I have never questioned the "heart and soul" of the Plainfield South Cougars (3-3, 2-2) as I have known nearly each and every player on their Varsity Squad. They are not only a talented bunch, but a group that can get as feisty as the next when their backs are up against the wall. And like their mascot, they will claw and scratch their way until the final whistle to get a favorable result.
However, I will admit that I had some questions before their Homecoming Game against the Minooka Indians (2-4, 2-2). The Indians, who had started their season 0-3, had managed to battle back after abandoning a new offensive scheme that wasn't working in favor of a new QB in Jr. Shane Briscoe and the return to a tried and true effective Double-Wing Offense. The Indians were clicking on all cylinders going into Week Six and I thought that that did not bode well for the Cougars.
Although the Cougars had played well in parts of every single game, their play was still erratic and uneven. They also had a habit of drawing some bad penalties at the worst possible of times. In short, they just hadn't put together the "complete performance" they were capable of. Now I didn't think that this was entirely the players fault as I speculated that the coaching staff had not always put the team into the best possible position to win. I mean it really isn't all that hard for opposing teams to find cracks in predictable game plans and/or ineffective cover defenses. Eventually they just take advantage of them.
So naturally I was more than a little bit concerned as these two teams were getting ready to renew their Ridge Road Rivalry last Friday Night. But not only were the Cougars prepared to reclaim the Ridge Road "Plaque" they had ceded a year before in a 23-7 loss, but they had made the necessary adjustments to keep Minooka on their heels all night long. And whenever it appeared that Minooka would pull another one of their patented "rabbits out of their hat" big plays or win the game on a last second drive - the Plainfield South Defense would come up with even bigger plays and/or forcing the Indians into making uncharacteristic mistakes.
Joshua Harris and Tyler Butler both made gallant stands as the last men back with key interceptions to end scoring threats at the end of the 1st Half and again at the end of the game while Brandon Reyes also made a big stop when he batted down a Joe Carnagio pass just moments before the game-ending pick-off that was headed towards a wide-open receiver in the flat. But it was also much, much more than just the big plays too. Joshua Harris, Tyler Butler, Brandon Reyes, Angelo Cervantes, Mason Matesevic, Clifton Garrett and Tito Torres also made the crucial stops whenever they needed to stall Minooka's offense throughout the game.
Offensively, Plainfield South QB Ricky Luna was back in as the starter and came up with yet another big game performance as he led his team down-field on their first possession for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. The TD, a 5-yard scamper by Clifton Garrett lit up the home crowd but Minooka would eventually tie the score with 7 minutes to go in the 2nd Quarter as Maxwell "the Hammer" Brozovich took it in to tie the contest at 7-7. On Minooka's next possession, RB Nathan Gunn was able to rack up some nice yardage to get the Indians down to the 5-yard line but the drive stalled. After QB Joe Carnagio was sacked he threw the first of his two interceptions into the arms of Tyler Butler who stepped in-between Carnagio and Brozovich in the end zone. In the 2nd Half after another Minooka drive would stall, they managed to take the lead at 10-7 when Jacob Stytz split the uprights from 41-yards out with 3 minutes remaining in the 3rd. That would end the scoring for Minooka even though Maxwell Brozovich peeled-off what looked like a 61-yard TD run in the 4th Quarter, but that one was negated by an offensive holding penalty.
Plainfield South, meanwhile, had had their opportunities too but didn't take the lead until Jonathan "Terror Squad" Kosirog took it into the House from 6-yards out for what proved to be the game-winner after QB Ricky Luna engineered another sustained drive half-way through the 4th Quarter for the Cougars and a 14-10 lead. Kosirog, who has been on a tear of late had another impressive game as did teammate, and two-way player, Joshua Harris. There were others contributing as well this night, but Luna, Kosirog and Harris were able to peel-off the big yards when they were needed the most. And while most would agree that QB Ricky Luna is "heart of this team," Jonathan Kosirog and Joshua Harris give this team the offensive spark to bring everyone else up another notch or two. And while we are at it with the praise, the Cougars can't accomplish great things without an Offensive Line that is clicking and they certainly did that on Friday Night. I can honestly say that that game was the best they have played all season and it couldn't have come at a better time.
