By Scott Taylor
It was the same old story for Plainfield South Friday night in its final nonconference meeting with Joliet West.
For the second straight week, the defense performed well, only to fall 21-6 to the upstart Tigers (2-0) at South.
“It feels good,” West wideout Xavier Smith said. “We worked hard all summer and all week to prepare for this. It feels good to come out on top.”
“It wasn’t much different in the outcome or how we preformed from last week,” South coach Ken Bublitz said. “We moved the ball better but had way too many mistakes. We had too many penalties and too many exchanges that weren’t successful. Right now we are in a situation where every play counts.”
Things looked good for the Cougar offense early as they took the opening drive all the way to the West 5-yard line before stalling.
However, the kick was blocked and Cody Norman recovered for West and raced to the South 31.
“We feel we have a guys who can really kick the ball,” Bublitz said. “But we didn’t execute that. We made some changes last week on out PAT team and were very confident on the field goal and we didn’t do it. That was a momentum changer immediately. Then we missed a tying extra point. What we thought was an asset, wasn’t tonight.”
The Cougar defense responded, forcing four incompletions to get the ball back.
South though went backwards 20 yards and was forced to punt. The defense held again, and this time on fourth down, a bad snap led to a huge loss on intentional grounding, give the ball to South at the West 23.
“There were two series where I remember distinctly where we had around 30 yards in penalties,” Bublitz said. “We had decent field position and went backwards. The guys are trying, but we have to execute better.”
This time, South went backwards 15 yards before punting once again. West then got going offensively and Alex Tibble found Xavier Smith for a 47-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Cougars responded right back and scored on a 7-yard run by Jake Maher to make it 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.
West made it a two-score game in the second quarter when Jakob Coyl found the end zone from nine yards out and a pair of freshmen connected on the two-point conversion as Jaxon Aubry found Kevon Dorris for a 15-6 advantage.
A Joliet West interception by Marcus Williams set up a Tibble fake punt for a touchdown, but it was called back due to a penalty, but was still good enough for a first down.
The Tigers were still able to score on the drive as Tibble hit John Choate for a 1-yard score and a 21-6 lead at the half.
West’s Roman Johnson added another interception early in the second half, but the Cougar defense held on fourth down to get the ball back.
Julius Garrett then took over the game for the Tigers as he blocked a punt on the next Cougar drive and then forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing drive as the Cougars were in West territory.
“My mind was just focused on winning,” Garrett said. “I had to pick up my team and make history. We hadn’t beaten Plainfield South. We did what we needed to do an came out with the win.”
The South defense wasn’t ready to give in though and a Danny Saracco interception gave South life midway through the fourth quarter.
The Cougars drove back into West territory, but Garrett came through once more, getting a sack on fourth down to end South’s hope of a comeback.
“In the second half I saw an advantage and Plainfield South was getting tired,” Garrett said. “We kept high energy and finished through.
“Like coach said, we bend but we never break. We did what we have to do to stop them. We’re all one big team.”
Tibble finished the game 17-of-34 for 189 yards for the Tigers, while Smith caught six passes for 82 yards.
Cougar quarterback Nicholas Deppe was 6-of-19 for 97 yards.
The Cougar defense limited West to just 74 yards on 27 plays in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.
“I’m pleased and excited about the way we are playing defensively,” Bublitz said. “The kids are playing lights out. They are doing a great job. Unfortunately, as an offensive squad, we aren’t getting the job done enough to take the pressure off them and they spend too much time on the field. As a staff and as a head coach, that is our job.”
Now at 2-0 for the season, Joliet West is still focused on just the next game.
“We’re not thinking we’re 2-0,” Garrett said. “We’re just thinking 0-0 coming into every game and trying to go 1-0. That is how we keep our mindset.”