PARK RIDGE – Two plays do not decide a game.
However, back-to-back plays midway through the third quarter sent Maine South to a 35-20 Class 7A state playoff win Friday over Plainfield North.
No. 22 seed Plainfield North ends the season at 6-4. No. 11 Maine South (8-2) will face No. 6 Normal (9-1) in the second round.
“We had some opportunities we missed on,” Plainfield North Tim Kane said of the Tigers, who were eliminated in the first round for the fifth time in five tries. “You have to capitalize when you get those opportunities against a program like Maine South.”
Trailing 14-7 at the Maine South 31 with seven minutes left in the third quarter, Plainfield North went for a first down on a fourth-and-1 play. However, the pass play fell incomplete.
Maine South scored on its next play when quarterback Brian Collis hit Jonathan Arenas on a slant pattern and he went 69 yards for a 21-7 lead.
“That was a killer, no doubt,” Kane said. “We had a chance to keep our drive going and maybe score. That was a 14-point swing. It came after we stopped them on fourth down, but had a stupid penalty. We have to be smarter than that.”
Plainfield North stopped Maine South on a fourth-down play from the Hawks’ 35. However, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty put the Tigers at midfield.
Maine South led, 28-7, early in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers never quit.
“The way we battled back down by three scores was great,” Kane said. “We moved the ball well, mixed some things up and did some nice things.”
J.D. Ekowa was in on all three Plainfield North touchdowns. The Tigers took the opening kick and went 80 yards in 12 plays to take an early lead. Ekowa ran 7 yards for a score to give the visitors a 7-0 lead with 7:37 left in the first quarter.
Ekowa hit Zach Jarosz for an 87-yard touchdown pass with 6:00 left in the game and ran 2 yards for another score with 1:53 to play.
“Football is important to him and that tells you the type of character he has,” Kane said of Ekowa.
Plainfield North did get the ball back with 9.1 seconds to play at its 8. However, Ekowa’s pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown for the final score.
Ekowa completed 14 of 40 passes for 222 yards. Jarosz, Kevin Block and TJ kane were his primary targets.
“We had a lot of juniors and a couple of sophomores out there during the game,” Kane said. “We lost three games by eight points. But, we are still building our program and this is certainly something to build on.”