LEMONT – Lemont’s Frank Letizia looked in a mirror Friday.
He saw Plainfield South quarterback Nicholas Deppe.
If Deppe saw him, he paid him no mind. That’s how Letizia became the defensive star for the Indians in their 21-6 season-opening victory over Plainfield South.
The eagle-eyed Letizia, generously listed at 6 feet, picked off two Deppe passes and returned them for touchdowns in a contest where neither team could run the ball.
His first, a 42-yard return, came with 19.6 seconds left in the half. It was Lemont’s second touchdown in 25 seconds to give Lemont a 14-6 lead.
Spencer Nagel’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Fejedelem, plus Steve Fleming’s extra point, moved Lemont ahead, 7-6, with 45 seconds left in the half.
Nagel was 12 of 19 for 121 yards.
The Cougars tried to strike fast to regain the lead, and paid the price.
The Indians couldn’t play conservatively because their offensive line, like Plainfield South’s, couldn’t open holes. Somehow, it all worked out for Lemont – which returned only two starters from last year’s 13-1 state runner-up team.
“We leaned upon what we should be leaning on, our defense,” Indians coach Bret Kooi said. “Offensively, we’ve got to learn to manage the game. I thought we did a good job with that, when we had a short field, we came up with a big play and we scored.”
Letizia’s second touchdown pickoff came with 6 seconds remaining, leaving Deppe 5 of 16 for 38 yards.
“Both times, I was following where he went, and he threw the ball right to me,” Letizia said. “It’s ‘Cover 1.’ Our defense turned up today. I’m proud of them.”
The defensive fronts for both teams clogged up the rushing.
South lost 15 yards on 28 carries, with the longest rush on a 6-yard attempt by Tyler Jensen, and had 33 yards total offense. Lemont gained 18 yards on 23 rushes, and 139 yards overall.
Plainfield South scored on its first series, Deppe’s 1-yard plunge finishing an 11-play sortie. The Cougars also forced Lemont into three straight three-and-outs. But the Cougars managed only one first down in their last 13 series.
“From that point on, we just didn’t have the same execution,” Cougars coach Ken Bublitz said. “It put us in a real difficult spot. And we were lights out defensively. When you become that one-dimensional, it’s not that difficult for the defense.”
The lack of rushing aside, the Indians played with the poise typical of a Lemont team.
Kooi refused to take credit.
“There are two things going on here that are truly special,” Kooi said. “First, these are absolutely awesome kids. Second, they have an absolutely awesome coaching staff here. It’s so nice to work with guys who have that passion.”
Plainfield South claimed a 27-0 victory in the sophomore game.