PLAINFIELD – Possessing a 14-7 lead over an undermanned but inspired Plainfield Central football team at halftime of Saturday’s Wildcats’ homecoming contest, Minooka realized it had to step things up a few notches after the break.
The Indians do so in the third quarter, scoring three touchdowns within a 3:52 span, then adding another score later in the period to cap a 27-point outburst that helped them claim a 41-14 Southwest Prairie Conference victory.
Jaccor Blakney rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns and caught one of the two scoring passes thrown by John Carnagio to help Minooka (4-1, 2-1) bounce back from last week’s defeat to Oswego.
“We kind of got refocused,” Indians coach Paul Forsythe said. “I don’t know if we came out with the right mindset. And, obviously, coach (John) Jackson was coaching his kids’ butts off, and they made a football game. We kind of regrouped at halftime and challenged our kids, and they responded. The outcome was good, but we just have to play four quarters.”
Minooka grabbed a 7-0 lead 3:56 into the game on a 51-yard run by Joshua Garcia, but the Wildcats (0-5, 0-3) tied the score with 8:09 remaining in the half when Marcus Hayes (9 of 24 passing, 151 yards) tossed a 69-yard strike to Justin Montalto.
The Indians responded with the go-ahead score on their next series when Carnagio (15 of 20 passing, 192 yards) threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Blakney with 5:24 left before the break. But there was still plenty of drama before the intermission.
Central got down to Minooka’s 22 before eventually turning the ball over on downs late in the half. It got another chance after Kamrin Dolbee’s interception, which placed the ball at the Indians’ 15, but Hayes was stopped short of the goal line as the half expired.
“Before the game, some kids weren’t taking it seriously,” said Minooka’s Blake Parzych, who had two sacks and deflected two passes. “I tried talking to them to rally them, but no one was really clicking with it. At halftime, I talked to everyone a little bit, and coach (Bert) Kooi, our defensive coordinator, put a speech down that really opened up everyone’s eyes.
“We had a little reality check at halftime, and after we came back with that fire under our butts, we got it going. Once we start going, then we all start grooving. In practice, we say that we have to get after it the whole game. And we work together as a brotherhood.”
The Indians performed much better after the break, while the Wildcats seemed to head in the other direction as they wound up suffering their 25th straight defeat.
After taking advantage of two 15-yard penalties to score on five plays on its first series of the third quarter, Minooka used a similar number of snaps during its next two possessions to collect two more touchdowns as it grabbed a 34-7 advantage.
Blakney (15 carries, 176 yards) scored on a 15-yard run just 1:32 into the second half and then Carnagio tossed a 33-yard scoring pass to Isaiah Hill with 7:43 left in the third period. Then just 1:07 later, Blakney scored on a 57-yard run to cap a one-play drive.
After being forced to punt on their next series, the Indians completed their 27-point third quarter outburst when Blakney ran in from 37 yards out with 50 seconds remaining.
“In the second half, we came together and were completing plays like we’re supposed to and our running plays worked out a lot better,” Blakney said. “We’ll be able to dominate teams if we can put all four quarters together. Our coaches know exactly what they’re doing, so we just have to connect on our part. We’re like a family. We’re close and pick each other up.”
Although missing several running backs because of injury, the Wildcats kept battling until the end. After Issiah Dunson’s late pickoff, Adam Hayes (16 carries, 83 yards) moved the ball to Minooka’s 22, then Marcus Hayes covered that distance with 2:41 left.
“We played a heckuva first half,” Wildcats coach John Jackson said. “But then they made some decent adjustments defensively, and we came out flat at halftime. We’re a lot better than we showed today. I just don’t know if we’re hungry enough to get that win. We need to want it more. We work hard, but just working hard doesn’t constitute victory.”