As such, I am more than pleased with the result and hope that that game will give them the added spark to defeat Plainfield Central on Saturday because it will take another performance like the one they had versus Minooka to do that. Not only must the Cougar defense stop the Wildcat running game but the offensive line must open the holes long enough for Ricky Luna, Jonathan Kosirog and Joshua Harris to get through them and not take any unnecessary flags. That game is more than winnable!
All in all, what Plainfield South displayed this past Friday Night is nothing short of what I expected from them all season. They are a multi-talented squad with the heart of a Pride! As in Cougar Pride and I am proud of each and everyone of them. However, they still have some more work to do and none bigger than their Saturday game versus Plainfield Central.
As for the Minooka Indians, well I am still utterly flabbergasted as to why they reverted back to a game plan that simply hasn't worked all season and I have to wonder what this game would have looked like had Minooka gone with Shane Briscoe's hot hand at QB. After all, all he did was ignite an anemic offense to a 74 point outburst the previous two games after the team managed a paltry 16 points in their first three losses. And if that is not enough to get the start over at Minooka, well, that's a shame. Besides, it isn't as if the coaching staff couldn't figure out a place where to best utilize the talents of Joe Carnagio and still be effective. I mean I could just envision seeing Joe Carnagio and Maxwell Brozovich playing as Wingbacks, Nathan Gunn and Cory Bee in the backfield and then having Luke Stovall criss-crossing the field creating all sorts of havoc for opposing defenses, you know?
And please don't get me wrong here because I think the world of Joe Carnagio and I believe he is one of the best all-around athletes in the conference. Still, the facts are what they are - opposing teams know that when Carnagio is in at QB that he will run the ball more times than he will throw it and that gives defenses a leg up to stop him or to force him into making bad passes. Sadly, that is exactly what people will remember about this game. Two crucial interceptions - the first to Tyler Butler ending a 1st Half scoring threat and then the other to Joshua Harris who was waiting in the end zone with his "arms wide-open" to end the game. And I am positive that that one will probably bug Carnagio the most as it not only ended another scoring threat but the one that should have won the game for his team.
But win or lose, Joe Carnagio will always be a winner in my book.
But I also have to believe that he and his teammates haven't been put into the best position to win this season with that "new offense." And if Minooka is to salvage their football season then they will have to consider making a very tough call by either replacing their Senior QB with the hot-handed Shane Briscoe or giving Carnagio a different scheme that will open up their offense. As I said earlier, there are plenty of ways to use Joe Carnagio for the Indians to win games - so I guess the only question left for this week is if they will do so or not? Because another loss will eliminate Minooka from the IHSA State Playoffs.
And I think that that would be a real shame for the entire conference.
Week Seven SPC Games:
Plainfield North at Oswego:
This game can go either way as it pits the two best teams in the Southwest Prairie Conference. Both are 5-1 and own a 4-0 SPC record so the winner will no doubt be taking the Conference Championship here. Plainfield North will be without RB Trenton Cavin and while RB Jay Roberts has been bearing most of the load out of the backfield, the loss of Cavin will be felt none the less. Oswego, meanwhile, will have a full house and that always helps in big games. But as I have said from the onset, the Oswego Panthers are the team to beat this year so the Plainfield North Tigers will need to be at their absolute best to win this one.
Prediction: Oswego 42 Plainfield North 38
Plainfield East at Romeoville:
Regrettably this game is at the opposite end of the conference tables as we have the last place team facing the next to last place team. I expected a little more from both but they did lose a lot of starters to graduation so the 2012-2013 Season had to be viewed as a rebuilding year. Plainfield East and Romeoville also have the distinction of having smaller Varsity Squads than the other teams in the conference and I can see where that would hurt them. Plainfield East, at least on paper, would seem to have the advantage here but Romeoville has shown signs of breaking out with a big win. Especially after the Spartans started out really slow. They have had a hard time putting points up on the board until the last two weeks when they lost to Plainfield South 35-34 in OT and 55-23 at Plainfield North. So something, at least, is happening with the Spartan Offense. Besides they do have some talent there with Div I Recruit Caleb Bailey playing both ways and Miguel Ford. QB Jacob Bambule, meanwhile, has a live arm when given the time to throw and moving Cody Cole to Left Guard hasn't hurt in achieveing that. Plainfield East also has a good QB in Jacob Kotopka who has a variety of targets in Brennen Rompa, Aris Irizarry, Adrian Simbulan, Joey Anderson and Sterling Gladney to choose from. Their star, of course is another Div I recruit, Tyler Lancaster who has proven to be a force playing on both the Offensive and Defensive Lines. But I think that Romeoville is finally ready to break out and could be catching a Bengal Team that might be down after some rather disappointing losses.
