JOLIET – Things were looking up for Joliet Central’s football team after the Steelmen scored on the initial play of the second quarter Friday night to grab a six-point lead over Rich South.
But the Stars took control by scoring the final 18 points of the first half, and then broke things open with three more touchdowns to start the final half as they went on to capture a 46-20 nonconference victory over the Steelmen.
The defeat was the 47th straight for the Steelmen (0-2), who lost on a late interception return for a touchdown to Thornridge in last week’s opener and fell in a similar fashion to Rich South (1-1) when the squads met a year ago.
“We did a much better job offensively tonight and we did some very nice things defensively but ultimately, we have to get back to the basics fundamentally with blocking and tackling,” Central coach Brett Boyter said. “What killed us today on defense was not getting off the field on some third down and long situations. Those are just momentum-killers.
“We just have to work a little better on our technique next week. Our guys played with a lot of heart. We don’t have a lot of guys and a lot of them play both ways. So never question the toughness or the competitiveness of our our guys. I’m very proud of them. We made a big step forward, but, unfortunately, it was not the result that we wanted.”
After Rich South went up 6-0 less than two minutes in on a 16-yard run by Yahya Johnson (27 carries, 156 yards), the Steelmen tied it with 7:00 left in the first quarter on a 3-yard run by Robert Ogden (17 carries, 61 yards).
Central moved ahead 12-6 seven seconds into the second quarter when Zach Wisneski (8 of 19 passing, 166 yards) tossed a 28-yard pass to Jomarre McNair (4 catches, 134 yards).
But the Stars capitalized on a fumble on a punt and an interception to get two quick scores and then added another touchdown with 44 seconds left in the half to take a 24-12 lead.
The bad snap on the punt gave the Stars the ball at the 15, and on the next play, Johnson burst up the middle for the score. Two plays after Latrell Garrett intercepted a pass at Central’s 28, quarterback Hassan Bilal (16 carries, 230 yards) ran in from 3 yards out. Johnson scored from five yards out shortly before the break to give South a 12-point lead.
The Steelmen threatened on their first series of the third quarter, thanks to two long passes from Wisneski to McNair. They eventually got to South’s 3, but were stopped on downs when Wisneski was sacked and injured on the play.
Two plays after South’s Michael McKinnie picked off a pass at Central’s 20, Bilal scrambled in from 19 yards out. After Johnson scored on a 5-yard run early in the final quarter, the Stars completed their run of 40 straight points when Bilal tossed a 38-yard strike to Kameron Shaw.
Central finally scored again with 2:03 left when backup quarterback Zach Schraer (5 of 10 passing, 79 yards) tossed a 12-yard pass to Allen Smith. Jamari Butler collected 50 yards on 12 carries, with most of it coming in the final quarter.
“Zach (Wisneski) is on crutches right now, but knowing him, he’ll probably be ready to go next Saturday,” Boyter said. “But I’ll tell you what, Zach Schraer came in and did a real nice job for us. I’m very proud of the way he stepped in and took command of our offense.”
On defense, the Steelmen got an interception from Marcus Stone, a forced fumble and recovery by Aaryss Stallings and four tackles for loss from Alex Ruettiger.