The Southwest Prairie Conference (SPC) enters its sixth week with a number of teams in danger of being eliminated from IHSA State Playoff consideration. To say that the conference has been something of a disappointment for me cannot be understated. I really thought some teams would be better than what they have shown, but I do want to preface that. No SPC team has has gone out on the field without the desire to win their games or failed to put their best efforts forward.
So please - give them all a big hand!
Unfortunately the SPC has some weaker teams for whatever reason. But I suspect much has to do with getting enough kids to come out to play football seeing how some show up with what I consider "short squads." Most, of course, would argue that that isn't as important in high school football because coaches tend to put their best athletes out on the field regardless of how many players they happen to have on the roster. And that certainly is true in the SPC where two-way players abound.
However, I have never been much of a fan of that for a variety of reasons with the first and foremost being the risk of injury to a key player. Second, and equally as important, is that that philosphy does not foster good team morale on teams that can field a player at each position. I mean no one wants to be used as a punching-bag all week at practice and then not get into a game right? But there is another reason too. Far too many teams play a "quick-strike spread offense" and as a result have seen too many two-way players get fatigued by games-end with little left in their tanks. Especially if they are playing a team that favors running the ball in order to grind down the game-clock.
Of course that gets me to the "Big Game of the Week." The Minooka Indians (2-3, 2-1) will be at the Plainfield South Cougars (2-3, 1-2) and most years this would be the "Battle Royale on Ridge Road," but these are two teams headed in opposite directions this season. Minooka opened the season 0-2 after losing to Morris and Providence Catholic. Both opponents have combined thus far to establish 9-1 record, so these are two really good programs. But Minooka tried to employ a new spread offense and that had some negative effects, especially versus Morris (a 14-6 loss). They stuck with the spread and wound up losing big in their conference opener against conference co-favorites, the Oswego Panthers (4-1, 3-0) 42-0.
Week Four, however, brought a change as the Indians reverted back to their "Double-Wing" against the then undefeated Plainfield Central Wildcats (3-2, 1-2) and soundly defeated them 45-14. Now, I did say at the time that Plainfield Central had yet to prove that their undefeated start wasn't a fluke given their light schedule up until that point and I was right as they not only lost to Minooka but took a 28-7 defeat versus Plainfield North (4-1, 3-0) the following week. Minooka, meanwhile, hit the road and defeated the Plainfield East Bengals (1-4, 1-2) with a solid 29-6 victory. Minooka has found their groove again and will be looking to ruin the Cougars Homecoming this week.
The Plainfield South Cougars, meanwhile, will be looking to win their second straight after defeating the Romeoville Spartans in a much closer than expected 35-34 OT victory last week. But I don't know folks - this is a team that has not played up to its capabilities. Even though the Cougars lost many to graduation, this was a team that not only had a good number of kids coming up from a Sophomore squad that was accustomed to winning, but they were were absolutely loaded with skills players. Sr. QB Ricky Luna was more than ready to lead a team with Sr. RB's Sr. John Kosirog, Jr. Joshua Harris, Sr. Devonte Taylor, WB/WR's Sr. Jason Ochoa, Jr. Mike Valentine and Sr. Tyler Butler leading the way with a complement of younger talent to boot. The Offensive Line, though, took longer to gel as a unit and have given up too many penalties and not protecting their QB in key situations.
Although Plainfield South lost their opening game to the State Champion Bolingbrook Raiders, they not only played a spirited first half but kept their potent offense at bay for a narrow lead going into halftime. Bolingbrook, though, is Bolingbrook and losing to them wasn't all that unexpected. What was unexpected was a contest where one score was matched by the other as the Cougars narrowly survived with a 31-27 home victory over the Joliet West Tigers (2-3). The following week versus the Plainfield North Tigers, though figured to be an either or kind of game becuase both have played each other tough over the years. But North definitely likes their Home field Advantage in this series and were able to take a 35-19 victory after South could not overcome mistakes and penalties when momentum had swung their way.
