After going from an undefeated four wins and zero losses to four wins and three losses just three weeks later, it was important for the East boys’ varsity team to get back on track against a 5-2 Plainfield North team and stay above .500 for the season. A win would significantly improve their chances at reaching the state playoffs, and it was also both the Homecoming game and Senior Night.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, the outcome was not what they had hoped for, as they fell in their final home game of the season by a score of 14-9. Their defense certainly kept them in the game, but on offense all they could manage was one touchdown, with the defense adding on the other two points for getting a safety.
“There were opportunities where we had openings to score and we just didn’t execute when we needed to,” senior running back Zoye Harden said. “We had very long drives. It just seems that when we hit a wall we seem to be stuck in a loop where we play mind games with ourselves. We definitely could have and should have won.”
Going into the game, Coach Tyson LeBlanc knew that North had some explosive receivers, and for the most part they did a pretty good job limiting the oppositions offense. A main key though for the team was just to remain upbeat after the struggles they’ve gone through recently.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been in this situation, so just getting guys to remain positive and understand that the goals that we set out to achieve this year are still attainable. We just need to make sure we go out and take care of business,” LeBlanc said.
The first quarter certainly did not help turn things around for the team as Plainfield North took their first possession down the field for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. After both teams traded punts and turnovers for the rest of the quarter, it stayed at 7-0. Senior offensive lineman and Bowling Green State University commit Alex Wollschlaeger was later able to pinpoint where the Wolves were having the most problems on offense.
“I think it came down to the little things. We were able to move the ball the whole game it was just once we got near the end zone we began to play sloppy and execute poorly,” Wollschlaeger said.
With East recovering a fumble early in the second quarter, they were able to turn it into their only scoring drive of the game, a passing touchdown from the four yard line to make it a 7-7 tie with 6:10 left in the first half.
This lead did not hold up for long though, as North was able to go on a long scoring drive, aided by a long play on third down from around midfield. Despite having a touchdown called back for them do to holding, they were still able to get in the end zone, and they took a 14-7 lead, which they would hold on to until the end of the half.
“Our offense wasn’t executing well so we struggled,” senior wide receiver Amani Cammon said. “We need to focus on executing our plays and play our game for us to win.”
The second half overall didn’t bode well for the home team, as despite holding the road team scoreless for the entire third quarter, East failed to score on offense as well.
At this point though to start the fourth it seemed as if the Wolves just maybe were getting the one break they needed to propel them to a tying touchdown. With Plainfield North one yard away from a touchdown to put them up two scores, a crazy fumble caused them to lose 18 yards, then on the very next play they threw an interception to set the home team up with the ball. It would all be for naught, though, as they weren’t able to sustain that drive.
“It’s the little things that we need to emphasize on. We need to simply play our football. We need to be pure athletes and at the end of the day we have so much talent on the team that in the last four games we should’ve destroyed these teams,” Harden said. “When you play very robotic and without instinct, that’s what happens. We have each other’s backs and we believe in each other to the fullest extent. Once we play like that, we can’t be beat.”
East, however, would get one more big opportunity to drive down the field and tie the game. After Harden converted a fourth and one on the 35-yard-line with three minutes to go, the Wolves made their way into the red zone. However, the drive would be halted as East was intercepted on fourth and nine.
Plainfield North wasted most of what time was left, and even purposely took a safety to waste more time, even though it made the score 14-9. After a failed hook and ladder attempt, the clock hit zero, and the Wolves had lost the game, falling to 4-4. For most of the members of the team, this was also their last home football game, as they will be graduating this year.
“It was weird because for 11 years I’ve been playing football and for it to all be over soon is just sad, but I’m glad to have done it with my brothers on the field,” Cammon said.
Wollschlaeger is an athlete who will get the chance to participate at the next level, but he also, like Cammon, still realized what this season soon coming to an end meant for him and the fellow senior players.
“I don’t think it was weird, I think that it didn’t really hit anybody until after the game that we may never be on this field again and that just made everyone emotional and remiss on the past and our accomplishments together,” Wollschlaeger said.
The Wolves will look to finish out the regular season strong and finish above .500 next week when they travel to West Aurora for their final game. The finale will start at 7 p.m. or after the conclusion of the junior-varsity contest.
Ben Schmidt is the Sports Editor for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl