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Ekowa, Tigers edged by Fighting Irish in close contest

KANKAKEE – Plainfield North had five trips into the red zone and came away with zero points, leading to a 17-14 nonconference defeat Friday night at Bishop McNamara.

The final Tigers’ drive ended at McNamara’s 16-yard line with 21 seconds left on a play ruled a fumble by quarterback JD Ekowa.

With 32 seconds left, an apparent 32-yard touchdown pass from Ekowa to tight end Kyle Speas was overturned by the officials, who ruled Speas’ foot was on the end line. Ekowa hit Zach Jarosz for 16 yards to the 16 with 26 seconds to go, but on the next play was sacked and fumbled the ball to McNamara (2-0).

The game was delayed by 54 minutes because of lightning, the first of numerous misfortunes for the Tigers (1-1). On the initial play of the game, Ekowa threw a pass that McNamara’s Ariez Andrew intercepted and returned 65 yards for a 7-0 lead.

With 6:01 left in the first quarter, McNamara quarterback Kobe Shutter (6 for 15, 151 yards) hit Jonathan Ward for an 84-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

With 4:05 to go in the first quarter, Ekowa hit Jarosz from 25 yards out to pull the Tigers to within 14-7. Then with 21 seconds left in the half, the Ekowa-Jarosz combo struck from 21 yards out to tie the score. Ekowa threw for 221 of his 296 yards in the first half. 

“We played really hard tonight. A lot of things went against us,” Ekowa said. “I had a problem with the first pass of the game but settled down and had a good game. My line gave me protection and our receivers all caught the ball. We are looking forward to our conference opener against Oswego East. We want to win the conference and we want to make that game our first step.”

The second half was dominated by the Tigers, but the Fighting Irish defense turned back several drives in their territory. With 8:28 left in the third quarter, McNamara kicker Dylan Post booted a 29-yard field goal that proved to be decisive.

The Tigers owned a 490-253 advantage in total yardage. Ekowa was 15 of 28 for 296 yards and two touchdowns. Jarosz grabbed five passes for 100 yards. Speas and Ryan Krzystofiak each had two catches for 47 yards.

“This was a tough loss to take, but we have to forget about it and move forward,” Jarosz said. “We want to win conference, so we have to go out next week and play well and defeat Oswego East.”

Tyler Hoosman led all Tigers’ rushers with 76 yards in 16 carries. Niko Capezio added 60 yards in six carries, and Zach Shelton gained 59 yards on seven carries.

The defense held Ward to minus-5 yards on four carries before he went off for 146 second-half yards. Timothy Donahue, William Stoll and Richard Matway played well for the Tigers. Donahue and Matway had sacks.

“We just let too many opportunities to score points pass by,” North coach Tim Kane said. “Our defense repeatedly came up with big stops. JD had a fine game and all of our receivers caught the ball. Our running backs also played well, but five trips inside the McNamara 25 without scoring beat us.”

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