Still, Plainfield North earned their victory and you can't take anything away from the SPC co-favorite. The following week, however, brought a new low to the Cougars as they dropped a 32-27 decision to the Oswego East Wolves (3-2, 2-1). The new low being that the Varsity Program not only had a winning record versus the Wolves since these kids were freshman, but this was a game that they should have won hands down. The Wolves will be better under new Head Coach Tyson LeBlanc - but this ain't the year folks! The fact that QB Ricky Luna had a last chance opportunity from the 2 yard line after the Wolves were flagged with no time left on the clock made this loss particularly painful because Luna was sacked by a Wolves defense showing a three man line. But again, the O-Line has had a hard time protecting the kid in key situations and this play just highlighted that.
The following week saw the Cougars rebound with an overtime victory at Romeoville, but did so with many players too injured to play and QB Ricky Luna curiously absent as Kody Voda led the offense for his first varsity start. Although Voda played a good game, he did miss some passes that probably could have been converted, especially before the OT session. If there was a bright spot, though, this game belonged to RB Jonathan Kosirog as he racked-up a career high 34 carries and 261 yards rushing along with his three TD's. But none of the TD's were bigger than his OT scamper after Romeoville took the lead and missed their PAT after an unsportsmanlike penalty moved their kicker back too far to convert. Luckily, Cougar K Matt Imburgia is about as automatic as it comes as he nailed the winning kick for a 35-34 victory.
Plainfield South, though, played another sloppy game against an opponent that should have been one of the easier ones on their schedule and that concerns me. Five fumbles, even though they recovered four, isn't exactly giving me a jolt of confidence as the team continues to play erratically. The way I see it, after four weeks the coaching staff should have these sort of problems straightened out, so I don't know what is going on anymore. And what is going on with the defense? That was supposed to be the one major strength for the Cougars, but they too have had their problems stopping the run all season. Romeoville's Caleb Bailey peeled-off 126 yards on 8 carries including TD Runs of 57 and 55 yards.
Still the Cougars could have won this game long before OT. And don't even get me going on the officiating when they allowed Romeoville three cracks at a 2-Point conversion to tie the game at 28. The first penalty, an off-sides, was legitimate but the call against Terrance Russell for a pass-interference was really pitiful as he cleanly knocked the ball away from Miguel Ford. But hey, had the defense not put themselves into that position with the off-sides, the point is mute.
Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes!
I don't know folks, but I bleed Cougar Blue and cannot get over what has kept this team from performing up to its talent level and now they must play a team that not only has had a good pocket-passing QB emerge in Shane Briscoe (yes that would be former Cougar Head Coach Mike Briscoe's son) but RB's Nathan Gunn, Cory Bee and WB/WR Maxwell "the Hammer" Brozovich have taken to the Double-Wing like mountain folks take to "Mountain Dew," because they are just scorching teams like White Lightning right now!
I don't know but it sure seems as if this is the worst possible time for the Cougars to be meeting their biggest rivals. Not only are the the Indians brimming with confidence but that double-wing might just carve up the Cougar Defense. I just hope that the Plainfield South Coaching Staff gives the kids a chance to win with a game plan that neutralizes the Indians attack while scrapping that antiquated Cover Defense. Against Minooka You Mist Plug The Holes!
If not, this will be a lousy Homecoming.
I hate to say it but Minooka rates the edge here.
As for the other conference games:
Oswego will beat Plainfield East, but I think the Bengals will give them a run.
Oswego East could defeat Plainfield Central only if they shut down the Wildcat Run. An upset special?
Plainfield North will demolish Romeoville. The only question is how many yards will Jay Roberts rack up?
Note: I would have said Jay Roberts and Trenton Cavin racking up the yards, but I hear Cavin is injured - hope you get better real fast Trent!
Tags: Cory Bee, Davonte Taylor, Football, High School Football, High School Sports, IHSA, IHSA Football, Jason Ochoa, Jay Roberts, John Kosirog, Joshua Harris, Matt Imburgia, Maxwell Brozovitch, Mike Livingstone, Minooka Indians, Minooka vs. Plainfield South, Nathan Gunn, Oswego East Wolves, Oswego Panthers, Plainfield Central Wildcats, Plainfield East Bengals, Plainfield North Tigers, Plainfield South Cougars, Ricky Luna, Romeoville Spartans, Shane Briscoe, Southwest Prairie Conference, SPC, Sports, Trenton Cavin, Tyler Butler