By Scott Taylor
For the Enterprise
Plainfield East and Joliet Central both came into Friday’s season-opening meeting at East with uncertainties.
The Bengals had a new coach in Terrance Terry, while the Steelmen had to replace 20 starters from last year.
That proved to be too much to overcome as an experienced Bengal squad cruised to a 42-0 win on their new turf.
“With everything going on, this was a lot bigger than it just being game one,” Terry said. “We really looked at it as it was our first opportunity to show people what we are all about. There is some new energy about this program and to show that off is phenomenal.”
“It was a tough night and a learning experience,” Joliet Central coach Brett Boyter said. “This was many of their first game of varsity football. We’re going to go back and look at the tape and find some positives to build off of and get ready for Minooka.”
The biggest difference in the game came on the line of scrimmage, particularly when Joliet Central had the ball as the Bengals were constantly putting pressure on quarterback Zach Wisneski, who was sacked six times and pressured on many more plays, led by the rush of Jack Sullivan.
“My coaches really preach getting to the quarterback, so that is what I was trying to do every play,” Sullivan said. “I had to get off the ball fast and get right to the quarterback on every play so they couldn’t throw it deep because that was the best chance they had. I was working on my different techniques. I was trying to bull rush a lot because my speed rush has been pretty good. After they got us offsides, they didn’t go on two after that, so it was pretty easy to know the snap.”
Boyter knows the Steelmen need to remedy that problem.
“We have to be able to get Zach more time,” Boyter said. “They were doing some things that made us have to throw the ball a lot.”
That pressure helped lead to a pair of interceptions that were returned for touchdowns by Blake Coughlin and Khalen Young. The pick six from Coughlin was the backbreaker for Joliet Central as it came with under a minute left in the first half to give the Bengals a 21-0 lead going into the half.
The East offense was led by Justin Pringle, who scored three touchdowns in his first varsity contest. Ben Mazurkiewicz added a 12-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Jordan.
“It feels pretty good, I’m not going to lie,” Pringle said. “But it wasn’t just me, the offensive line really stepped up big. We were able to seal the outside defensive ends and the linebackers and I think that was the key. It was able to give me some big sideline runs.”
The impressive victory also allowed the Bengals to go deep into their bench, a big advantage for the first week of the season.
“The way that we structured what we did this summer, we were comfortable throwing any of those guys out there,” Terry said. “We had some sophomores and some freshmen make appearances out there. Everyone is on the same page and they understand the philosophy and the system and it allows them to be successful on the varsity stage.”
East will look to keep things going this Friday when it faces Plainfield Central.
“I think if we execute like we did today, and I don’t even think we did the best we can today, I feel like we can come away with the victory,” Pringle said.
“We’re hoping for the same thing next week,” Sullivan said. “We’re practicing our butts off every day.”
For the Steelmen, there were some positives to take away from the loss. The biggest was the pair of goal line stands in the first half of the game where the Bengals failed to score from inside the 5-yard line when the game was still in doubt.
“The first half we played well overall,” Boyter said. “Fatigue got to us. A lot of guys were going both ways, in addition to the inexperience. We’re going to have to put in two good halves, obviously. Our guys will learn from it and you will see improvement week in and week out. As long as we stay healthy, we will look a lot different by the end of the season.”
Joliet Central will look for improvement this Friday against Minooka.
• Plainfield North defeated Plainfield Central 14-7.