BRADLEY – Who are those guys, anyway?
If members of the top-seeded Bradley-Bourbonnais football team were caught uttering that query during Saturday afternoon’s Class 7A second-round playoff game against Plainfield North, nobody could blame them.
Bradley entered the game unbeaten at 10-0 and with several legitimate victories on its ledger. A team that formidable is not supposed to suffer the kind of humiliation North administered, a 49-20 spanking.
The reward is a home game against Rockford Auburn at 2 p.m. next Saturday for the Tigers, the first quarterfinalist in their school’s history and the second Plainfield team ever to reach the quarterfinals.
So dominant were the Tigers (9-2) that they led 21-0 after one quarter, 35-0 before Bradley had so much as a first down and 42-7 at halftime.
“It all started with our offense,” said North cornerback Kevin Block, who recovered a fumble, had an interception and knocked away a couple of passes, often in coverage against Bradley’s main man Camron Harrell, who has committed to Iowa. “The offense took the ball down the field and scored on the first possession, and we took off from there.”
Indeed, North won the coin toss and elected to receive rather than defer to the second half.
“I felt good about what our offense could do,” Tigers coach Tim Kane said, explaining his decision. “And, I didn’t want to give them the extra possession to start the game. We wanted to limit their possessions.”
Besides boasting individual stars in Harrell, quarterback Marion Burtis and a couple of others, Bradley’s secondary is one of the best. The Tigers recognized that, and they found a way to get all their playmakers involved without throwing the ball downfield much.
Connor Peplow, for instance, has been a demon as a receiver in recent weeks. On Saturday, in addition to kicking seven straight extra points, he caught only one pass for 11 yards. However, he also ran five sweeps for 67 yards.
Tough, slippery Dillon McCarthy, who also intercepted a pass, carried 12 times for scrimmage for 66 yards and turned two pass receptions into 40- and 30-yard plays with his elusiveness. Nico Capezio battled his way into the end zone from 4 yards out for the first score and Zah Nadle ran 2 yards for a touchdown. Brady Miller was an efficient 9 of 13 passing for 138 yards.
“Dillon [McCarthy] runs hard, he is hard to bring down and how elusive he is,” Kane said. “He made them miss.
“We did run a couple of trick plays, a couple of reverses that got the ball to Peplow. Our blocking on the perimeter on those plays was outstanding.”
“Coach knew I was the target of their defense most of the time, so we ran reverses and jets, and that kind of screwed them up,” Peplow said.
And then there’s tailback Tyler Hoosman. Running behind an offensive line that largely featured center Will Vido, guards Ari Ekowa and Nathan Lindroth, and tackles Dylan Zepeda and Tony Little, all Hoosman did was rush 27 times for 161 yards and five touchdowns.
“We were more of a power team this week,” Hoosman said. “Brady [Miller] was awesome mixing things up, and we have such fast guys like Dillon [McCarthy] and Connor [Peplow] on those sweeps that it can change the whole defensive scheme against us.”
North scored touchdowns on seven of its first eight possessions, the only blemish Harrell’s interception on McCarthy’s halfback option pass in the first quarter. When North finally did turn the ball over on downs on the Bradley 15 late in third quarter, it prevented the running clock from clicking on as North was up, 49-14, at the time.
“I’ve seen Bradley on tape, and they’ll do things like score three times in two minutes,” Kane said. “So we really wanted to get the running clock at that point. It was my fault that we didn’t score that time. I stayed in one formation one play too many.”
The Tigers finished with 340 rushing yards on 51 carries, 478 total yards and 31 first downs. Of course, all that production would not have been possible without the play of the North defense.
Bradley finished with a misleading 327 yard of offense. Until the Boilermakers fell behind, 35-0, the North defense, which came in having shut out four of its last five opponents, had yielded virtually nothing and had come up with three turnovers.
“We all played so well on the defensive side of the ball and it was great to get the interception,” said McCarthy, a regular in the secondary. “Our coaches had us so well prepared for this game. We were very confident coming in.”
“We played outstanding on both sides of the ball,” said Ekowa, who played both ways along the line of scrimmage for most of the game. “Being the first Plainfield North team to reach the quarterfinals is an honor. We are looking forward to playing in front of our home fans next week.”
Linebacker Will Stoll, who was in several big defensive plays, noted the quality of the Bradley athletes, but “our entire defense played so well against them.”
Who are those guys, anyway? The question was answered Saturday.