PLAINFIELD – As incredible as his fourth touchdown reception of the night was, Plainfield North receiver Zach Jarosz said it has been practiced.
“Honestly, in practice, that’s all we do,” Jarosz said after his one-handed grab in the end zone put the Tigers back ahead of Oswego, 30-25, midway through the fourth quarter Friday. “Practicing the one-handed catch gets my hands warmed up. It must have been a sign when we practiced it all the time.”
With a Kevin Block 24-yard interception return for a touchdown moments later, North was celebrating a 37-25 victory and grabbing a share of first place in the Southwest Prairie with Oswego and Plainfield South, which will meet next week in the season finale.
The loss was the first in the SPC for Oswego (6-2, 5-1) since the final game of the 2010 season. The Panthers had their 33-game conference winning streak snapped.
North (6-2, 5-1) scored three touchdowns in the first six minutes for an 18-0 lead and was ahead, 24-6, early in the third quarter. However, Oswego mounted three consecutive scoring drives, the last after a Tigers fumble on a kickoff return, to grab a 25-24 lead with 9:11 left.
“It felt a little dead at that point, but there was still a lot of time on the clock,” Jarosz said.
After a 42-yard Tyler Hoosman run, North was facing third-and-8 at the Oswego 19. Jarosz ran a wheel route down the right side. He leaped high and caught JD Ekowa’s pass with his right hand only for the go-ahead score.
“That was an unbelievable catch, and Hoosman had the good run to set it up,” North coach Tim Kane said. “Zach had another real good catch earlier. He’s been doing a great job. Big-time players show up in big games and big moments, and that’s what he and JD did.”
“Zach does that stuff all the time,” Ekowa said. “He’s so quick and fast. He gets separation and has some of the best hands I have seen. I just throw the ball up, and he makes the play.”
The remarkable grab was the fourth TD reception for Jarosz, who caught five passes for 109 yards. Ekowa completed 13 of 22 for 277 yards and five touchdowns, beginning with a 75-yard strike to Niko Capezio on the first play from scrimmage. The quarterback also rushed for a net 48 yards.
Jarosz’s other TD receptions covered 10, 21 and 32 yards. Ekowa was 5 of 9 for 187 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter alone.
“We wanted to play wide open right away,” Kane said. “We have good receivers, and they have a good defensive line. After a while, we did have some protection problems.”
Jarosz and Ekowa emphasized that none of the fireworks happen without the offensive line of Mitch Dodd, Nathan Lindroth, Luke Glynn, Bret Johnson and Tony Little, from left tackle to right tackle.
“All the credit goes to the offensive line,” Jarosz said. “They’re the foundation of our team.”
Block’s pick-six, on a play where Ari Ekowa applied heavy pressure to Oswego quarterback Steven Frank, was his second of the game. Frank completed 19 of 38 passes for 244 yards and netted 45 yards rushing, but the two interceptions by Block and one by sophomore safety Dillon McCarthy – along with Johnny Goodson’s forced fumble and recovery – were huge.
“That’s a Division I quarterback they have in Frank,” Kane noted. “Our DBs battled, and our defensive front did, too. At the end of the game, we made the big stops.
“This certainly is a big win. It’s a statement on how hard we’ve worked. The kids showed great character coming back after they took the lead.”