Southwest Prairie Conference Week 8 Football Preview
Plainfield South at Oswego
After winning their 21st consecutive conference game Friday Night, the Oswego Panthers (5-2, 5-0) are in great position to wrap up the 2013-2014 Southwest Prairie Conference (SPC) Championship. Their two remaining regular season games have them playing the Plainfield South Cougars (5-2, 4-1) and Plainfield Central Wildcats (0-7, 0-5) so it is just a matter of when and against whom. Ironically, Plainfield South could have clinched a playoff spot this past week had they not lost in Week 5. And that Week 5 upset has now put Plainfield South in a precarious position as their two remaining games against Oswego and the Plainfield East Bengals (5-2, 3-2) is as tough a finish as a team can ask for with an IHSA Playoff Spot hanging in the balance.
And even though the Plainfield East Bengals should wrap-up their first ever IHSA State Playoff berth with a clinching 6th victory over the winless Plainfield Central Wildcats in Week 8, don't expect them to be generous in their season finale against the Cougars.
Of course that doesn't mean that the playoff eligible Cougars can't make the IHSA State Playoffs at 5-4, one just never knows how the IHSA Pairings Day will shake out as teams are moved into different classifications by the powers that be in Springfield. However if they are to be an Class 8A entrant this year they look pretty good after moving up in its rankings after Friday Night's 41-13 win over the Plainfield Central Wildcats. At least if the current IHSA Playoff Outlook is anywhere near accurate after some big losses by other 8A teams. But like I said it usually always comes down to the IHSA and their penchant for putting teams here, there and everywhere to balance out the fields.
Never the less, the Plainfield South Cougars are one win away from the cherished automatic bid that would have been theirs had they only taken care of business in Week 5's Homecoming disaster. Now as I said immediately after that game, you can't take anything away from the Romeoville Spartans. They had a game plan and they executed it unlike the the Cougars who were flatter than stale beer that night.
Still, Plainfield South's playoff destiny is in their own hands. Can they beat Oswego? Well it is not as if the Panthers haven't lost this season as they dropped their two non-conference games to the Geneva Vikings (5-2) and Waubonsie Valley Warriors (5-2). Granted, those two opponents are probably in a different place than teams in the SPC, all the teams we are talking about have been beaten this season and that goes to show you that any team can be beaten on a given day.
But I have to admit that the Oswego Panthers have more than proven that they are THE team to beat in the SPC and that the Plainfield South Cougars will have their work cut out for them this week, especially in Ken Pickerill Stadium. Panthers QB Steven Frank may not have the best numbers as a passer, but this kid makes every pass count and has an array of quality athletes to choose from.
And it seems there is one star after another with the Panthers. In their 35-6 win over the Plainfield North Tigers (3-4, 2-3) it was WR Zachary West with a 3 TD performance while RB Tyler Walsh did it the week before with a 2 TD and 223 Yard Rushing game. And then there is WR Trevor Matczak or RB Bryce Holm who just happen to make the big catch or run when they need it the most. Yet despite all the offense weapons at Frank's disposal what makes this Oswego Panthers efficient is perhaps one of the best Offensive Line's in the Southwest Suburban area and an opportunistic Defense that has a knack for shutting down the opposition with timely turnovers.
However I wouldn't sell the Plainfield South Cougars short either as they arguably have one of the most offensive players in the conference with RB Joshua Harris in the backfield. But that is not all either as I have said that RB/WB Anthony Woods can make you pay a very dear price if over-looked. And if those two speed-balls weren't enough to stretch defenses the Cougars also have a few under-looked players in WR's Brandon Johnson, Chris Keske and Zachary Tuzak. Personally, I would love to see these three used more often as that would make QB Kody Voda all the more dangerous than he already is as the Minooka Indians found out the hard way during the Battle on Ridge Road.
Suffice it to say, if the Cougars have their Mojo working Friday Night, they could give the Oswego Panthers one of their toughest games of the season. But it will take an extraordinary effort by the Cougars, especially on Defense. Quite frankly LB Clifton Garrett will have to show fans in Ken Pickerall Stadium why he is ranked as one of the nation's top recruiting prospects and/or an U.S. Army All-American in this game because there just aren't any bigger games than the one this Friday Night.
The way I see it, Plainfield South will probably have to play a defensive game similar to the one against the Oswego East Wolves (5-2, 3-2) as that led to five turnovers, four of which were interceptions of Wolves QB Tyler Kennedy. Because if they give Panthers QB Steven Franks ample time to find his targets then I can see the Cougars having a very long night as well as setting up a must win game versus the Plainfield East Bengals the following week. Either way the following two weeks could make or break the Cougars season.
Prediction: Oswego 38, Plainfield South 35
Final Result: Oswego 35, Plainfield South 28
Oswego East at Romeoville
The game between the Oswego East Wolves (5-2, 3-2) and Romeoville Spartans (3-4, 2-3) offers us another make or break scenario. For the Wolves a road victory over the Spartans this week or next versus the Plainfield North Tigers gives their program a first ever Automatic IHSA Playoff Bid. Romeoville, meanwhile, must win out to qualify for an IHSA Class 6A Playoff Bid. The only good news is that the Spartans get in with 5 wins in this class, but the Wolves will be no easy opponent nor will a Minooka Indians (2-5, 1-4) team that will be looking to end their season on a high note in front of a home crowd.
So there will be a sense of urgency on the part of Head Coach Jeff Kuna's men as many will be playing their last regular season home game in a Spartan uniform. Unfortunately, Romeoville squandered a golden opportunity when they lost 21-6 to the Plainfield East Bengals last week.
