The Minooka varsity football team lost a tight game against a tough Oswego Panthers team on April 23.
The Indians were set to face off against the Panthers of Oswego in what would be the final game of the season for both teams.
Entering the game, both teams held a very impressive 4-1 record with the Indians losing to Plainfield North and the Panthers losing to Oswego East.
This matchup would decide who would be crowned conference champion and is always a highly anticipated game due to the rivalry of these two teams.
“The rivalry with Oswego is huge, every time we play it’s a clash of the two top dogs of the conference,” senior Dylan Meyer said, “Since my days of playing youth football, I have always hated Oswego. So I bet you could imagine how I felt to play them for the last time ever.”
The Indians were able to strike first after a touchdown run by senior Hunter Ryan in the first quarter.
The Minooka defense also started strong holding the Panthers offense scoreless in the first quarter.
Minooka would add another score thanks to another touchdown by Ryan on a swing pass from senior Josh Davis.
The Panthers would be resilient and would not allow this 14-point deficit to bring their morale down.
They were able to answer the previous Minooka touchdown with one of their own after a huge 80-yard run by their running back.
The Indians were unable to score at the end of the half leaving the game with a 7-point Minooka lead.
The Panthers came out of halftime and on their second drive scored another rushing touchdown to even the score at 14.
Both offenses stalled and the defensive strength of both teams began to show throughout the third quarter and a majority of the fourth quarter as well.
Eventually, the Minooka defense began to wear down and Oswego was able to drive all the way down to the red zone and score on yet another rushing touchdown with roughly 1 minute left in the game.
With the score being 21-14 and minimal time remaining, the Indians knew this would be their last shot.
“The last drive I was just trying to get our receivers the ball downfield in open spots of the defense,” Davis said.
Minooka would make a valiant effort and refused to give up down the stretch of the game.
A huge catch and run by junior Malik Armstrong set up the Indians at the 7-yard line with very little time remaining. They would need to make a huge play in order to win or send the game into overtime.
A sack on first down and an incompletion near the pylon left the Indians with 0.1 seconds on the clock and one more play to try to tie or win the game.
Unfortunately, the Indians came up just short and were unable to complete a pass in the endzone intended for Armstrong. The game ended in a 21-14 Oswego victory.
Minooka was plagued by penalties throughout the game, totaling 15 penalties for 115 yards. This forced their offense to be put in situations that were tough to overcome, but they never quit.
“I knew that it was going to be my last game of my high school career, so I made sure that i would collapse on the field before I gave up,” senior Zach Wingerter said, “No matter how bad I was hurting I would never give up.”
This sense of pride and resilience is engraved into this team by head coach Matt Harding. He preached doing things right and laying it out on the line for one another and this team was no different.
“I will always remember this team,” Harding said, “As my first year, there will never be another first for me. I learned how resilient our athletes are to look at the adversity and wall they had in front of them and work each day to knock down that wall.”
The seniors on this team experienced lots of ups and downs due to the pandemic, but were able to come together and fight the adversity. This senior night game means a lot more than it usually does.
“It means the world. Going into the 2020-2021 school year we weren’t even sure we were going to have a season,” Harding said, “To make it to Week 6 during a pandemic is a commitment from both the players and coaches to do the right thing so we can play six games. Our seniors deserved that night and win or lose it was a night dedicated to the class of 2021.”
The seniors leave behind a great legacy and have had a great impact on the juniors who will become the senior leaders of the team next year.
“The impact the seniors had on me was to keep a mindset of hard work and to stay disciplined,” Armstrong said, “I want to carry these things on to be able to be a leader of the team next year so that the lower level can follow and we can be a successful football team.”
The Indians end their season with a 4-2 record and look to have another successful year in the upcoming season.
*Thomas English is a member of the Minooka varsity football team.