MINOOKA – It didn't take long for Josh Davis to realize that his role in Friday's football game between Minooka and Plainfield East had changed very dramatically.
Following the game's second play, Davis had to step in for senior starter and team leader Seth Lehr, who suffered an upper body injury following a late hit on the only pass he threw.
Connor Etzkorn had a seven-yard scoring run on the junior backup's first snap to make it 7-0 with less than a minute gone, and Davis directed the Indians' offense after that and even had two touchdown runs.
With a strong defensive effort that produced several key turnovers, Minooka grabbed a two-touchdown lead early in the third quarter and held off a Bengals comeback attempt to capture a 35-20 victory to remain unbeaten.
"I knew that my team had my back the whole time and that really helped," Davis said. "So once I got more into the game it was pretty easy. I thought that I did good, but I definitely need to improve. Seth is a great leader and a great guy to look up to. I thought this was a great team win and it showed a lot about us."
The Bengals (1-2) tied things at 14-14 late in the first half and only trailed 28-20 in the final quarter before the hosts finally clinched the win with a late touchdown.
"It was a gutty performance, but it's unfortunate that we had to lose our quarterback on an illegal hit and it is what it is," Indians coach John Belskis said. "We went to the next man and found a way to win without our two-year starter, so I give our kids a lot of credit.
"Josh was a little shaky and we did some things that didn't help him with our blocking but he gained confidence when he had that touchdown run and did what he had to do. We just wanted to have him manage the game and let the two-year starters win it for us."
East tied the game at 7-7 in the first quarter on a six-yard pass from Joey Morgan (19-for-32, 221 yards) to Aiden Tonarelli (7-99 receiving) and the Indians moved back in front on a one-yard sneak by Davis with 6:51 left in the first half. The Bengals forced another tie with just 51 seconds left before the break when Dale Dambek scored on a four-yard run.
Following a fumble early in the second half, Davis took the ball 24 yards for a score on the Indians' first play of the third quarter. And after a bad lateral on the ensuing kickoff was recovered by the hosts, Etzkorn ran in from two yards out to give Minooka a 28-14 lead.
"Josh has been putting his work into practice day in and day out," Etzkorn said. "We have a good group of seniors and we were able to bring him up and he did what he needed to do. He did a phenomenal job of stepping in."
One of Davis' few mistakes was when he was picked off by Dambek, who returned the interception 25 yards for a score with 9:45 left to make it 28-20. After a long East drive stalled, Noah Ellens (13-125 rushing) had a 76-yard burst up the middle to end the scoring.
"We don't care what the situation is, we're going to keep fighting," Bengals coach Brad Kunz said. "It was unfortunate how the second half started and they got two easy scores. But I couldn't be more proud of our guys and how hard they worked."