The 2013-2014 IHSA Football Season Kicks Off Friday Night and the Southwest Prairie will see some new non-conference opposition this season. Now whether or not that will have an adverse effect on the final conference standings is hard to predict. But make no mistake about - there is always an effect.
Now my initial reaction to this season's schedule was something along the lines of "Holy Moley." Why? Because it is possible that more than half the teams in the Southwest Prairie Conference could possibly begin conference play with an 0-2 record. And that would put a tremendous amount of pressure upon those teams as they look to reach the magical 6 victories that would assure them an IHSA State Playoff spot. Sure 5-4 teams qualify too, but the opposition points system has seen a number of teams in the conference miss the cut by the slimmest of margins. Just ask former Plainfield South Head Coach Mike Briscoe who had two misses as the last cut some years ago.
So it is very important, then, to try and split your non-conference games as one victory in a conference that usually has five teams of equal ability becomes big. Some would disagree that the SPC has that sort of parity but if you look closely, every season gives us those few upsets that make the difference between an 4-5 or 5-4 record and a possible playoff spot.
Of course, some coaches have tried to schedule "ducks" and jump off to an early 2-0 record only to see it evaporate later in the year. Then again some teams use that philosophy to ramp it up, if you will. And there have been a few programs through out the south suburbs that do just that and do it well. Still I would rather see teams play as tough a schedule as possible in order to develop a long term winning program. Besides, tough schedules have a knack of raising skill levels as well as building a desire to win.
And now for this season's predictions: Minooka and Oswego Are One's To Beat In The Southwest Prairie Conference (SPC). Why? Well they have made it a habit to play that "as tough a schedule as possible" every season and while not every year is a resounding success these two teams are still going to leave it all out on that field every game. The most consistent of the two of late have been the Oswego Panthers and as a friend of mine recently said "until proven otherwise they are the team to beat."
So I can't really disagree but I will buck the conventional thinking this year and pick the Minooka Indians to win the conference and Oswego to finish second. Third place (and a probable IHSA State Playoff Berth) might be something of a logjam this season as all but one team will compete for it. Although the early favorite has to be the Plainfield North Tigers. That's because they will have a Big Offensive and Defensive Line, as will the two previously mentioned teams above. Trust me - it means a lot in this conference especially when the skill position players aren't (big). So getting them out into the open is critical and that's where those big young men will make all the difference.
Now my top choice of Minooka is predicated on two big musts; QB Shane Briscoe gets the nod and RB Nathan Gunn be given the ball enough times to compliment the passing skills of his quarterback. If Minooka Head Coach Paul Forsythe employs the same offensive scheme he had while Joe Carnagio led the offense - then all bets are off! The Indians must play a scheme that keeps opponents guessing as to whether they are throwing or running which is exactly what Oswego Panthers Head Coach Brian Cooney will do with a full compliment of "all-around athletes" led by WR Zach West.
Plainfield North is something of a mystery to me now that RB Trenton Cavin, who was ready to take over, has transferred to Alta in Sandy, Utah. The Alta Hawks, are an annual state championship contender and they will only be stronger with the all-around play of Trenton Cavin. Now I am sure that there will be a number of players who will step up for the Tigers and one that I think can run like the wind is Robert Baker. So we will see. But they do have big lines and that that makes a big big difference in this conference.
But there will be other teams right there vying for third and they will be the Plainfield South Cougars, Plainfield East Bengals and the Oswego East Wolves. Plainfield Central, meanwhile, may have a hard time this season but I wouldn't count them totally out either. The Romeoville Spartans seem to be the odd man out again and much of that has to do with not getting enough athletes to come out for the team.
Plainfield South seems to have a good shot if they can avoid an 0-2 start (which is possible) as they open in Lemont and then face the Wheaton St. Francis Spartans at home the following week. The Lemont Indians, who lost to eventual State Champion Crete-Monee in the State Semi-Finals last year, will be looking to prove something while St. Francis also wants to improve off a disappointing 5-4 record in a tough Suburban Christian Blue (before this Conference Blows Up at the end of this season).
