2013 Battle on Ridge Road & Week 7 SPC Preview

2013 Battle on Ridge Road & Week 7 SPC Preview
2013 Battle on Ridge Road (Image: Michael A. Ciric)

The 2013 Battle on Ridge Road & Week 7 SPC Preview

The 2013 Battle on Ridge Road:

The Plainfield South Cougars (4-2, 3-1) and Minooka Indians (2-4, 1-3) met this past Friday Night to vie for bragging rights in the 2013 Battle on Ridge Road. To those unfamiliar with these two bitter Southwest Prairie Conference rivals, the Battle on Ridge Road is the biggest conference game between the two and if there were just one victory to be had in a given season - then this is the one they would want the most.

Now I am not sure if the Minooka Indians fans and supporters view this game or their annual non-conference game against the Morris Redskins as being the bigger of the two, but you can tell which game means the most to the players. So if one could only pick one game to watch in a given season - this is would be the one because it will rarely, if ever, result in a blowout as these teams grind it out for every yard and every point.

And it was no different this year as the Cougars were able to come from behind to win a wild 41-37 contest after letting Minooka build a 21-7 lead after Cougars QB Kody Voda busted a 40 Yard TD Run on the first offensive possession to give them a short-lived lead. The Indians, meanwhile, looked different and unpredictable as they went on to score 21 unanswered points. And had it not been for the fact that Plainfield South were able to cut the lead to 21-14 and and then stop what looked like another sure Indian score just before the half they could very easily have lost this game.

As I said earlier, Minooka was playing a game plan that was both different and unpredictable as QB Jacob Czerniakowski built his teams lead on the strength of his arm rather than his usual runs from scrimmage. Quite frankly, I don't think the Cougars expected that aerial onslaught from a Minooka field generals. And I have to tell you, their first scoring drive was sheer poetry in motion as Czerniakowski found WR Anthony Mack with a 56 Yard Pass and another 15 Yard Pass to WR Zach Zamora to set up the QB's 3 Yard TD Run and cut the score to 7-6. The Cougars, however, would keep the lead when Sr. DL JC Godin blocked PK Jacob Stytz' PAT Attempt.

Plainfield South Cougars RB Anthony Woods took the ensuing kick-off and returned it 50 Yards to the Minooka 45 but the Indian Defense was able to prevent the Cougars scoring by forcing a 4th and 8 at the start of the 2nd Quarter. After a Cougars Punt put the Indians on their own 16 Yard Line, QB Jacob Czerniakowski immediately went to work with two passes to Sr. WR Anthony Corrado (18 & 10 Yards) and a 26 Yard Pass to Sr. WR Anthony Mack to get the Indians down to the Cougars 5. And Czerniakowski again would use his legs to run it in for a 5 Yard TD. Although PK Jacob Stytz would miss the PAT, the Indians took the lead at 12-7.

On the kick-off, Cougars RB Anthony Woods fumbled the ball into the End Zone attempting to hand it off on the near the goal line and the officials signaled a Safety. The Indians had gotten back the two missed PAT and now led 14-7. Plainfield South PK Matthew Imburgia elected to free kick the ball using a tee (which is permitted in High School Football) and WR Zach Zamora returned it 25 Yards to the Cougars 49. The Cougars Defense would tighten up and hold Jr. RB Nathan Gunn to 7 yards primarily on the strength of Sr. LB Mason Matesevic and DL JC Godin. It was now 4th and 3 at the Cougars 42 Yard Line. The Indians elected to go for it rather than punt and QB Jacob Czerniakowski immediately found Jr. WR Peter Andreano for a 42 Yard TD. After K Jacob Stytz finally converted a PAT, it was 21-7.

I am sure that the Plainfield South players were beginning to feel that this game could be headed for a rout despite being able to stop RB Nathan Gunn. But Minooka was moving the ball none the less and were doing it in the air with two new offensive weapons in WR's Anthony Corrado and Peter Andreano.

Now the Cougars have fought adversity before this season and these guys don't seem to get rattled much. They are a tight bunch and I suppose they felt the time had come to get back into this game one way or the other. And it would be another long kick-off return by Cougars RB/KR Anthony Woods that would put them on the Plainfield South 39 Yard Line.

