JOLIET – Not only was Plainfield South good in the first half of Friday’s Southwest Prairie Conference season finale against undefeated Oswego, but dominant.
The Panthers rampaged through the first eight games of their schedule this season and entered play at 8-0, while averaging just over 42 points a game and had outscored their opponents, 339-52.
The Oswego squad that showed up for the first half of its Week 9 matchup looked nothing like the one responsible for those eye-popping statistics. But unfortunately for the Cougars, the Panthers squad that returned for the second half did.
Oswego ran only eight plays from scrimmage through the first two quarters, including two interceptions and a wild snap that bounced out of the back of the end zone for a safety. It entered halftime with minus 1 yards from scrimmage.
It also rebounded in the second half by scoring 22 unanswered points to defeat Plainfield South, 22-15, and end the regular season with a 9-0 record both overall and in the SPC. It was a wild finish to a season that almost went entirely how coach Brian Cooney drew it up.
“We knew we were going to have our work cut out for us. Plainfield South has a hard-charging, fast and well-disciplined defense and an offense that’s difficult to simulate,” Cooney said. “We knew this was going to be a great test for us, and it definitely was. The one thing that was missing for us this season had been a little bit of halftime adversity. We got that this week, but the kids showed up,”
Plainfield South absolutely dominated the possession game in the first half. Running back Julien Donnahue and the Cougars backfield churned their way through the Panthers’ front four time and again and amassed a 15-0 lead with six minutes left in the first half thanks to the aforementioned safety.
On the first play of the following drive, Oswego quarterback Noah Parker threw the first of his two first-half picks, and South looked like it would capitalize after driving all the way to a second-and-goal opportunity from the Panthers’ 3-yard line. Things hadn’t looked as dire for Oswego in well over a year.
That’s when the heroics began.
The Panthers forced a fumble by stripping Cougars quarterback Cody Dieball at the 3 to prevent a three-score deficit that looked all but inevitable.
The following drive was just as ineffectual as the first two, and the Panthers punted it away, but the defense stepped up to force a punt to end South’s next drive to set up a colossal, 80-yard punt return touchdown from Jamal Fomby.
Finishing a season 9-0 truly is a impressive feat, especially for a team that plays in one of the state’s higher classes against plenty of competent competition.
The Panthers understandably were excited about the accomplishment, but they also were sure to keep the focus on what’s still to come.