PLAINFIELD – Crete-Monee proved Friday night that the size of the roster means nothing when your 11 players outplay their 11 players.
The Class 6A powerhouse Warriors, despite missing two key players and with a roster half the size of Plainfield North’s, did just that to the Tigers, scoring an 18-13 nonconference victory.
Crete-Monee’s passing combination of Josh Franklin to Lynell Billups was unmatched by the Tigers’ defense. Although all three Warriors touchdowns came on the ground, the two juniors collaborated for 150 yards on eight completions, with Franklin totaling 179 passing yards, and gaining another 58 on the ground.
“They’re a fantastic 1-2 punch,” Crete-Monee coach John Konecki said.
“We knew what we were getting ourselves into,” Tigers coach Anthony Imbordino said. “They had speed. We were trying to contain them. They made more plays that we did.”
The Tigers (1-1) opened as if they would dominate, with quarterback Harrison Klein pouring over right tackle from the 1 after four consecutive runs by Jared Gumlia that gobbled up 43 yards.
The first impression didn’t hold up. Crete-Monee thwarted North’s next six drives, kept Gumlia out of the end zone and held him to 98 yards on 20 carries.
Not until 2:33 remained did North score again, with Klein hitting Anthony Wilson from the 10 to trim the gap to 18-13. Nick Cardillo recovered an onside kick to give North a chance to take the lead, but the Warriors forced three straight incompletions to wrap it up.
“We’re close,” Imbordino said. “Makes it fun. Going into conference, we know what we have and what we can fix.”
Crete-Monee had answered North’s opening sortie with a 96-yard scoring drive that took 16 plays and consumed 7:43, converting on third down four times, including the 1-yard plunge by Billups to close the gap to 7-6.
The game would have been tied but for a Crete-Monee penalty on its extra point attempt. The holder flipped the ball to Franklin, who was lined up as the kicker, for a surprise run to the right, but had his knee on the ground when he did so.
Then the Warriors, who dressed only 35 players, showed their defensive pluck, grabbing a fumble by North’s Easton Busch-Lawm and going on a march that took another 4:25 off the clock, ending only when Evan Smith sacked Franklin.
North’s two-minute drive at the end of the half ended when Klein, searching for a receiver, stepped over the line of scrimmage at the Warriors’ 11 and had to scramble. He came up 6 yards short.
Crete-Monee (1-1) scored second-half touchdowns on Franklin’s 1-yard plunge and Tyrell Hester’s 2-yard run. The former was set up by recovering an onside kick to start the second half, and the latter coming at the end of another long drive, 79 yards on 12 plays across 6:50, expanding the lead to 18-7 and shortening the clock.
“We were the underdogs, a little 6A team coming to a stadium like this,” Franklin said. “I learned a lot [losing to Lincoln-Way East]. I got beat up pretty bad. That was first-[game] jitters. I really don’t see us losing anymore.”
“We’re just battling like crazy,” Konecki said. “Once we work through some growth things, we’ll move onward and upward.”