After Minooka was slapped with a Personal Foul the Cougars were on the Indians 47. It was now Plainfield South QB Kody Voda turn to make things happen as he sandwiched two passes to Sr. WR Brandon Johnson (8 and 6 Yards) with Runs of 9 and 12 Yards to put the Cougars on the 12. Sr. RB Joshua Harris, who had been used mostly as a decoy up until this point, ran the ball down to the 7 Yard Line and all of a sudden it was 1st and Goal to go. The Indians keyed on Harris on the next play and QB Kody Voda scampered into the End Zone untouched and after K Matthew Imburgia added his second PAT the Indians lead had been cut to 21-14 with 1:26 remaining in the Half.

Minooka, though, went right back to work and Indians QB Jacob Czerniakowski would eventually put the Offense on the Cougars 13 yard Line after another perfect pass to WR Anthony Corrado. The Indians would fumble on the next play after a crushing hit by Cougars DL JC Godin forced a Fumble, and DL Axel Gonzalez recovered it to end the scoring threat. The Cougars had again prevented Indians RB Nathan Gunn from hurting them thus far and that play would eventually be one of the big turning points of this game.

Plainfield South would take the 2nd Half Kickoff and Anthony Woods again broke a long run. After the Cougars moved the ball to the Minooka 35 Yard Line, RB Anthony Woods would run to the 33 before a hit forced a Fumble. The Indians stopped the drive and would put together one of their own but after another pass to WR Anthony Corrado would give the Indians a 1st Down the drive stalled and were forced to punt.

The Cougars would start from their own 20 Yard Line and after the Indians Defense looked as if they force a 3 and out, QB Kody Voda unleashed a 79 Yard Bomb to RB Anthony Woods for the score. Imburgia converted his third PAT and the game was tied at 21-21. Indians QB Jake Czerniakowski would unleash a bomb of his own and found WR Peter Andreano for a 60 Yard Pass to the Cougars 20. After the Cougars stopped RB Nathan Gunn behind the Line of Scrimmage, Czerniakowski tossed a 25 Yard TD to WR Zach Zamora. Stytz would make the PAT and the Indians were back out front 28-21.

After a Jacob Stytz Kick-Off resulted in a Touch-Back, Plainfield South decided to put Sr. RB Joshua Harris to work and he exploded for runs of 10, 15 and 11 to put the ball on the Minooka 45 Yard Line. QB Kody Voda would then fake another hand-off to Harris but took off for a 28 Yard Run. The ball was now on the Indian 25. On the next play, Joshua Harris busted a 25 yard TD Run but a Bad Snap on the PAT left the Cougars behind at 28-27.

Indians QB Jake Czerniakowski would find WR Peter Andreano for a 26 Yard Pass on the first play after the Kick-Off and the Indians were on the 50 Yard Line. RB Nathan Gunn, who had been shut down all by the Cougars Defense was able to put together his best showing on this drive. On 1st Down he ran for 6 Yards and Czerniakowski added 3. It was 3rd and 1 when Gunn peeled-off his longest run of the night, a 35 Yard Run to the 15, but Minooka was flagged for Holding. After the Indians were left with a 3 and 4, Czerniakowski found WR Zach Zamora for a 1st Down at the 25. RB Nathan Gunn gained 5 Yards on the next play before breaking a 20 yard TD Run. Minooka was up 34-27 but instead of kicking the PAT, the Indians Coaching Staff decided to attempt a 2 Point Conversion. The Cougars Defense was able to defend it and the scored remained 34-27 with a little over 2 minutes to go in the 3rd Quarter.

After the Kick-Off, Plainfield South QB Kody Voda threw a 15 Yard Pass to WR Brandon Johnson. Voda would get caught in the backfield and the Cougars were on their 30 when RB Joshua Harris found a hole for a 17 Yard gain. On the next play, Voda would fake another hand-off to Harris and found a wide open lane as the fake had the Indian Defense going the wrong way before he was finally brought down on the Minooka 15. Minooka's Defense tightened up and forced the Cougars into a 3rd and 9 as the 3rd Quarter expired.

On the first play of the 4th Quarter, Cougars QB Kody Voda faked to Harris and was able to run down to the 8 yard Line. It was now 4th Down and 2 to go. Will the Cougars go for a certain Field Goal by Matthew Imburgia or risk turning the ball over? Well, the Cougars elected to go for it and on the next play RB Joshua Harris was in the End Zone to make it 34-33 and rather than call for a 2 Point Conversion as the Indians did on their last score, Imburgia converted his 4th PAT of the night and the score was knotted at 34.

