JOLIET – In complete contrast to last year’s 41-34, overtime shootout win by Plainfield South over Plainfield North, the two rivals put on a defensive clinic for 48 minutes.
With 4:05 left in the contest, quarterback Nick Deppe crashed in from five yards out for the only touchdown to give the Cougars a 6-3 Southwest Prairie Conference victory Saturday.
“It was an option-read play and I wasn’t going to be denied the end zone,” Deppe said. “I had made a number of mistakes tonight, and it really felt great to atone for them, with the game-winning touchdown. Our great defense won this game for us. They were absolutely amazing, tonight.”
Indeed they were. Led by linebackers Nick and Jake Portz, Tyler Jensen and Jordan Eskridge and defensive back Danny Saracco, they held the high-powered Tigers’ attack to a 23-yard field goal by Connor Peplow in the first quarter.
The Cougar defense totally shut down running back, Tyler Hoosman to 43 yards in 26 carries. They sacked quarterback JD Ekowa (16-of-29 passing for 205 yards) five times and held the Tigers to 38 yards rushing in 36 carries
After the Cougars (2-2, 2-0) scored, Nick Portz came up with a huge interception, with 3:34 left in the game, thwarting a Tiger drive. Portz added a sack along with Jensen and Eskridge, whose sack put the nail in the Tiger coffin, with a minute left in the game.
“All of us played great tonight on defense,” Nick Portz said. “I give credit for my game-saving interception to my teammates who made everything possible. It feels great to be in first-place and we have to keep it going next week.”
North (2-2, 1-1) scored on Peplow’s field goal, in the first quarter. The scoring drive was highlighted by a 37-yard pass completion from Ekowa to Zach Jarosz ( 8 catches, 130 yards) on a third-and-21 play, to set up the field goal. South twice drove into North territory only to be turned away, on huge defensive plays by linebackers JJ Frey and Ben Shelton.
“This was a really tough game to lose tonight,” Frey said. “We played great defensively tonight. If we could have just stopped them one more time, we would have won. We just couldn’t give JD any time to throw tonight.”
With 10:30 left in the game, South’s Christian Carrillo caught a lateral from Deppe, and fired a 40-yard completion to wide receiver Quintal Bosley, at the North 15-yard line. Once again the Tiger defense stood tall and an interception by defensive back Anthony Fumagalli in the end zone.
With 7:30 left, the Cougars got the ball back for the winning drive. Deppe hit senior Mitchell Ganassin, for nine and four-yard first down pickups, on the drive. Then Saracco picked up a huge first down to set up the Deppe game-winner.
“It was only one yard and I knew I had to pick it up,” Saracco said. “We played amazing defense tonight. We have played great defense all season and we came away with a huge win, our third straight over North, since I have been here. It feels great.”
Ekowa and Jarosz tried to bring the Cougars back with under two minutes left. Ekowa hit Jarosz four times for 36 yards on the Tigers’ final drive.
“Another crushing loss for us but we must move forward,” Jarosz said. “Give credit to the South defense. They put a lot of pressure on JD and their defensive backs were really good. I ran my routes well tonight and had a good game.”
“Once again, we must be able to finish drives. Early in the game, we had opportunities to score and did not,” North coach Tim Kane said, “Our defense was outstanding, and we just have to move forward and play well against another rival, Plainfield East, next week.”
Cougar running back Jake Maher had 84 yards on 16 carries, Deppe completed 12 of 25 passes for 119 yards and receiver Dolph J Mitchell Jr., caught six passes for 71 yards.
“All the credit goes to our defense. They are the heart-and-soul of our team,” South coach Ken Bublitz said. “ The touchdown play was a read option for Nick, and he took it into the end zone for us. We have to continue to work hard on offense to get better. My defensive coaches are doing a great job with our kids and deserve a lot of credit, for our success. This was a great win to keep us in first place, and we have to keep our momentum into next week.”