MINOOKA – After allowing nearly 500 yards of offense and giving up more points than it had in the last four games, clutch defensive play doesn’t necessarily come to mind.
But Plainfield South definitely relied on its vaunted defense to help it edge Minooka, 34-27, in Friday’s Southwest Prairie Conference clash between Ridge Road rivals.
The Cougars yielded two touchdowns in the Indians’ initial nine plays but then only allowed two more scores during the next 10 series, stopping Minooka threats on five of the final seven possessions, all of which reached inside South’s 30-yard line.
Minooka reached South’s 1-yard line in the final minute before losing the ball on downs as the Cougars boosted their playoff hopes by claiming a fourth straight win in the series.
“The scoreboard is not a telling story as far as defensively how well we did things,” South coach Ken Bublitz said. “Having said that, you have to give coach [Paul] Forsythe and Minooka a ton of credit. They came out with a great game plan and executed it well and gave us fits. They played with confidence and answered the bell all night long.
“We made some big plays to help our squad win. But our ability to get stops with our backs to the wall was absolutely critical and the last series was indicative of that. Our ability defensively was without question the backbone of our game.”
Minooka (4-3, 2-3) collected 488 yards of offense, including 368 passing yards, but got stopped three times within the 12-yard line and two other times inside the 26.
“You have to credit Minooka for the play action and all of the things they did,” said South’s Danny Saracco, who had 10 tackles, including a key sack on Minooka’s next-to-last play. “I credit our defensive line so much since they’re always getting pressure on the quarterback. Jake Maher runs the ball so hard, [quarterback] Nicholas Deppe and his receivers are starting to click and our offensive line is getting to where they need to be to give us a playoff opportunity.”
South (4-3, 4-1) countered with 403 total yards, including 253 through the air, to help it claim a 21-14 halftime lead and a pair of two-touchdown advantages in the third quarter.
Deppe was 12 of 15 for 253 yards and tossed three long touchdown passes. He threw a 57-yarder to Jake Maher, a 77-yard strike to Dolphin Mitchell and a 67-yard score to Austin Deal. South also got a 69-yard scoring run from
Saracco (10 carries, 91 yards) and a 35-yard touchdown scamper by Maher (10 carries, 45 yards).
“I’m really enjoying this,” Deppe said. “All that we’ve said the past couple of weeks is that we need to back up our defense since they’re doing a great job. We have a record defense so we want to back them up and we did a good job of that tonight. They made us a little nervous, but the defense did a great job of stopping them in the red zone.”
Indians quarterback John Carnagio was 25 of 45 for 368 yards and two touchdowns. He tossed a 71-yard scoring strike to Isaiah Hill (four catches, 91 yards) and a 30-yard score to Joshua Garcia (eight catches, 88 yards). Jaccor Blakney (10 carries, 97 yards) scored on a 73-yard run and Mike Malinowski added a 7-yard touchdown.
South’s Eric Johnson had nine tackles, including three sacks. Also, Mitchell Ganassin (six tackles) blocked a 25-yard field goal try, Tyler Jensen (six tackles) intercepted a pass at his 16 midway through the final quarter and Jake Portz also had six stops for the Cougars.
“I’m really proud of how my defense operates,” Johnson said. “That’s one of our key factors. When we need to step it up, you can count on us to get the job done. I credit how well we play to the bond on our team. We consider ourselves to be family so whenever something happens, we’re able to collectively come back together a lot faster than most teams.”
Also for Minooka, Matt Brozovich recorded 10 tackles while Blake Parzych and Kenny Kirkland added six stops each. Quinton Durov caught four passes for 73 yards while Jacob Adams had three catches for 71 yards.
After suffering their second straight tough loss, the Indians need to defeat Oswego East and Plainfield North in order to assure themselves of a spot in the postseason.
“We had our chances, that’s for sure,” Indians coach Paul Forsythe said. “We definitely had our opportunities in the red zone and came up empty. We have to execute better when the field gets short. Each game coming up is a playoff game, that’s our mentality. We’re getting better week to week, so we’ll get ready for the next week and that’s all that we can do.”