MINOOKA – One team was trying to keep alive its hopes of reaching the playoffs. The other was looking for a share of a conference title and a first-round home playoff game.
Although a fifth victory didn’t guarantee anything, that served as ample motivation for Minooka in its 16-14 Southwest Prairie Conference win over Plainfield North on Friday.
The Indians (5-4, 3-4) took control of a 7-7 contest by scoring twice early in the final quarter and holding off a late challenge by the Tigers (6-3, 5-2), who were looking to share the SPC title with Oswego, whom they defeated last week.
“Our guys were obviously playing for something,” Indians coach Paul Forsythe said. “The kids played well against a six-win team that beat the champs last week. Our team defense was really good and offensively we did just enough. We have a really good senior group, and they came out and gave everything that they had, and it showed.”
Minooka, which had lost three straight and finished with 35 playoff points, moved in front for good at 13-7 with 10:30 left when Jaccor Blakney scored on a 1-yard run.
“We were looking forward to this game, and I knew that we had it in us,” Blakney said. “We may have lost to some other teams, but we’re a lot better than that, so we brought it tonight, and it showed. It was wet, then the rain stopped and it got windy and muddy, but we eventually got the hang of what we needed to do.”
On North’s ensuing series, Blake Parzych hit JD Ekowa as he was throwing a pass, and Matt Brozovich snared the interception and returned it to the Tigers’ 29. Seven plays later, Brennan Loughran made a 26-yard field goal to put the Indians up 16-7 with 6:41 left.
“We came into this game acting like it was our last one, so we played like it was all on the line, and it made us play that much better,” Parzych said. “In the past three games we’ve had a hard time getting both sides of the ball working together, but tonight we played together and that’s how we got the ‘W.’ ”
The Tigers closed to within 16-14 with 2:01 remaining after Ekowa (11 of 33 passing, 150 yards; 13 carries, 79 yards) tossed a 7-yard pass to Ryan Krzystofiak. North got the ball back in the final half minute, but only reached Minooka’s 36-yard line.
“That was a huge win,” Brozovich said. “It was basically win or go home, and we don’t really know if we’re in or out yet. We’ve had a hard time getting the offense and the defense jelling at the same time. But today we were able to put both sides of the ball to work. Our offense was moving the ball, and we were doing what we do.”
Minooka took a 7-0 lead with 18 seconds left in the first quarter when John Carnagio (20 of 32 passing, 257 yards) tossed a 20-yard pass to Isaiah Hill (nine catches, 112 yards). North tied it with 5:00 left in the third quarter when Ekowa threw a 19-yard strike to Zach Jarosz.
Right after that tying score, North’s Dillon McCarthy picked off a pass at Minooka’s 34, but the Tigers quickly turned the ball over on downs.
“They outplayed us,” Tigers coach Tim Kane said. “They played well and made plays. Our kids battled back, and that’s great, but you should compete. Our kids didn’t play well enough to win the game. We had some opportunities and didn’t take advantage when we needed to to punch the ball in.”