Plano hangs on to beat Johnsburg

JOHNSBURG – Johnsburg showed it could move the ball in a hurry against Plano in Friday’s Kishwaukee River/Interstate Eight Blue game. But after Plano took the lead with 2:12 left on a Ray Jones’ 10-yard run, it was the Reapers’ defense that came through in the game’s biggest spot.

On fourth-and-10 from Plano’s 20-yard line, the Reapers chased Skyhawks quarterback Luke Conroy out of the pocket and tackled him down near the sideline, stopping him a yard short of the first-down marker.

The Reapers took over on downs, kneeled with 2 seconds to go and celebrated a wild 27-26 victory over the Skyhawks.

Plano, which lost by a score to Richmond-Burton, the No. 3 team in The Associated Press Class 4A poll, a week ago, finally got the big win it was looking for.

“We find a way to lose this game for the last three years,” Plano coach Rick Ponx said. “But today, we found a way to win it. We know Johnsburg is a good team. They’re a storied team, they’re a perennial championship playoff team. They came out with heart and we respect their program tremendously.”

With the rain coming down hard throughout the second half, Ponx said it was important that the Reapers (4-1, 2-1) pinned the Skyhawks deep in their own territory on their last possession. A booming punt that went into the end zone did just that for Plano, forcing Johnsburg to drive almost the entire length of the field with with about two minutes remaining.

“To make them go 80 yards in less than two minutes in that driving rainstorm was gonna be tough,” Ponx said. “They end up taking it all the way to the (20). If we don’t put that ball in the end zone then they’re a lot closer. That quarterback [Conroy] played his [butt] off.”

Jones had 213 yards rushing on 22 carries for the Reapers, accounting for most of Plano’s offense. Sam Sifuentes was 5-for-8 passing for only 41 yards, but came up with many big throws on the drive that put Plano ahead late.

Three times on the game-winning drive, Sifuentes hooked up with wide receiver Josh Padilla. The first pass, an 11-yard completion, gave Plano a first down on third-and-7. Padilla had a 12-yard catch near the sideline on fourth-and-13, and then had an 8-yard catch on fourth-and-6 to get the ball to the Skyhawks’ 20.

After Padilla’s third catch of the drive, Jones had back-to-back 10-yard runs, with the second giving him his third TD and the Reapers (4-1, 2-1) the lead for good.

Padilla did not have a catch until the final drive.

“That was Josh. Josh called two of those plays,” Ponx said. “He said, ‘Hey, this is what we can do against them, coach.’ ... It’s a team thing. If you see something, we trust you to call it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Josh knew what he could do, and we got it called.”

Johnsburg’s Jake Metze finished with 185 total yards, including 123 on the ground and two touchdowns. He also had 62 yards receiving on five catches. Conroy finished 9-of-18 passing for 82 yards and added 54 yards rushing, along with two touchdowns. Austin Gibb had 80 yards rushing on 15 carries.

Conroy scored on a 1-yard keeper with 10:09 left in the fourth quarter after the teams held each other scoreless in the third. His touchdown ended a quick drive of six plays and 46 yards that took only 1:51.

The Skyhawks missed their first extra point of the game and failed convert a two-point conversion twice.

“We have really good kids and it’s never been a question of effort or heart,” Skyhawks coach Sam Lesniak said. “They practice hard, they come out and play and they expect to win. It just comes down to the minor details that end up being a big deal.

“As you can see, when you’ve got a game decided by a point, it can come down to an extra point or a first down here or there. It’s the minor details that end up being a big deal.”

The Skyhawks (0-5, 0-3) will look for their first win next week at Sandwich.

“We feel like every game that we’ve walked into, we could win,” Lesniak said.

Plano 27, Johnsburg 26

Plano 7 14 0 6 – 27

Johnsburg 6 14 6 0 – 26

First quarter

J–Conroy 2 run (kick blocked), 5:02

P–Jones 2 run (Herbig kick), 2:53

Second quarter

J–Metze 5 run (run failed), 11:53

P–Jones 27 run (Herbig kick), 8:45

J–Metze 1 run (Metze pass from Conroy), 2:20

P–Jones 46 run (Herbig kick), 1:09

Third quarter

J–Conroy 1 run (run failed), 10:09

Fourth quarter

P–Jones 10 run (run failed), 2:12

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING–Plano: Jones 22-213, Sifuentes 3-29, Johnson 1-minus 2, Team 5-minus 32. Total: 31-208. Johnsburg: Metze 19-123, Gibb 14-80, Conroy 9-54, Team 6-minus 15. Total: 48-242.

PASSING–Sifuentes 5-8-0-41. Johnsburg: Conroy 9-18-0-82.

RECEIVING–Plano: Padilla 3-31, Canfield 2-10. Johnsburg: Metze 5-62, Boal 2-9, Gibb 1-8, Harker 1-3.

TOTAL YARDS–Plano 249, Johnsburg 324

Alex Kantecki

Alex Kantecki

Alex is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald with a focus on preps. He has been with Shaw Media since 2014.