Prediction: Romeoville 30 Plainfield East 28
Oswego East at Minooka:
Well this game is a make it or break it one for the Minooka Indians! And as I alluded to earlier - they need to make some serious changes if they are going to make the IHSA State Playoffs once again. It won't be easy either, because they still Plainfield North on the schedule and they must win out to qualify. And that is a tough task for any team. Oswego East, meanwhile, looked as though they would be blown out by Plainfield Central last week before making a wild comeback to narrowly lose 42-40. So Head Coach Tyler LeBlanc definitely has the Oswego East Wolves playing better and they can put up points in a hurry if you let them. What I am most concerned about is if the Minooka Indians are still reeling from their loss to the Plainfield South Cougars, because if they are then they will be beaten here.
Still I have to give the Indians the nod here because they have plenty of talent. Besides, if I am not rooting for Plainfield South then I am usually rooting for the Minooka Indians because there is something about their program that I like. They work hard and have loads of talent, but I don't know it may be too late for them this year.
Prediction: Minooka 24 Oswego East 22
Plainfield South at Plainfield Central:
Wow two big games in a row for the Plainfield South Cougars! But let's not forget that this is a biggie for Plainfield Central too as they are still in the hunt for a spot in the IHSA State Playoffs. They also have had something of a whammy over the Plainfield South Cougars. So this game can go either way! But because this is Plainfield Central's Homecoming Game, I also know that there will not be much of an enthusiastic crowd on hand after the 1st Half. Seems as though everyone leaves, no matter what the score is, in order to get ready for their dance that evening. Could that be a bonus for the Cougars? Well, there is nothing better than having a full house to cheer you on than not!
However that won't make much of a difference if the Plainfield South Cougars do not come out with the same intensity and/or all-around complete game that they had against Minooka. Plainfield Central is not a bad team and their trio of Jordan Ellingwood, Gino Giarratano and Tyler Erdman can cause all sorts of trouble for opposing defenses. And if that isn't enough to worry about - the Wildcats still have their Div I Recruit, Bryce Douglas. Sheesh! If the Cougars shut down the lanes and force QB Brian Blair to the air, then they could win this game handily. The Cougars have a good defense but their pass defense have been getting better and better of late. Still, this will be a tough game because both teams know each other well and will probably turn this into an old-fashioned smash-mouth affair before it is all over. Besides, the Cougars have some payback to dish out after last years loss to them. So there are a lot of reasons for the Cougars to want this game, but they better play up to their capabilities if they expect to win this one. Well Mr. Luna - Mr. Kosirog - Mr. Harris are we ready for an encore? Go Cougars!
Prediction: Plainfield South 24 Plainfield Central 18
Tags: Angelo Cervantes, Brendon Reyes, Clifton Garrett, Cory Bee, High School Football, High School Sports, IHSA Football, Jacob Stytz, Joe Carnagio, Jonathan "Terror Squad" Kosirog, Jonathan Kosirog, Joshua Harris, Luke Stovall, Mason Matesevic, Maxwell Brozovich, Minooka Indians, Nathan Gunn, Oswego, Oswego East, Plainfield Central, Plainfield East, Plainfield North, Plainfield South Cougars, Plainfield South Defeats Minooka 14-10, Prep Football, Ricky Luna, Ridge Road Rivalry, Romeoville, Shane Briscoe, Southwest Prairie Conference, Tito Torres, Tyler Butler