker), or Oswego East.

    Plainfield East: Maybe 4-5, but 3-6 more likely. Just not sure this is the
    year they take the leap...have to wait and see. Good talent, need more experience and time to build a tradition of winning. No playoffs, but a potential spoiler for someone. Keep an eye on this group.

    Romeoville and Oswego East: 3-6 best-case scenario but likely a struggle to get to that plateau. More talent and a winning attitude/tradition are needed in order to compete week in and out in the SPC. No playoffs for either.

    The league is getting better overall but there is still the haves, the have-nots, and the in-betweens that could go either way depending on a couple variables. I too am looking forward to a time when every game, week in and week out is a slugfest in the SPC. I'm not sure when or if it will ever happen but at least the bottom teams are moving in the right direction, or at least that is how it appears. We'll see...should be a fun season!

  • In reply to adamminooka:

    Very Nice evaluation Adam. Tend to agree with you although you know me, I like looking at it from a devils advocate side. As we know the best team doesn't always win - ergo your biggest beef - execution and lack of concentration. We forget sometimes that these are teenagers playing a game after long school days, in many cases tons of homework after practice is over. Last year, my kid was a walking zombie on some days. Of course then there are the bus rides, growing pains and young love. Lots and lots of factors for these student athletes so it isn't always easy.

    Minooka should be no worse than 6-3 in any scenario but yes could definitely run the table with absolute best - but I don't think that happens just because there is always "that surprise game." Realistically I see Mka, Osw, PN 6-3 / 7-2; PS 5-4 and on the bubble depending on class assignment same with PC; PE and their 2-way player necessity probably 4-5 / 5-4, OE and RMV 2-7 / 3-6 so I think we are close in our predictions.

    Here are some factors that will enter at some point though - team health - how quickly or how slowly teams have adapted to new systems or coaching changes - team morale and/or dissension.

    The two-way player issue - yes a big big problem because fatigue and creep eventually diminishes players abilities as the season progresses - but in PE's case I think Romeli must do this although that sophomore team last year was good. Of course PE, OE and RMV just doesn't seem to get a huge turnout to stock all the team levels from what I have seen and heard. Reminds me of my playing days in CPS. Hell we were lucky some years if we could field a team let alone worry about talent.

    Coach Jackson, well he uses the best player on the field philosophy and has his share of two-way players too. They did however promote a lot of underclassmen last season and they got some good playing time and that could help them this year. Still he will live ir die with his 4 main players this year again. Hopefully there won't be that last game upset like last year because they definitely need 6 wins to make playoffs.

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