By Scott Taylor
After 33 games and five years, the streak is over.
Oswego’s 33-game Southwest Prairie Conference win streak came to an end Friday night by Plainfield North, who came close to beating the Panthers multiple times over the years.
“It is a huge win to get one step closer to a conference championship, which is big,” North coach Tim Kane said. “To beat a program like that is big. You can go back to 2008 when we lost to them in overtime. In 2009 we lost to them by a point. In 2012 in the playoffs it was on the last play. There was a lot of heartbreak. It was a lot of fun to see all of the former players on the sideline and in the locker room. It was a big win for the program.”
The Tigers (6-2, 5-1) not only ended the streak with a 37-25 win Friday, they control their own destiny for a piece of the SPC title.
“After the Plainfield South game, that put something in us,” North wideout Zach Jarosz said. “Ever since then, we’ve been rolling.”
“We have a good group of kids who realize that each week we have to focus on the opponent we are playing,” Kane said. “We’re going to enjoy it tonight and tomorrow and then we will focus on Minooka. We will have a game plan for them and our kids will come out ready to play. We certainly can’t look by them.”
If they beat Minooka (4-4, 2-4) Friday, they will share the title with the winner of Oswego (6-2, 5-1) and Plainfield South (5-3, 5-1).
North jumped out to an 18-0 lead midway through the first quarter on three touchdown passes from JD Ekowa, two to Jarosz and the other on the first play from scrimmage, a 75-yard pass to Niko Capezio.
“This was a big game for us with the history and we wanted to play for the guys who came back,” Ekowa said. “We wanted to come out and hit them in the mouth as fast as we can because they are a good football team.”
The Tigers held a 24-6 lead in the third quarter before a furious rally from the Panthers gave them a 25-24 advantage.
But, North wouldn’t give up. A thrilling one-handed touchdown catch by Jarosz on a pass from Ekowa regained the lead.
“I was running my wheel route and got a little separation,” Jarosz said of his grab. “JD threw a perfect ball and I went up and caught it. This wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the offensive line. We practice that (one-handed catches) all the time in practice to get my hand warmed up.”
“The thing about Zach is he is so quick and so fast, he is able to get good separation. I trust him when I throw it up there that he is going to make a play. But like Zach said nothing happens without the offensive line. They are the ones that keep the offense running.”
Then, Kevin Block returned an interception for a touchdown to close the scoring.
“There was still time on the clock, we weren’t going to give up,” Jarosz said after the team fell behind. “I knew we were going to score. I think we used that as even more motivation and pushed us even harder. Not one person was down.”
“It was a huge testament to their leadership and character,” Kane said. “Oswego had some momentum and we responded.”
Ekowa finished 13-of-22 for 277 yards and five touchdowns.
North is going to have to play the rest of the season without tight end Kyle Speas, who broke his collarbone against Plainfield Central.
“I play every game for him,” Jarosz said. “He won’t be able to play another game again for the Tigers, so I play for him.”