8/24 7:15 H
2005 Week #9 vs. Coal
Coalers Taste Defeat Again
For only the second time in the 2005 football season the Coalers have tasted defeat. With a chance at the conference co-championship on the line Coal City dropped its regular-season finale to Wilmington by a score of 21-14.
Given a chance to win by few, if any, outside of the community boarder the Coalers may have made a few more believers in the Interstate Eight. The Plano Reapers and Wilmington Wildcats officially share the distinction as champions of the conference with Plano taking the title of conference representative by the IHSA for seeding in the playoffs due to the head to head victory over the Wildcats.
The Coalers came out on senior night and struck first. On their second possession of the game, sophomore quarterback J.T. Blaine threaded the needle between two Wilmington defenders to hit receiver Ben Rouse in stride allowing Rouse to do the rest; sprinting to a 56-yard touchdown run.
Hitting his first two pass attempts would be the highlight of the evening for Blaine as the Wilmington defense only allowed him to complete one of his next 14 attempts; all three of his completions went to Rouse for 69 yards.
The Coalers punted on their next two possessions while Wilmington held the running game down. Zach Smith only had 6 yards on 4 carries in the first half. The Coalers were in control of the ball for an astoundingly low three minutes of clock on those two possessions, illustrating just how important it is for this team to be able to run the football effectively.
While the Coalers struggled to get going beyond the touchdown strike; the Wildcats too found it difficult to get their game-legs in gear. Dillon Roark misfired on his first three pass tries and Wilmington was forced to punt on its first three possessions.
The fun ended there as the next three Wilmington possessions ended in touchdowns. The trio of running backs for Wilmington started to hit holes opened up by the offensive line (a theme that would continue until the game’s final gun) and Roark found his favorite target, Jim Cortese, on a pair of passes before finding him again for a touchdown in the corner of the endzone from 15 yards away. Cortese was covered tightly by Luke Turner and hauled the ball in before the safety, Smith, could get his hands up and in front.
Cortese would not catch another pass finishing with 3 grabs for 24 yards but would get the better of Smith on one more play. Meanwhile Matt Combes, Ryan Jones and a scrambling Roark were helping Corey Chaney in amassing some serious yardage on the ground. Combes ran for 34 yards on 11 attempts and Jones 48 yards on 12 carries. Roark scrambled 53 yards on 11 tries of his own.
Chaney, a sophomore, was the workhorse for Wilmington. For the game he ran 25 times for 123 yards (4.9 per) and had the Coalers reeling. In all, Wilmington ran the football 60 times for 260 yards.
On a 4th –and-2 yards to go from the Coaler 25 Roark went the way of his favorite target, Cortese, again but the pass was incomplete. The pass was likely incomplete because Smith arrived a second too early to make a hit on Cortese. The penalty gave the Wildcats new life and they took advantage. Chaney was called on three plays in a row until he took one into the endzone from 8 yards out. The score gave the Wildcats the 14-7 lead that they took to halftime.
The Coalers wasted very little time getting right back into the game in the third. Making up for the call against him late in the first half, Smith took his second touch of the third quarter 55 yards to pay dirt to tie the contest at 14. Smith finished the game with 92 yards on 13 carries.
Wilmington marched right down the field to answer the Coalers’ touchdown on a drive taking over eight minutes of clock with it. Roark came up with big plays on the drive. He was able to find Chaney for 29 yards on a critical 3rd down play and later located Jones for 14 yards on a 4th and long. He concluded the drive on a keeper for 6 yards up the left side and into the endzone.
The Coaler defense would keep Wilmington out of the endzone for the duration but had little success at halting the running game and thus the clock. The Wildcats had 20 first downs in the game, 17 of which came on running plays. On their last two possessions the ‘Cats chewed up nearly 8 minutes of the forth quarter game clock. The Coalers held them on a forth down to get the ball back with :19 on the clock but a Blaine incompletion and two dropped passes kept the Coalers from getting in position for any type of ‘Hail Mary’.
