MINOOKA – When Minooka’s John Carnagio connected with Jake Adams in the back of the end zone with a 4-yard touchdown pass in the closing seconds of the first half Friday night, that extended the Indians’ lead to 10 points.
It appeared they were well on their way to their fifth victory in six games.
However, everything changed in the third quarter. Plainfield East scored 21 straight points and held on to knock off the Indians, 21-16, in their Southwest Prairie battle.
“It was crazy,” said East linebacker Troy Mayon. “Endurance was our word. Even when we were down at halftime, we said we just had to keep doing our job the right way, and things would go our way.”
“There’s a lot we have to work on, but this was one of our better team efforts,” said defensive lineman Donald Manning, who applied heavy pressure to Carnagio all night.
Carnagio’s touchdown pass to Adams capped a 54-yard drive that began when Blake Parzych sacked East quarterback Matt Mazurkiewicz on a fourth-down play with 48 seconds left in the half. Earlier, Brennan Loughran had kicked a 40-yard field for Minooka (4-2, 2-2), which missed a few scoring opportunities.
A 68-yard run by Elijiah Williams, a transfer from Providence making his Minooka debut, gave the Indians a first down at the 22 of the Bengals (2-4, 2-2) to open the second half. Minooka then had a third-and-1, but East, led by Mayon, stuffed two straight running plays.
A Jon Butler interception gave Minooka the ball back in Bengals’ territory, but the Indians again could not move against the East defense. The Bengals then marched the ball down the field and scored on a Mazurkiewicz 6-yard pass to Jeremy Reitz.
On fourth down during Minooka’s next possession, a high snap out of punt formation rolled to the 1-yard line. Mayon took it in on the next play to make it 14-10 East.
Then after Minooka linebacker Carson Oughton recovered a fumble at the 5-yard line to thwart an East threat, the Bengals’ David Salazar intercepted a pass that went through the receiver’s hands and took it in from 5 yards out for a 21-10 lead.
“We had just too much to overcome,” Minooka coach Paul Forsythe said. “The interception that went through the receiver’s hands, the high snap, we had mistakes [in coverage] on the outside and some costly penalties. We killed ourselves all night. We did not deserve to win.”
The Indians scored in the fourth quarter on Carnagio’s scrambling 25-yard pass to Isaiah Hll to get within 21-16, then had one more shot. But after Minooka earned a first-and-goal at the Bengals’ 8-yard line, the East defense stiffened to end it as Carnagio’s fourth-down pass to the end zone was on target, but the receiver could not hold on when the Bengals’ secondary moved in.
“Our quarterback was outstanding down the stretch,” Forsythe said of Carnagio, who completed 21 of 44 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. “Even that play at the end should have been a touchdown.”
Carnagio had to scramble away from the Bengals’ pressure on numerous occasions.
“We knew they were a passing team, so we did our blitzes,” said Manning, who along with fellow defensive linemen Kyle McMahan, Dylan Koch and Thomas Linnear kept the heat on Carnagio. “We knew if we could keep pressure on the quarterback, we could get this game.”
Minooka outgained East, 352 yards to 109, and the Bengals had a net of zero yards rushing. However, the Indians, as Forsythe said, had too many mistakes, especially in the second half.
“Every time we come here, it seems like the longest game of the year,” East coach Mike Romeli said. “Two years ago, we came here and the fourth quarter seemed like it lasted two hours.
“I have to give our guys a lot of credit. We came here 1-4 and we needed something to happen well. Then we’re down, 10-0. But we made some plays and kept pushing and fighting. They were 4-1, but we knew we could stay close with them.”
Mazurkiewicz finished 8 of 20 for 109 yards. He hit Jalen Hutt with huge 39- and 38-yard passes in the third quarter. Hutt finished with four catches for 93 yards.
Williams closed with 136 yards on 23 carries and caught four passes for 45 yards for Minooka.
Hill caught nine passes for 102 yards.
“He had an injury, just got cleared to play,” Forsythe said of Williams. “He did some nice things.”