MINOOKA — During summer workouts, Minooka head coach Matt Harding said that the offense was ahead of the defense.
After Friday night’s 34-6 win over Plainfield Central, the Indians’ defense appears to have caught up.
Minooka’s defense and special teams forced four turnovers, all of them in Plainfield Central territory, and gave the offense short fields to work with. The Minooka offense, meanwhile, fed the Wildcats a steady diet of running backs Joey Partridge and Braeden Anderson behind a big, physical offensive line. The icing on the cake for Minooka, when a big play was needed, was the connection of quarterback Gavin Dooley to D.J. McIntosh.
That was a recipe for success as the Indians moved to 3-1 on the season.
“The turnovers made me very happy,” Harding said. “We executed our game plan defensively very well. Offensively, we left a lot of points out there, and that’s something we are going to have to clean up, but overall, it was a good game for us.”
On a homecoming night that was celebrating 50 years of Minooka football and saw members of Minooka’s first-ever varsity football team in 1972 serve as honorary captains, the current edition of the Indians made sure the alumni went away with smiles on their faces.
On the Indians’ first possession, punter Troy Hudak ran a fake punt for a first down. After a 25-yard completion from Dooley to McIntosh (7 catches, 125 yards), Partridge appeared to run for a 14-yard touchdown, but the play was called back on a penalty. Facing third-and-26 from the 30, Dooley hit McIntosh for another 25-yard gain, setting up fourth-and-1 from the 5. Anderson bulled his way over the goal line from there and Minooka grabbed a 7-0 lead.
On Central’s second play on the ensuing possession, Minooka’s Dominic Cioni came down with an interception at the Wildcats’ 27. Again, a big play came from McIntosh, this time a 14-yard reception on third-and-12, put the Indians in prime position at the 15. Partridge (17 carries, 70 yards, 2 TDs) ran for an 11-yard gain, but Anderson (10 carries, 23 yards, 3 TDs) was stuffed for a 3-yard loss before Partridge scored on a 7-yard run for a 14-0 Minooka lead with 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
The two teams traded punts, with McIntosh downing the Minooka punt at the Central 1-yard line. Miooka’s Jase Szakel forced a fumble that a teammate recovered at the Wildcat 27. Dooley (11 of 24, 179 yards) hit Connor Christensen for a 24-yard gain, and Partridge scored from three yards out, putting Minooka ahead 20-0 with 4:22 to play in the first half, which was the score at halftime.
“Minooka is a good team,” said Central coach Rob Keane, whose team fell to 1-3. “We made too many mistakes that we weren’t able to overcome.”
Minooka was forced to punt on the opening possession of the second half, but the punt was muffed and the Indians’ Kameron Chigi recovered at the Wildcats’ 24. Three plays later, Anderson scored on a 4-yard run. He added his third TD midway through the fourth quarter from five yards out.
With reserves in the game, Central used the hard running of sophomore running back Malik Jassim to end Minooka’s bid for a second straight shutout. Jassim carried seven times for 66 yards on a 75-yard drive, with backup quarterback Matt Leto scoring from a yard out with 40 seconds left.
“The kids were playing for something bigger than themselves tonight,” Harding said. “We had the 50-year anniversary of Minooka football and some members of the first team here. Our kids played for them.
“We have a nice 1-2-3 punch with Joey, Braeden and D.J. Now we can head into our conference schedule on a three-game win streak.”