So the Cougars will have their hands full as QB Kody Voda will be depending on RB Josh Harris all season. WB Anthony Woods, meanwhile could factor in big with his all-around ability. Where the problem lies, though, is on the O-Line. Now don't get me wrong these kids are good but when I compare them to other teams in size and strength they don't seem to be there. But again, we will have to see if OG Eric Aguirre and Joe Miggins, OT Nathan Karras, Richie Kelly and Thomas "TJ" Grady and C Robert Szudarski will have what it takes for the entire season to keep out those bigger defenders. The Linebacking crew of Clifton Garrett (a probable SEC Recruit), Mason Matesevic, Danny Sarroco and Drew Kaup appear ready to make a statement this year while the Cornerback duo of Chris Keske and Joey Ruske are more than capable. So the Cougars can make a go of it if they avoid injury and if the offensive schemes have been modified from the "cookie cutter" type offense of the past two years.
Two other teams that can surprise will be Oswego East under Head Coach Tyson LeBlanc and the Plainfield East Bengals under Head Coach Mike Romeli. Oswego East will not be a small team but they tend to lack intensity at times whereas Mike Romeli's men will be playing a lot of two-way football and the fatigue factor comes into play. The Bengals have also been their own worst enemies at times, especially with ill-timed fumbles that lead to late game losses. But Romeli and LeBlanc will have their squads ready and better prepared than the previous year. So keep an eye on these two teams they may just catch some teams napping.
The Plainfield Central Wildcats, meanwhile, have lost a lot of quality players to graduation and from what I saw of their sophomore squad, well let's just say that Head Coach John Jackson has a big task in front of him. If the players respond then who knows because their best might be good enough. But a repeat of 6-4 doesn't look likely.
That leaves the Romeoville Spartans who might be better off playing in a different conference given their short squads year after year. I really don't know what is going on there but Head Coach Jeff Kuna has not been able to build a winning culture at Romeoville despite being a disciple (and former assistant coach) of John Jackson. I will be real honest here - I hope that this program turns it around and the sooner the better because the Southwest Prairie Conference can only get better if every team is competitive. Besides Coach Kuna is not a bad coach and deserves to win more games. Maybe, just maybe we will see something develop this season.
Okay then that is my best guess, as of right now, and we will revisit the conference at the end of week two to reevaluate the rosters and results because this is a very difficult year to predict given the number of new teams playing in these non-conference games.
As always, I wish all the competing student-athletes the best.
Play Hard, Play Smart, Play Safe!
IHSA Football 2013-14 Southwest Prairie Conference Predictions:
1. Minooka [7-2]
2. Oswego [6-3]
3T. Plainfield North [5-4]
3T. Plainfield South [5-4]
3T. Plainfield East [5-4]
6. Oswego East [4-5]
6T. Plainfield Central [4-5]
8. Romeoville [2-7]
Week One and Two SPC Schedules:
Head Coach: Paul Forsythe
(2012 Record: 4-5)
8/30 at Morris Redskins (2012 Record 12-2)
9/06 vs Providence Catholic Celtics (2012 record 8-3)
Oswego East Wolves
Head Coach: Tyson LeBlanc
(2012 Record: 4-5)
8/30 at Woodstock Blue Streaks (2012 Record 4-5) (New Opponent)