There was plenty of time left on the clock though and Minooka had shown an ability to move the ball all night as they have not, in any way, played a predictable game plan. Instead, Indians QB Jake Czerniakowski was able to exploit the Cougars Defense with deft and accurate passing to two players whose names weren't often heard this season. The Indians found out they have some legitimate weapons as well as QB who can do more than use his legs to lead the team. And as a result, we have had an old-fashioned Battle Royale between two fierce rivals.

But I also knew that one of these teams would need to come up with a big defensive stop in order to pull this back and forth game out. The only question was which one because both these Quarterbacks had their Mojo working? Were we looking at an overtime tie here? Well no sooner had those thoughts gone through my mind and Minooka's Offense was stopped in its tracks on a huge play by Cougars LB Mason Matesevic. It was 4th and 12 and there was no way the Indians will risk turning it over on downs. Minooka Punts!

Plainfield South begins on their 36 Yard Line. QB Kody Voda hands-off to RB Joshua Harris and picks up 22 Yards and the Cougars are on the Minooka 42. Was this Deja Vu? Well hold on here as the Indians Defense now rises to the occasion and sacks Voda all the way back at the Cougars 28 Yard Line. It was now 2nd and 38! But Voda gets Sacked again! It is now 3rd and an insane 48. After the Cougars pick up a few  token yards Plainfield South must punt from deep in their territory. Voda's punt gives Minooka great field position but wait - a flag! The Indians are called for having 12 men on the field and Kody Voda gets to re-kick the ball and puts the Indians back on their 26 instead of the 46. Can the Cougars Defense hold again?

After a 4 yard run, Indians QB Jake Czerniakowski finds WR Peter Andreano for 24 Yards and a first down at Midfield. Czerniakowski continues to drive the Indians but are eventually stopped by the Cougars Defense on the 12 yard Line and are forced to go for a Field Goal. Indians K Jacob Stytz, who had one PAT Blocked as well as another go wide, splits the uprights to give Minooka a 37-34 lead late in the 4th Quarter.

Plainfield South took the kick-off but would start this drive on their own 15 Yard Line with a little over 2 Minutes remaining. After QB Kody Voda was able to engineer the Cougars to their own 42 Yard Line, RB Joshua Harris ripped-off a 42 Yard Run down the sidelines to the Minooka 14. Voda would then pull back another fake hand-off and scramble down to the 2 before Joshua Harris would score his third TD of the night seconds later. After Matthew Imburgia's PAT it was 41-37, but there was also 1:05 left on the Game Clock.

Did the Cougars score too quickly? Minooka had moved the ball all night long and there was no doubt QB Jake Czerniakowski (23/32 418 Yards, 2 TDs and 12/53 2 TDs) would be looking for one of his three big weapons of the night - WR's Peter Andreano (5/158 Yards), Anthony Corrado (12/140 Yards) and Anthony Mack (3/87 Yards). There really wasn't enough time at this point to go on the ground, besides RB Nathan Gunn (25/72 Yards) was largely ineffective Jr. RB Victor Turpin was curiously not used in this game.

The Cougars Defense, though, knew that and covered the three primary receivers. As Czerniakowski dropped back to throw Sr DB Zachary Tuzak stepped in-between the QB and his target to pull down a game-saving interception for the Plainfield South Cougars.

The 2013 Battle on Ridge Road has to go down as one of the most exciting games between these two teams.

And if both teams play with the same intensity in Week 7, then I think they will win big. Especially the Minooka Indians as they get set to play their final road game of the season versus the Oswego East Wolves (4-2, 2-2) despite their 37-0 whitewash of the Plainfield Central Wildcats (0-6, 0-4). Let's face it, the Wildcats aren't giving teams too much resistence this season. Minooka must watch out for QB Tyler Kennedy who like to throw to TE Conor Nally and WR Trevor Kalish in order to open up their running game. They can be lethal and with a 5th Victory that could make the Wolves "Playoff Eligible," well it will be important for Minooka's Defense to step up this week.

The Plainfield South Cougars, meanwhile, better remain focused against the Wildcats because they have been the Big Monkey on their Backs for as long as I can remember. I just don't know what it is about a Cougars - Wildcats game, but I have seen way too many upsets going Central's way over the years.

SO THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR ANY LETDOWNS COUGARS!

