Updated: October 13, 2012 1:17AM
Oswego East’s quest to reach the postseason for the first time in school history has not been easy.
For much of the first half against Romeoville, the Wolves didn’t make things easy for themselves against the undermanned visiting Spartans. Early turnovers kept Romeoville in the game before the Wolves pulled away for a 37-12 homecoming victory.
With the triumph, Oswego East improved to 4-4 overall and 2-4 in the Southwest Prairie Conference. More importantly, the Wolves stayed alive for a shot at the playoffs. But their playoff tiebreaker position is precarious since they entered the contest with only 29 opponent wins. And the Wolves will not have a pushover next week in Plainfield North.
“We’re probably going to need some help, but if we can take care of business, we’ll be in the playoffs,” Oswego East coach Tyler LeBlanc said. “I think even more than being eligible for the playoffs, getting over the hump and being over .500. It’s huge for us to become a winning program.”
Still, Oswego East did what it had to do to win its fourth game for only the second time in the nine-year history of the program. And 5-foot-8 seniors Chris Cooper and Sean Kennedy had a lot to do with putting away the winless Spartans (0-8, 0-6).
Cooper led both teams in rushing with 87 yards on 14 carries. And he gained another 25 yards on three receptions from Kennedy.
Kennedy overcame a pair of interceptions in the first half to go 15 of 24 through the air for 201 yards and three touchdowns. He also showed off his quickness for 42 net yards of rushing, including a nifty 37-yard gain on an option play in the first quarter.
“It was good to come out and play well in front of the homecoming fans,” said Kennedy. “We were in a win-or-go-home mindset. Coach (LeBlanc) gives us a 24-hour rule to think about the game we just played, but we have to start thinking about Plainfield North in about 24 minutes.”
Following a 49-yard punt return by speedster Branden Lowe, Kennedy hooked up with Cooper for a flare pass that Cooper took into the end zone easily from 18 yards out, just 2:29 into the game.
But then turnovers began to hurt Oswego East. Kennedy’s pass was intercepted by Caleb Bailey deep in Wolves territory, and Miguel Ford capitalized with a 5-yard run to narrow the lead to 8-6.
After Cooper widened the lead to 16-6 on a 1-yard sweep, Bailey got another turnover when he pounced on a fumbled handoff. But Oswego East’s defense stiffened, as it did often during the evening.
Kennedy got his second scoring strike on an 8-yard slant pass to Joe Talton with 7:51 to go in the half. It appeared that the Wolves would finish the half up 23-6 — a half that they totally dominated — after Caleb Purham picked off Kennedy again in the red zone. But the Wolves got the ball back, and in the play of the game, Kennedy hit Scooter Smith for a 12-yard touchdown pass with six seconds left in the half. Smith made a beautiful diving catch.
“Against a team like this, when we had some miscues (turnovers), we had to keep the guys up and stay positive,” said Kennedy.
Cooper got into the end zone for the third time late in the third period on a 6-yard counter run. The Spartans completed the scoring when Ford connected with Ivan Diaz on a halfback option pass that went 61 yards.
Chase Skenandore was Kennedy’s favorite target. He caught five passes for 96 yards.
The Spartans were led offensively by Ford (18 rushes, 58 yards) and Diaz (2 receptions for 90 yards).