Whatever happens from here on out, though, the 2013-14 Spartans have finally shed their reputation as being doormats of the SPC. This team, despite two consecutive losses, have shown a level of competitiveness that will only help the underclassmen who participated this season. Just the fact that this Spartans team has played with a different attitude than teams of the past can only mean good things to come.
As for the right now - can they defeat the Oswego East Wolves? Well I think they can but only if QB Kelvin Jones duplicates the performance he had against the Plainfield South Cougars. His use of audibles kept the Cougars defense off balance while being able to spread the ball around between RB Gil Whitaker, RB Miguel Ford, WR's Charles Hunter, Mark Hammond, Anthony Love and Manuel Nartey. And that is exactly what they must do here as well as limiting the damage that QB Tyler Kennedy will do now that WR/RB Brandon Lowe is back in the lineup to compliment TE/LB Conor Nally, WR/RB Trevor Kalish, RB Khalil Driver and RB Austin Butts. When healthy, the Wolves are tough!
But I would say that both these teams are loaded with talent so it may just come down to which QB has the better game here?
Prediction: Oswego East 37, Romeoville 31
Final Result: Romeoville 21, Oswego East 14
Plainfield East at Plainfield Central
Well it looks as though the Head Coach Mike Romeli will finally get the Plainfield East Bengals (5-2, 3-2) their first ever IHSA State Playoff Bid with a win over the Plainfield Central Wildcats (0-7, 0-5). The Wildcats, who have endured one of their worst seasons ever under Head Coach John Jackson just have not given their opponents much competition this season. In all fairness, though, the Wildcats incurred huge losses to graduation as well as having a rash of injuries this season. Unfortunately, this is something that happens to most teams at one point or another and I suppose it was just the Wildcats turn this season but I also think they will be a better team for it next season as many players got valuable playing time and that usually translates into a positive.
Plainfield East, meanwhile, had a ready group from a successful Sophomore Team the year before to offset some of their losses. East is also the type of program that is able to make adjustments as well as extracting the best abilities of what's available at the time. Then again, Coach Romeli has been able to get his players to buy into a certain style of play that can be unconventional and opportunistic. And the way the Bengals Defense and Special Teams play, well, it has become something of a trademark for them. And it worked out well again this season in addition to QB Cole Kotopka being able to find a way to win even on those days when he maybe didn't have it all together.
Still, Cole Kotopka is the leader of this team and when he has spark plugs like RB Jake Mayon and WR Dante Hartsfield, they can get into a groove pretty quick and that makes them hard to beat. Naturally, there are other offensive threats as well; Brandon Rivera and Shederick Majors for instance have pulled in some big passes this season. But as good as the Bengals threats are, their fortunes depend upon the play of their Offensive and Defensive Lines. Both of which are pretty solid. The defense, though, has made it a habit to change the tide of games with their ability to force the opposition into turnovers. And that is where the Wildcats will be most vulnerable this week.
Prediction: Plainfield East 48, Plainfield Central 8
Final Result: Plainfield East 49, Plainfield Central 28
Plainfield North at Minooka
Now who would have thought that this match-up wouldn't be one of the big ones of Week 8 at the beginning of the season? Heck, I had Oswego, Plainfield North and Minooka battling it out for the conference championship when I previewed the season, but both the Plainfield North Tigers (3-4, 2-3) and Minooka Indians (2-5, 1-3) have struggled mightily this year. Quite honestly, I am still stumped as to what happened as I think they are better than what their records indicate.
Technically, both teams are still mathematically alive for a playoff bid but neither should make it based on who's ahead of them in the IHSA Playoff Outlook Rankings, although the Tigers could still qualify with an awful lot of luck and winning out. Minooka will not.
But I have to say that no matter what, this game is still a matter of honor for both. As such, it will be contested as if it were a playoff game. Both squads have played those game tough in the past with the Tigers winning 28-20 last year and the Indians winning 28-21 the year before - so I don't see that changing this time out either.
Minooka has shown that they have some offensive weapons, especially with the emergence of WR's Peter Andreano and Anthony Corrado. But QB Jacob Czerniakowski also has RB's Nathan Gunn and Victor Turpin as well as WR's Anthony Mack and Zach Zamora as well as a Kicker, Jacob Stytz that can serve as a threat with well-placed punts and kick-offs. On paper, the Indians would seem to be stacked.
Plainfield North also has a new offensive threat in RB Marcus Edwards (Tigers legend Kapri Bibbs little brother) who, until last week had run for more than 700 yards in the previous seven quarters. The Oswego Panthers Defense, though, was formidable last week in holding him to a paltry 34 yards. I don't think that that happens this week though as the Indians have had a hard time tackling people in the open field this season. So get your cameras out when he gets his hands on the ball - Edwards may just surpass his brother's record before it is all over.
The Tigers remaining running crew has had been beset by injuries, large and small this year and that has hurt them. And the biggest loss was RB Quintin Hoosman. RB's Christopher Dunning and Robert Baker have filled in admirably this year but they too got banged up along the way. And since Plainfield North depends on the run more than the pass, well, it has been tough on them. Sophomore QB Dilibe Ekowa has had his struggles too as he learns the Varsity game but I can see him having a really good year next season. He has a strong arm and if he can get some more passes out to WR Jack O'Connor or TE Kyle Speas, well they could take some pressure off him.
So both teams have the weapons and this could be a wide-open game with the team who has the ball last winning.
Prediction: Plainfield North 26, Minooka 24
Final Result: Minooka 52, Plainfield North 21
Last Week In The Southwest Prairie:
Oswego East 44, Minooka 0
Oswego H.S. 35, Plainfield North 6
Plainfield East 21, Romeoville H.S. 6
Plainfield South 41, Plainfield Central 13
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