JOLIET — Plainfield North quarterback Demir Ashiru admitted that his wide receivers were so open during select plays in Thursday’s Southwest Prairie crossover game with Joliet West that it made him a little nervous.
“It’s a little nerve wracking,” Ashiru said. “You don’t want to lead them too far or leave them short. But we’d been working on it all week.”
Ashiru didn’t lead them too far or leave them too short as he threw touchdown passes of 61, 57 and 66 yards in the first half as Plainfield North rolled to a 48-0 win to allow them to become the state’s first team with a 3-0 record on the season.
“It feels really good,” Ashiru said. “It’s been really hard work and we have such high expectations that it is really nice to see it play out on the field.”
Plainfield North started the game out as it tends to, trying to establish a ground game but when it didn’t net the results it was hoping for, North went to the air, immediately striking an area where it felt like it might be able to take advantage of Joliet West (0-3).
“We knew that West was going to bring their (linebackers) up and kind of play a 5-3 [defense], and we’d been practicing for that all week,” Plainfield North coach Anthony Imbordino said. “We knew with all those guys in the box, they were going to suck up and we could get a guy or two open downfield.”
Open was an understatement. Braxton Bartz slipped behind the Joliet West defense and was all by himself as Ashiru’s pass floated toward him. He hauled it in and scored from 63 yards out to give North a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Plainfield North went back to pretty much the same well. Setting things up with a pair of productive running plays, another North receiver managed to slip behind the Joliet West defense. Sean Schlanser was the benefactor this time, scoring from 57 yards in much the same fashion that Bartz did.
Then, the defense got involved with the scoring. Just three plays into the next Joliet West drive, Jason O’Boye picked off a pass and scored from 22 yards out to stretch North’s lead to 21-0 early in the second quarter.
The ball quickly got back in the hands of Plainfield North and it soon found more points. A long pass from Ashiru to Jaxon Boryca got it inside Joliet West’s 15-yard, and despite the fact that Ashiru had his bell rung on a play that drew a personal foul penalty, Plainfield North was able to keep moving the football and scored on a 3-yard plunge from Ashiru’s brief replacement at quarterback, Nicholas Darwish.
And just two plays later, North’s defense picked off another pass, this time from Logan Rooney, and scored from 37 yards out.
It looked like that might be all for the first half scoring, but Plainfield North picked off yet another pass. The ensuing drive appeared to be on the verge of ending quickly and uneventfully, but Plainfield North went deep into the playbook and pulled out a flea flicker play that looked doomed from the start. The ball carrier barely got the return pitch to Ashiru away before being tackled and it squirted to the ground as a fumble. But a completely poised Ashiru simply plucked the ball off the ground looked up and found Bartz once again completely clear of the defense.
Sixty-six yards later, Bartz was in the end zone for his second score, which gave Plainfield North a 42-0 lead that would set the running clock in motion for the entire second half.
“I’m absolutely enjoying this,” Ashiru said. “Having the opportunity to showcase all of the talent we have and to spread the field and go deep into the playbook.”
Ashiru completed just six passes but they went for 232 yards and three scores.
John St. Clair capped the scoring with an 85-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.