By Scott Taylor | @Taylor_Sports
Entering a new conference, Joliet Central was anxious to end its losing streak in the Southwest Prairie Conference opener against a young Plainfield East squad.
While the defense pitched a shutout at home Friday, the Steelmen gave up a touchdown while on offense in the 6-0 loss.
“We’re disappointed, but it was a great game,” Joliet Central coach Brett Boyter said. “Give them credit, their defense played fantastic, just as well as ours did. That was a good test for us today and we are going to take a lot out of it and grow from it.”
The only scoring play of the game came with 7:34 left in the second quarter when Bengal linebacker Blake Coughlin intercepted a pass and raced 18 yards for the touchdown.
It was the best defensive game the Steelmen have had since the split several years ago. Despite having their backs up against the wall in the first half, the defense refused to yield any points, stopping the Bengals on fourth down deep in Steelmen territory twice in the first half. In fact, nearly the entire half was played on that side of the field as Central failed to cross midfield offensively all half.
The second half was a punters duel but the Steelmen were able to cross the 50 midway through the third quarter and pinned the Bengals inside the five on consecutive possessions.
A missed interception though early in the fourth quarter appeared to take the wind out of their sails as the Bengals got over half of their yards (187) in the fourth quarter.
However, with the backs up against the wall, the Steelmen defense responded with two more fourth down stops inside their own 30.
“We have an experienced defense and they played great, much better than they practiced during the week,” Boyter said. “These guys are hungry and ready to work. That is the difference and as long as we keep seeing that effort, we feel the score will turn out different for us.”
But the offense could never quite get on track, thanks in part to the blitzing Bengals defense, as they could muster just 95 yards of offense.
“I’m extremely confident that we will put it together offensively,” Boyter said. “We will have to look at the film to see where it broke down. They are so much better than they showed today and there will be a huge jump in our offense between weeks one and two.
“We anticipated and practiced against their blitz, but it is week one and game speed,” Boyter said. “Their blitz did play a factor. They did an excellent job of figuring out what our quarterback was reading. They were in the backfield too much and our quarterback never got comfortable in the pocket today. It was a great test for us in week one. We will learn from it and get better.”
The Steelmen play host to Minooka Friday at 6:30 p.m.