Goss: Southwest Prairie football race promises to be a scramble
By Dick Goss email@example.com August 23, 2013 11:12PM
Minooka coach Paul Forsythe. | File photo
Updated: September 26, 2013 6:29AM
Every year when we create our preseason football package, something jumps off the page.
This year for me, it’s the scramble in the Southwest Prairie Conference.
Oswego has ruled the past two seasons, going 14-0 in league games. The Panthers perhaps will not be as strong this time around, but they are the favorite, at least until someone proves otherwise.
Whom might that someone be? That’s where things get interesting.
If you review what the other seven conference teams have to offer, and what potential weaknesses they may have to overcome, you arrive at a conclusion:
Any of Minooka, Plainfield South, Plainfield North, Romeoville, Plainfield East, Plainfield Central and Oswego East may give Oswego a run for the title. Of course, any of them can as easily be involved in a struggle to escape the second division, perhaps even to avoid the basement.
It isn’t often I have seen balance like that, top to bottom, in any conference this side of the Catholic League Blue. No automatic victories for anyone; no sure losses, either. Every Friday night you’re in for a dogfight.
In this situation, it behooves SPC teams to win their nonconference games. If they don’t, and if a majority of league teams finish something close to .500 inside the conference, many will miss the playoffs.
So is the idea to schedule weaker nonconference opponents so your playoff hopes are stronger? Not at all.
Kudos to Minooka coach Paul Forsythe, who recently told me the Indians’ first three foes — Morris, Providence and Oswego — are the type of teams he wants to play. Learn early whether your team is playoff-worthy and be prepared for the playoffs when they arrive. That’s more desirable than qualifying because you play a weak schedule and then getting blown out in Round 1.
The overall strength of the SPC may not match that of some power conferences, but it does offer special talents to watch. Among them are Plainfield South linebacker Clifton Garrett, Romeoville defensive end/tight end Anthony Love and cornerback/running back Miguel Ford, Minooka running back Nate Gunn and defensive end Mark Geers, Plainfield North running back Quintin Hoosman and Plainfield East defensive end Daniel Jackson and running back/linebacker Cullen Rompa.
The Minooka at Morris game is among our area’s marquee openers Friday night. We have discussed the Providence at Joliet Catholic and Wilmington at Coal City games in recent columns. Obviously, both are huge.
I’m interested to see how Plainfield South at Lemont comes out. Ditto Lincoln-Way East at Carmel and Bolingbrook at Hinsdale Central in a pair of heavyweight struggles.
Also, don’t be shocked if Joliet Central earns its first victory since the return to separate programs at Central and West. The Steelmen open at Rich Central.
One game perhaps under the radar because of everything else going on is Sycamore at Lincoln-Way West.
You may recall West dropping a 21-20 Class 5A quarterfinal decision to Joliet Catholic last November when quarterback Just Keuch was stopped just short of the goal line on a 2-point conversion attempt that would have won the game. The Warriors have 15 starters back, including Keuch and 1,000-yard rusher Javier Montalvo, and want to take it a couple of steps further.
You may not recall how good Sycamore was last year, and the Spartans have one more returning starter than Lincoln-Way West. Sycamore beat West 19-13 in last year’s opener and its season ended in a 24-22 overtime loss to Montini in Round 2 of the 5A playoffs. So this shapes up as quite an opener as well.
If you’re a die-hard fan and want more about opening night or the season in general, stop at Durbin’s Restaurant on Route 30 in Plainfield on Sunday afternoon. The WJOL-AM (1340) preseason coaches’ show will begin there at 1 p.m. and continue for at least a couple of hours.