JOLIET – A good, dominating defense can be just the elixir that Plainfield South coach Ken Bublitz needs if his Cougars are to have an outside chance of making the playoffs this year.
Plainfield South certainly demonstrated that domination on defense, allowing 118 yards of total offense, forcing three turnovers, returning a fumble for a touchdown and blocking a punt out of the end zone that resulted in a safety en route to a 55-14 homecoming victory over Romeoville in Southwest Prairie action Friday.
The Cougars scored in all three phases of the game and were led offensively by running back Jake Maher (18 rushes, 97 yards, two touchdowns) and quarterback Nicholas Deppe (three carries, 17 yards, touchdown).
Also, Mitchell Ganassin returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown and defensive back Kevin Valentine added a 20-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. Running back Jordan Nettles led the Spartans with 118 combined yards of offense and a touchdown.
“Defensively, we were outstanding from the start and they set the tone,” Bublitz said. “We were able to capitalize on good field position early and we kept Romeoville on their heels throughout most of the game.”
Heading into the game, the Cougars defense had only allowed 51 points through five games (10.2 average) and had not allowed a touchdown in three conference games.
South (3-3, 3-1) couldn’t have asked for a better start, as the defense forced a three-and-out by Romeoville and then took advantage of the windy conditions and great field position deep inside Spartans’ territory.
Five plays later, Maher scored his first of two touchdowns from 8 yards out for a 7-0 lead with 7:40 left in the first quarter.
‘We needed this win,” Maher said. “A lot of credit goes to the offensive line as they opened up holes for me.”
South extended its lead to 14-0 when Maher scored his second touchdown on an 8-yard run with 1:42 left in the first quarter.
The Cougars’ defense forced a Spartans turnover on the next play. South capitalized three plays later, as Deppe found wideout Dolphin Mitchell Jr. in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown that extended the Cougars’ lead to 20-0 with less than 7 seconds left in the opening quarter.
After the teams traded three-and-outs, the Cougars’ defense again made a big play, forcing quarterback Anthony Kitchens to fumble. The ball was recovered by South’s Valentine, who ran 20 yards for a touchdown and a 26-0 lead with 9:20 left in the first half.
“Our defense has been our strength all year,” Bublitz said. “They made the plays tonight that helped us win.”
The Spartans (1-5, 1-3) had little-to-no success on the ground against the Cougars’ defense in the first half and could not flip field position, as they averaged starting on their 20-yard line over seven possessions in the half.
Later in the second quarter, Danny Saracco’s blocked punt went out of the end zone for a safety that gave South a 28-0 lead with 1:18 left in the half. Then Deppe’s 7-yard touchdown run extended the Cougars’ lead to 35-0 with :04 left in the half and South never looked back.
Next week, South travels to Minooka for a game the Cougars must win to have a chance at making the playoffs.
“Minooka is a well-coached team, Bublitz said. “It should be a great game. Every week now is like a playoff game.”
South defeated Romeoville, 44-36, in the sophomore game.