Plainfield East delivers pivotal win

Bengals keep playoff hopes alive

PLAINFIELD — The stakes couldn’t have been higher for Plainfield East.

A win increased its playoff odds, a loss essentially squashed them. The intensity of the situation wasn’t lost on the Bengals as they rolled into Plainfield South Friday night.

“The drive here was different,” Bengals wideout Michael Morgan said. “The nerves were more, because we knew what was on the line.”

If those nerves impacted Plainfield East’s play, you’d hardly know it. Sparked by two first-half touchdown receptions from Morgan, the Bengals (4-4) played a complete game and survived some late drama to nab a 45-32 victory over Plainfield South (3-5). They now head into the final week of the season clinging to still-present postseason hopes.

“It was a group effort,” Plainfield East coach Brad Kunz said. “We’ve had games where our offense has done really well, or our defense has done really well. Tonight, we put it together. It’s a good feeling to know that, in those times of pressure, we battled back.”

Early on, it seemed both teams would be involved in a back-and-forth affair. Plainfield East opened the game with an 89-yard drive, capped off by a 30-yard touchdown pass from junior QB Quinn Callaghan to Morgan. On the ensuing drive, Cougars running back Brian Stanton stormed through the Plainfield East line for a 53-yard touchdown dash.

Momentum seemed to be on the Cougars’ side shortly after, as Callaghan was picked off on Plainfield East’s next possession. Yet, the Cougars’ passing game struggled to get going, making first half points tough to come by.

Plainfield East ran off two more scoring drives, each finished with TD passes from quarterback Brandon Parades. The freshman replaced Callaghan after the interception, finishing the game going 13-of-20 for 201 yards and three passing touchdowns. He added a touchdown run in the fourth.

The Cougars threatened to make the game close when Cornell Faust Jr. opened the second half by returning a kickoff 65 yards to the house, tightening the score to 21-19. But with quarterback Connor Folliard having just two completed passes midway through the third quarter, Plainfield South wasn’t able to do enough to keep up with the Bengals. Plainfield East scored 18 unanswered, led by running back Marco Liace’s two third-quarter touchdown runs.

The loss erases the Cougars’ playoff hopes, but coach William Bicker was convinced the high-pressure situation had little impact on his team’s performance.

“No, it definitely wasn’t pressure,” Bicker said. “It was a couple small mistakes here and there. They capitalized on them, and we didn’t make enough plays in the end.”

The Cougars had an opportunity to do so, closing the gap to 39-32 late in the fourth and forcing a fumble from Plainfield East. But the Bengals recovered, eventually reeling off a 56-yard touchdown drive to seal the game.

The energy from the Plainfield East’s post-game huddle was euphoric. Yet, with next week’s season finale at Romeoville, the team remains focused on the task at hand.

“We’ve got to make sure we stay level” Morgan said. “Can’t get too over our head, don’t make stupid mistakes.”