ROMEOVILLE – It was homecoming Saturday afternoon at Romeoville, with both the Spartans and Plainfield Central looking for their first victory of the season.
In a game moved from Friday because of the weather, the Spartans came up with a hard-fought 29-21 victory over the Wildcats in a Southwest Prairie Conference matchup.
Romeoville (1-3, 1-1) scored with 8 minutes remaining on a 31-yard touchdown run by quarterback Anthony Kitchens to break a 21-all deadlock.
First-year coach Oliver Gibson went for the two-point conversion, with a pass from Kitchens to Manuel Nartey to close the scoring.
Central (0-4, 0-2) had two more possessions but could not put together a drive when it counted.
The Spartans’ offense was led by Kitchens, who rushed for 152 yards on 19 carries and was 9 for 20 passing for 149 yards with one touchdown.
“The key today was our offensive line,” Kitchens said. “They really came through and played well. We put in the work every day just like everyone else. Our coaches are fantastic and believe in us. We work to have days like this.”
Another key offensive component was Nartey. The senior added 49 yards rushing and a touchdown, had six receptions for 79 yards and caught a pair of two-point conversions from Kitchens.
“Our playoffs started today. This is such a great feeling,” Nartey said. “We played our tails off for this. We never gave up, even when Central came back. We are a family that has to play 100 percent on every play. Coach Gibson tells us that big-time players make big-time plays, and we all did that today.”
With Romeoville up, 13-7, at the break, the Spartans scored on their first possession of the second half on a 6-yard run by Nartey. The first of the two-point conversions by Nartey was successful to make it 21-7 with 7 minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Wildcats put together a seven-play drive that ended with an 8-yard run by Andrew Black that made it 21-14.
Central then pooch-kicked the ensuing kickoff, recovered and went on another seven-play drive, with yet another touchdown run by Black of eight yards to knot the game at 21.
Black, the senior Wildcat ended the day with 123 yards on 23 carries and the two scores.
“The mistakes killed us today,” Central coach John Jackson said. “I don’t know if we were mentally ready to go today. We did a walk-through earlier, and we did have some good things happen, but just too many mistakes.”
The Wildcats lost for the 24th consecutive game.
“I’m so happy for these kids,” Gibson said. “We are learning how to play football. It’s all about the psychology of the game. The mental preparation, staying focused and never giving up. I saw that belief out there today. We play to win every game, and these kids are learning. It is about them.”