Akouris: Breakout season? Joliet West is close
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org September 2, 2012 8:42PM
Joliet West runner Korey Rogers runs in for a touchdown against Plainfield South. | John Patsch~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 4, 2012 6:15AM
Almost isn’t good enough.
Joliet West almost beat Plainfield South on Friday night in Plainfield, instead losing to the Cougars 31-27.
And you may think, so what? Why should I care? Almost winning isn’t as good as actually winning a game.
But if you talk to opposing coaches and players and if you talk to Joliet West coach Jason Aubry, the Tigers are probably a game or two away from blowing this program out of the water and forcing people to take notice.
Just ask Plainfield South coach Ken Bublitz. A couple of days before the game he noted that even though Joliet West went 2-7 the past two seasons, the Tigers almost won four games in 2011.
Again, it’s that “almost” tag that Joliet West can’t shake, at least not yet.
“I’m telling you, that’s the storyline,” Bublitz said. “They’ve gotten better consistently and they showed last week (in a 48-0 victory over Thornridge) they are a complete football team.
“Maybe the team they played isn’t what sometimes you’d expect, but they hit on all cylinders. They looked good on special teams, they played together well and they executed. That was the key. We gave our kids no illusions on what this game was going to be like.”
The Tigers had Plainfield South right where they wanted them off and on — mostly on — Friday night. Never letting things get too out of hand, Joliet West took a 15-14 lead with 1:34 to play in the first half on a gutsy 2-point conversion.
Senior running back Korey Rogers, a sprite of a kid who is as fast as any back at the college level, had scored his second touchdown of the night on a 1-yard run.
Rogers’ earlier score was a splendid 76-yard sprint down mid-field early in the second quarter on the Tigers’ first play of the drive. That long run tied the score at 7.
Rogers is lightning quick — as is most of Joliet West’s offensive players — and it would seem like it would be a no-brainer to watch him play at the next level.
But, as he tells it, he hasn’t made up his mind on where he’s going to college and Rogers, a three-year starter, is evasive when you ask him who has offered or shown interest. The only name that comes up is Wyoming.
Maybe that’s just a sign of Rogers’ humility.
“Ever since I got pulled up sophomore year I got humble,” Rogers said. “It made me realize that the coaches are right. We have to be coachable. They love us, too, and they’re going to put us in the right position.”
With all due respect to Plainfield South, you almost felt Joliet West pulling on your emotions during the second half and were hoping the Tigers could pull this one out.
After Plainfield South took a 21-15 lead on Ricky Luna’s 19-yard pass to Johnathan Kosirog to open the second half, the Tigers countered with a 69-yard pass play from quarterback Ashton McCullough to Niko Messino. That tied the score at 21.
A 24-yard field goal put the Cougars back up 24-21, but Joliet West seemed to be poised for victory No. 2 on the season when Jordan Brown caught McCullough’s 48-yard pass. The point-after attempt was blocked and the Tigers held a 27-24 lead.
Luna scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:42 to play in the game on a 2-yard run and it seemed like West’s run was over. But the Tigers made one last valiant attempt in the game’s final 1:36.
Starting on their own 30, the Tigers managed to convert on fourth-and-10 when McCullough threw a 40-yard pass to Ronald Banner. The Tigers got down to the Plainfield 14, but an incompletion, a sack and another incompletion at the Plainfield 4-yard line with 39 seconds to play marked the end.
“We wanted to keep those drives going and when you don’t block the right way or when you drop a pass or when you get sacked, it kills the drive and that’s huge,” Aubry said. “But it goes back to mistakes. We made too many mistakes.”
Aubry is the type of coach who isn’t shy in telling his players how he really feels about them. He genuinely loves each and every one of them like they are his own son, who, by the way, is the team’s ball boy.
“This is my seventh year and it’s been year after year after year of taking them to different places and understand that this philosophy works,” he said.
“We come from a standpoint where we tell the kids we love them, and they’re just like our kids. They buy into us being a family. We’re here for them.”