By Bob Vavra
For the Enterprise
About three weeks ago, Bill Bicker saw the light come on in the eyes of his Plainfield South players.
“They’ve finally started to understand what we’ve been telling them,” the second-year Cougars coach said. “The difference in our offense between week one and now is like night and day.”
For first-year Plainfield East coach Terrance Terry, the light is more like a flicker.
“Our team is so energetic,” Terry said. “Hats off to Bill for what’s he’s been able to go. You can see the progress in his team. I’ve been telling our players their best football is still ahead of them.”
While the Bengals showed some signs of that good football in the second half on Friday night at the Cougars’ homecoming, Plainfield South dominated the field position and the scoreboard in a 42-0 homecoming win to even their record at 3-3.
A sign of the difference in the two teams came on the game’s opening play.
The Bengals tried a double-reverse, flea flicker pass that was picked off by the Cougars’ Dulane Hampton-Caffrey and returned to the Bengals’ 16-yard line.
Five plays later, South quarterback Cody Dieball snuck in from the one, and the Cougars led just 2:23 into the game.
After taking over on downs near midfield, South marched right back for their second score before the end of the opening period.
The 52-yard drive was saved when South lineman David Siebert recovered teammate Erik Santiago’s fumble at the 2-yard line.
Santaigo, who gained 55 yards on 15 carries to lead the diverse South ground attack, plunged in on the next play, and the Cougars were off and running.
Sayvaun Roberts turned in the game’s most electrifying run on the Cougars’ next series, a 53-yard bolt off a single toss sweep that pushed the lead to 21-0 in the first minute of the second quarter.
“That’s probably the best run I’ve seen Sayvaun have in the last two years here,” Bicker said. “He really hit the hole and went straight upfield.”
Diebell’s 39-yard scramble on the next Plainfield South series set up the second of his three TD runs, a 3-yard dive midway through the second quarter.
The Cougars gained 225 yards in the first half, all on the ground using six different runners, and that meant the energetic Plainfield South homecoming crowd was going home happy.
That didn’t mean the Bengals left at halftime, however. Plainfield East made adjustments at halftime on both offense and defense and emerged some the locker room with a commitment to throw the ball and stifle the Cougars running game.
They accomplished both, but wound up with no points to show for the effort.
Quarterback Ben Mazurkiewicz was 18-of-30 for 209 yards just in the second half, and was 23-for-46 for 272 yards in the game.
Using quick pass plays, the Bengals were able to consistently chew up chunks of the turf.
Mazurkiewicz was 6-of-10 for 80 yards on the opening drive of the second half, but the drive stalled at the 7-yard line, and a fourth down corner pass sailed wide to end the threat.
Mazurkiewicz also had to contend with a ferocious Cougars pass rush, which recorded seven sacks, including two each by Adriel Montemayor, Zachary Sutphin and Johnathan McNamara.
The defense also was directly responsible for the final two scores just 82 seconds apart in the fourth quarter.
Hampton-Caffrey recorded his second interception of the game midway through the final period and returned it 52 yards to the Bengals’ 3.
One play later, Dieball slipped in on a 1-yard run to bring the score to 35-0.
On the next possession, a short sideline pass was caught and coughed up, and Sutphin picked up the loose ball and ran 38 yards to cap the scoring.
The bend-but-don’t-break philosophy on defense is fine with Bicker.
“With the spread offenses today, you can’t cover everything, so you try to force teams into the lowest percentage play you can,” he said. “It’s about staying focused.”
Despite their fifth loss in six games, the Bengals’ focused is on their progress as a program. “I thought we did a great job moving the ball,” Terry said. “Our Achilles’ heel has been in the red zone. But we’re working at getting better. There’s still a lot of teaching going on.”