9/06 vs Lombard Glenbard East Rams (2012 Record 1-8) (New Opponent)
Oswego H.S. Panthers
Head Coach: Brian Cooney
(2012 record: 9-2)
8/30 vs Geneva Vikings (2012 Record 4-5)
9/06 at Waubonsie Valley Warriors (2012 Record 10-2)
Plainfield Central Wildcats
Head Coach: John Jackson
(2012 Record: 6-4)
8/30 at Aurora Marmion Academy Cadets (2012 Record 4-5) (New Opponent)
9/06 at St. Charles North North Stars (2012 Record 4-5)
Plainfield East Bengals
Head Coach: Mike Romeli
(2012 Record: 2-7)
8/30 vs Metea Valley Mustangs (2012 Record 2-7)
9/06 at West Aurora Blackhawks (2012 Record 3-6) (New Opponent)
Plainfield North Tigers
Head Coach: Tim Kane
(2012 Record: 7-3)
8/30 vs Chicago Westinghouse Warriors (2012 Record 7-3) (New Opponent)
9/06 at Pekin Dragons (2012 Record 6-4) (New Opponent)
Plainfield South Cougars
Head Coach: Ken Bublitz
(2012 Record: 4-5)
8/30 at Lemont Indians (2012 Record 11-2) (New Opponent)
9/06 vs Wheaton St. Francis Spartans (2012 Record 5-4) (New Opponent)
Head Coach: Jeff Kuna
(2012 Record: 0-9)
8/30 vs Darien Hinsdale South Hornets (2012 Record 6-4)
9/06 at Bolingbrook Raiders (2012 Record 8-3)
Tags: 2013-14 Southwest Prairie Conference Predictions, Alta Hawks Sandy Utah, Anthony Woods, Aurora Marmion Academy Cadets, Bolingbrook Raiders, Brian Cooney, Chicago Westinghouse Warriors, Chris Keske, Clifton Garrett, Danny Sarroco, Darien Hinsdale South Hornets, Drew Kaup, Eric Aguirre, Football, former Minooka QB Joe Carnagio, former Plainfield South Head Coach Mike Briscoe, Geneva Vikings, High School Football, High School Sports, IHSA Football, Jeff Kuna, Joe Carnagio, Joe Miggins, Joey Ruske, John Jackson, Josh Harris, Ken Bublitz, Kody Voda, Lemont Indians, Lombard Glenbard East Rams, Mason Matesevic, Metea Valley Mustangs, Mike Briscoe, Mike Romeli, Minooka, Minooka Head Coach Paul Forsythe, Minooka Indians, Minooka QB Shane Briscoe, Minooka RB Nathan Gunn, Morris Redskins, Nathan Gunn, Nathan Karras, Oswego East, Oswego East Head Coach Tyson LeBlanc, Oswego East Wolves, Oswego H.S., Oswego H.S. Head Coach Brian Cooney, Oswego H.S. Panthers, Oswego WR Zach West, Paul Forsythe, Pekin Dragons, Plainfield Central, Plainfield Central Head Coach John Jackson, Plainfield Central Wildcats, Plainfield East, Plainfield East Bengals, Plainfield East Head Coach Mike Romeli, Plainfield North, Plainfield North Head Coach Tim Kane, Plainfield North RB Robert Baker, Plainfield North Tigers, Plainfield South, Plainfield South C Robert Szudarski, Plainfield South Cougars, Plainfield South Head Coach Ken Bublitz, Plainfield South LB Clifton Garrett, Plainfield South LB Danny Sarroco, Plainfield South LB Drew Kaup, Plainfield South LB Mason Matesevic, Plainfield South OG Eric Aguirre, Plainfield South OG Joe Miggins, Plainfield South OT Nathan Karras, Plainfield South OT Richie Kelly, Plainfield South OT Thomas "TJ" Grady, Plainfield South QB Kody Voda, Plainfield South RB Josh Harris, Plainfield South WB Anthony Woods, Prep Football, Providence Catholic Celtics, Richie Kelly, Robert Baker, Robert Szudarski, Romeoville, Romeoville Head Coach Jeff Kuna, Romeoville Spartans, SEC, SEC Recruit, Shane Briscoe, Southwest Prairie Conference, Southwest Prairie Conference Season Preview, St. Charles North North Stars, Suburban Christian Blue, Thomas "TJ" Grady, Tim Kane, Trenton Cavin. Alta Hawks RB Trenton Cavin, Tyson LeBlanc, Waubonsie Valley Warriors, Week One Schedule, Week Two Schedule, West Aurora Blackhawks, Wheaton St. Francis Spartans, Woodstock Blue Streaks, Zach West