By Brendan Cadman
For the Bugle
Jaxon Aubry and Drew Farrell connected on a 19-yard touchdown pass with just 11 seconds left in the game, as the Joliet West Tigers stunned the Plainfield Central Wildcats, 21-17, on Friday night.
“I thought our defense played outstanding when we really needed them to step up tonight,” Joliet West head coach Jason Aubry stated. “It really is incredible what our kids did tonight on both sides of the ball. They just stepped up and made plays to win the game.”
Though the Tiger offense will get the headlines with the last second touchdown, it was the Joliet West defense that was the star of the game.
After both Joliet and Plainfield failed to do anything with their opening possessions of the game, Senior Alex Schott was able to open the scoring and put the Tigers up, 7-0, with a 22-yard pick six. Thanks to Schott’s score, and the overall play of the Joliet West defense, the Tigers took the seven point lead deep into the second quarter.
However, after a series of turnovers by the Joliet offense, Plainfield Central was able to produce 10 unanswered points. Quarterback Justin Divelbiss’ touchdown pass to Mathews Morganfield and kicker John Rukujoz’s 23-yard field goal helped the Wildcats take a slim, 10-7, lead into the halftime break.
“They (Joliet) did a great job of bouncing around and mixing coverages,” Plainfield Central coach Jon Pereiro said. “They play a very active defense with some really great athletes and are very well coached. You have to give props to them for being able to take us out of our game plan and not allow us to do much offensively.”
In the opening stages of the second half the Joliet defense once again came to the rescue, as Senior Jonathan Pullen returned an interception 44-yards to give the Tigers a 14-10 lead. Joliet would take the four-point lead with them heading into the final quarter of the night.
“That’s what our guys do on defense and our coaches are constantly all over them about scoring,” Aubry exclaimed. “It is not surprising to me that we scored two touchdowns on interceptions because our defense is consistently in a mind set of scoring points.”
Though it seemed that Joliet had stolen the momentum of the game and were set to salt away the remaining minutes behind a dominate defense effort, Plainfield Central would not go down without a fight.
After failing to do much of anything throughout the second half on offense, an interception and long return by Joseph Lawson set up the Wildcats with the ball at midfield and one last chance to make a play. Plainfield quickly moved the ball down the field and with just over a minute remaining in the game, Divelbiss found Tom Gustafson for his second touchdown pass of the night.
Suddenly, the Wildcats found themselves up 17-14 and on the verge of stealing a win from the jaws of defeat.
“Our kids really played their hearts out and never gave up, but we just played against ourselves far too much tonight,” Pereiro said. “We played well on the last drive, but the number of errors leading up to that moment were just to much to overcome.”
On a night where the Joliet offense turned the ball over six times and failed to put up any points through the first 47 minutes of the game, everything finally clicked on their last possession. Jaxon Aubry and Drew Farrell expertly and efficiently led the Tigers 80 yards down the field and scored the games final points with just 11 second remaining, sealing the stunning victory for Joliet.
“It is no secret that we had a tough night offensively, but at no point were our kids ever fazed,” Aubry said. “We never thought about our struggles or turnovers, we just kept our next play mentality and kept fighting. Our next game is going to be a tough test so we’re going to have to be ready and hitting on all cylinders from the start if we want to win. We are just going to keep cranking and do what we do.”
Joliet West (4-2) will look to extend their winning streak up to four games on the road next Friday night at Minooka, while Plainfield Central (3-3) will look to right the ship at home against Oswego East at 1 P.M. on Saturday afternoon.