Week 7 Predictions For Plainfield South & Minooka:

Plainfield South 48, Plainfield Central 12

Minooka 31, Oswego East 26

Other SPC Games:

Plainfield North vs. Oswego

The Plainfield North Tigers (3-3, 2-2) have finally strung together back to back victories and as I have said before - this is a much better team than their record indicates. But they have had injuries and some bad luck until they broke out with a much needed 49-7 win over the Plainfield Central Wildcats (0-6. 0-4) and and even bigger 31-19 win over the Romeoville Spartans (3-3, 2-2).

And like Minooka, the Tigers have found their newest weapon - RB Marcus Edwards. Edwards, whose brother Kapri Bibbs is a Plainfield North Legend, has racked up more than 700 yards in the 7 quarters of play since being elevated the Varsity Squad. But his game versus the Spartans was truely his break-out game as he rushed for 406 Yards on 50 carries (8.1 Yds/Carry) and scored 3 Touchdowns. Actually, it would have been 4 but he fumbled on one of the scores just as he broke the plane of the goal line (Christopher Bruns recovered it for the TD).

All in all - one heck of a performance and it will be interesting to see what he does this week against the Oswego Panthers (4-2, 4-0) because if he can do some damage against their defense then we have a wide-open race for the SPC Championship as well as stacking the IHSA State Playoffs with more than two or three teams this year. Matter of fact, the only team officially eliminated from the State Playoffs thus far is Plainfield Central - so the SPC could land anywhere from 4 to 5 teams if the results work out just right. You can check out the latest IHSA State Playoff Outlook after Week 6 to get an idea how SPC Teams stack up at this point.

Oswego, though, is still the class of the SPC until someone can beat them in a conference game. And yes folks - they are that good as So. QB Steve Frank has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal; i.e. Sr. RB's Bryce Holm and Tyler Walsh, Sr. WR Trevor Matczak, Jr. WR Zachery West and Jr. TE Christian Brown. Oswego also has an Offensive Line that is perhaps the best in conference.

However, the Plainfield North Tigers can make a statement in their Home Game agains the Panthers, especially if Marcus Edwards can get into their secondary the way he did versus Romeoville. And that would take a lot of pressure off So. QB Dilibe Ekowa who has, at times, been his worst enemy with ill advised passes. Ekowa has an arm though and if the running game can include the likes of Marcus Edwards, Christopher Dunning and Robert Baker, well Oswego will be facing their toughest test to date.

Prediction: Oswego 24, Plainfield North 23

Plainfield East vs. Romeoville

Either the Plainfield East Bengals (4-2, 2-2) or Romeoville Spartans (4-2, 2-2) will get their fith victory to become "Playoff Eligible" this week and as a result I can see a wide open game as both are coming off losses they would rather forget. Plainfield East played Oswego tight for the first half of the game as both defenses were stifling. With Oswego leading 7-0 to start the 3rd Quarter, QB Steven Frank (178 Yards Passing) hit WR Trevor Matczak with a 45 Yard Pass to put them on the Bengals 1. RB Tyler Walsh (23/224, 2TDs) then extended their lead to 14-0 on the next play and that was basically all they needed to ice the game as the Panther Defense limited the Bengals to minus yardage rushing. So the Bengals will probably fare better this week but Romeoville's Defense is more than capable.

Romeoville, meanwhile were run over by the Road Show Bus known as Marcus Edwards and that had to sting as Romeoville had zero answers for his outside speed. But the Bengals don't have the same speed and that will mean Romeoville must contain QB Cole Kotpka and his slant passes to Dante Hartsfield, Omar Salazar and RB Jake Mahon. Head Coach Mike Romeli has also been known to interject trick plays into the Game Plan so the Spartans must be wary of those.

The Bengals, meanwhile, will have to watch out for an offense that can put up points in a hurry now that Spartan QB Kelvin Jones has grasped the power of audibles. The Spartans have formidibal weapons in RB's Gil Whitaker and Miguel Ford as well as WR's Charles Hunter, Anthony Love and Mark Hammond.

This will be one of the toughest matchups of Week 7 because there is an awful lot riding on it as both teams are trying to make the playoffs. In a way, this game will go a long way in validating what Head Coaches Mike Romeli and Jeff Kuna have been trying to achieve with their respective programs. Neither coach have brought their teams to the playoffs as of yet and a win here makes that reality all the much closer as one will be playoff eligible after the game. As such, I feel for both!

Prediction: Plainfield East 22, Romeoville 21

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