PLAINFIELD – As the Plainfield South football program enters its 14th season with a 57-66 overall record, coach Ken Bublitz knows the Cougars must avoid repeating the 0-3 start from a year ago if they hope to make the playoffs.
“We made some progress last year, it just took us a while to get going,” Bublitz said. “Defensively, we were solid for a majority of the year but unfortunately we weren’t able to generate enough offense early. We put ourselves in position for an opportunity to get into the playoffs in our last game, we just weren’t able to do that.
“I give our guys and our program a lot of credit, because when you are 0-3, it is awfully easy to put your head down and kind of forget about the rest of the season, but we didn’t do that.”
Similar to last year, South will open the season playing Lemont. However, this time is on the road. Lemont lost to Nazareth in the Class 6A state title game last year and should provide Bublitz and his coaching staff with a good measuring stick right away.
“Lemont had a tremendous amount of success last year, and they are a great program,” Bublitz said. “They are going to bring all kinds of difficulties and challenges for us. It is very important that we get our guys ready early. We as coaches need to get our players ready to play. It is as simple as that.”
Bublitz enters his fifth year as coach of Plainfield South and is 19-19.
The Cougars will be relatively inexperienced on the offensive side of the ball, as they return only three starters. There is an open competition at the quarterback position between juniors Jackson Howarth and Nicholas Deppe.
“We have three guys at quarterback with Nick (Deppe) and Jackson (Howarth) at the top,” Bublitz said. “They are both working really hard to gain that position, and I think that both have really shown a lot. They are juniors and getting better all of the time.”
South averaged just over 15 points per game last year as the Cougars were outscored, 237-137. They will need to improve upon those numbers on both sides of the ball if they hope to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
The Cougars’ defense should be the strongest asset going into the new season as it returns nine starters.
“All of our returning starters on defense either started every game last year or they saw significant time and gained a tremendous amount of experience and have made a lot of progress in the offseason,” Bublitz said.
Defensively, the Cougars primarily run a 4-4 scheme and will look to all-conference senior Danny Saracco to lead the experienced linebacker group.
“Will be a 4-4 team on defense and spread on offense, which is very similar to what we did last year,” Bublitz said.
The Southwest Prairie Conference sent three teams to the playoffs last year and could easily see that number grow this year.
“We don’t have any illusions about who we’re playing,” Bublitz said. “We know we have a very difficult schedule, especially right off the bat. We are going to play four playoff teams over the first four weeks, so there is really no preseason.”
Oswego won the SPC last year and defeated South in the last game to deny the Cougars a possible playoff spot.
“I think until somebody beats Oswego that they are the team,” Bublitz said. “They (Oswego) are also the measuring stick because they are on top of the league. They are the team to beat until someone knocks them off.”
COUGARS AT A GLANCE
Coach: Ken Bublitz
2014 record: 4-5, 4-3 in Southwest Prairie
Classification enrollment: 2,579 (probable class 8A)
Offensive coordinators: Bryan Radavich and Ken Bublitz
Defensive coordinator: Rob Chadarski
Returning offensive starters: WR Christian Carrillo, OL Adam Lingafelter, RB/WR Jake Maher.
Returning defensive starters: CB Mitchell Ganassin, OLB Tyler Jensen, OLB Nick Portz, ILB Jake Portz, ILB Danny Saracco, DE Brenton Dickson, DE Eric Johnson, DT Alexander Krein, DT Duvonte Hunt.
August: 28 – at Lemont, 7 p.m.
September: 4 – Joliet West, 7 p.m.; 11 – at Plainfield East, 7 p.m.; 18 – Plainfield North, 7 p.m.; 25 – at Oswego East, 7 p.m.
October: 2 – Romeoville, 7 p.m.; 9 – at Minooka, 7 p.m.; 16 – Plainfield Central, 7 p.m.; 23 – at Oswego, 7 p.m.