April 12, 2024
Minooka football


Prep football: Minooka holds off Plainfield North in SPC thriller

MINOOKA – Backed up deep in its own territory with five seconds remaining on the clock, Minooka’s defensive unit needed one more stop to preserve its narrow, four-point lead.

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Plainfield North quarterback Eben Heine set up for the final play of the Tigers’ last-ditch push – a fourth-and-goal shot on the Minooka 7-yard line.

Heine already had taken three shots at the end zone, but the Minooka defense had held the line to that point. A pair of incompletions and a defensive pass interference call in the end zone set the Tigers up for one last heave.

And once again, the defense stood its ground. Heine’s pass to the corner of the end zone fell incomplete and Minooka sealed a 31-27 Southwest Prairie Conference win at home.

Led by two interceptions from junior defensive back Nick Schultz, the Minooka defense came up huge often in the win. Schultz erased a promising Tigers drive in the second quarter by jumping in front of a pass in the end zone, then immediately struck again on the first play of North’s following drive.

Though the Tigers (2-3, 2-3 SPC) eventually climbed back into it – taking a brief 27-24 lead in the final seconds of the third quarter – Schultz’s picks on consecutive drives took the wind out of the visitors’ sails and went a long way in helping Minooka (3-2, 3-2 SPC) hold on.

“I think, as a team, we played a great game tonight,” he said after the win. “We executed on all six stages and played a complete game that went all the way down to the wire. We stuck with it and got the win.”

In fact, both defenses played more impressively than the final score might indicate. When North took its aforementioned third quarter lead, it was a result of a 63-yard pick six from defensive end Logan Todorovic. The big senior beat his man at the line of scrimmage, tipped a hurried pass from Minooka quarterback Seth Fehr skyward, then snagged it out of the air and rumbled all the way to paydirt.

Minooka quickly retook the lead for good about two minutes later when star tailback Noah Ellens broke off a 17-yard TD scamper. Then its defense came up huge again on the Tigers’ next push.

Heine led North back into Minooka territory with three quick first downs, but the D-line stopped him cold with back-to-back sacks to kill the first of two failed comeback drives.

The crucial difference between the teams’ respective offenses was Minooka’s ability to break things wide open on home-run plays.

Ellens snapped off a 72-yard sprint to open the scoring on the contest’s second play from scrimmage and Lehr was able to connect on a pair of lengthy TD strikes, as well. Lehr connected with receiver Stevie Gonzalez from 42 yards out in the second quarter and hit Connor Etzkorn with a 29-yard score later in the same quarter.

"Just like last week, I have to thank my O-line," Ellens said. "They came out and smacked them in the mouth. They were pushing kids backwards on every single play.

"They were making great blocks play after play and our receivers were blocking well downfield. My teammates really opened things up for me."

The Tigers managed some long ones of their own – most notably a 62 yard TD pass from Heine to Jaylon Tillman – but they ultimately fell just shy of keeping pace with their hosts.

"In the second half, I thought we came out and played a lot better, but on offense we shot ourselves in the foot in the first half too many times," North coach Tim Kane said. "The kids gave themselves a chance to win at the end. But, you know, just didn't come through.

“I’m proud of the way we played in the second half. We fought and came back and did the things we need to do to be a good football team,” he added. “We came up short tonight, but now all we can do is get back to work.”