The Coalers defense has been stellar for years. Even in defeat they were impressive against highly touted quarterback Dillon Roark. Like his brother before him, Roark has made good defenses look shabby but could not pull of that feat against Coal City. The Coalers held Roark to 5 of 10 passing for 67 yards.
While the ‘Cats came out running- several Coalers came out ready to take them down. Kevin Tuskey tallied 14 tackles, Nick Bonarek 16 and Nick Trotter 17 from the front seven. A stalwart in the secondary this season, Brian Naiden finished his regular-season career by hauling down Wildcats 16 times.
Special game balls go out to the Coaler seniors who have dedicated years of practices to making themselves and their teammates better players and people. This year’s crop of seniors: Ben Rouse, Jack Carpenter, Naiden, Bernie D’Orazio, Austin McDowell, Chris Walsh, Marc Olsen, Michael Bernard, Luke Turner, Bonarek, Keegan Grant, Brian Popovich, Josh Hinkelman, Derek Chapin, James Knobloch, Kyle McCarville and Matt Rodriguez.
Low and behold, even with a loss to the mighty Wildcats of Wilmington the Coalers are headed to the playoffs. Their first-round opponent? A familiar foe and upset winner in week three at Coal City, the Reed-Custer Comets.
This marks the 18th time in 19 years that the Coalers will be headed to week ten of football action. Head Coach Lenny Onsen says, “A lot of people talk about the Wilmington program being great and ours being good but 18 out of 19 years? That’s pretty great to me.” When kidded about the one missed opportunity to make the playoffs on his watch Onsen turned into a record book recalling that year’s team’s mistakes. He revealed that he could tell every blown assignment that cost the team wins in the campaign as well. It is that attention to detail that keeps the Coalers near the top of the conference and on everyone’s radar year after year.
When one considers that Coal City has only missed the playoffs one time since everyone on their roster was born, it takes on that much more of an impressive feeling.
The Coalers will travel to Braidwood for the playoff opener Friday night at 7pm. In week three, the Comets players and fans danced all over the field at the Durzis complex after defeating the Coalers 26-14.
The outcome of that game was very much determined by the Coalers’ five turnovers. Three interceptions thrown by then-starting quarterback Jack Carpenter and two costly fumbles by Zach Smith (one inside the Comet 5-yard-line) did more than aide the Comets to victory, it propelled them.
Carpenter was able to throw for 137 yards on 20 attempts (both season highs) and Smith trotted for 93 yards and a pair of scores. Ben Rouse was the high man receiving with 4 grabs for 64 yards. Nick Bonarek led the defensive unit from his then-middle linebacker position with 15 tackles. Keegan Grant had a dozen tackles and Matt Rodriguez added nine. Carpenter corralled the lone Comet turnover by intercepting Gavin Johnston’s first pass attempt.
For Reed-Custer, Johnston completed 11 of 18 pass attempts (61 percent) for 162 yards and a touchdown, while looking the most comfortable of any passes the Coalers took on this season. He also ran for an additional 20 yards and returned the favor by inctercepting Carpenter. Matt Pivonka paced the Braidwood attack on the ground. He ran for 122 yards on 23 touches (5.3 yards per).
I just do not see any way the Coalers would let this rematch slip out of their hands. While they are likely not thrilled to be playing a conference opponent in the first round; they realize they have to win to play other conferences’ teams in the case. I think that when they take the field in Braidwood they will have momentary flashbacks of the celebration on their home field and use that as fuel to a 34-6 stomping of the Comets. Is there any chance that the border dispute between the towns could be settled by this game much like when the mayors from big cities make friendly wagers when their respective professional team is in a playoff?
By Jim Ludes
Last Season's Record:
First Varsity Season:
Past Player Watch
8/25 7:30 @
8/26 7:30 H