Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Oswego East is having...

...its best football season ever -- by far. On Saturday the 9-1 Wolves will travel almost fifty miles to take on undefeated and defending Class 8A champion Loyola in the second round of the playoffs. It's my Game of the Week.

This is only the third winning season in history for Oswego East. In fairness, though, the Southwest suburban (or is it exurban?) school has only been around since 2004. And head coach Tyson LeBlanc (second from the left in the picture above) is only in his fifth season at the helm of the Wolves.

Although Oswego East went 0-9 as recently as 2009 (ouch!), LeBlanc shepherded his squad to a 7-4 finish in 2013 and a 6-4 record in 2015. Last year the Wolves made it to the second round of the postseason, losing to Geneva, 36-19.

What else do I know about Oswego East? Not much. (But that didn't stop me from writing this post back in July.)

How about this? Oswego East has the No. 1-ranked running back in the state of Illinois according to Ivory Kelly-Martin (far right), an Iowa recruit, transferred to Oswego East from Nazareth last winter. Kelly-Martin was the leading rusher for the Roadrunners, 2015's Class 5A state champions. (I'd love to know the backstory to that transfer.)

The Wolves also have a talented quarterback in Jaylon Banks (far left), a Louisiana Tech recruit, and defensive end/tight end Elijah James (second from right), who is headed to Central Michigan next year.

Beyond that, all I know is that Oswego East's lone defeat came at the hands of cross-town rival Oswego, 21-3. (Ironically -- or is it coincidentally? -- the Ramblers could face the undefeated Panthers in the semifinals. Loyola fans may be wondering, "What does the town of Oswego have against us?")

Oswego East was ranked No. 23 in the Sun-Times at the end of the regular season and No. 39 in MaxPreps after last week.

As you can see from their 2016 schedule (home team in CAPS) the Wolves have beaten three winning teams so far, Joliet WestPlainfield North (still alive in 7A) and Curie (where, coincidentally, LeBlanc coached before Oswego East).

Oswego East 49, JOLIET WEST 14  
OSWEGO EAST 48, Romeoville 14  
OSWEGO EAST 71, Joliet Central 0  
Oswego East 40, PLAINFIELD SOUTH 19  
Oswego East 21, PLAINFIELD NORTH 14  
Oswego 21, OSWEGO EAST 3                 
OSWEGO EAST 42, Plainfield Central 0  
Oswego East 60, MINOOKA 28  
OSWEGO EAST 46, Plainfield East 9  
OSWEGO EAST 56, Curie 14        

Loyola, of course, needs no introduction to readers of this blog. But I've included their schedule, below, just to refresh your memory.

Loyola 36, MARQUETTE (WI) 7    
LOYOLA 44, Maine South 43  
Loyola 35, MOUNT CARMEL 28  
LOYOLA 55, St. Francis 0  
Loyola 52, FENWICK 21  
LOYOLA 35, St. Rita 3  
Loyola 51, LEO 8  
LOYOLA 42, Providence 7
Loyola 48, BROTHER RICE 37
LOYOLA 42, O'Fallon 14

So do the Wolves have a chance against the big, bad Ramblers? (Needless to say, the two schools have never faced each other.) I don't know, but I'm looking forward to seeing the (arguably) best running back in the state. Can Kelly-Martin make the difference? And can Banks keep Loyola's defense honest? Does Oswego East have an offensive line that can create holes for Kelly-Martin? Do they have anyone on defense besides James?

Or will Loyola just extend its -- yawn -- winning streak to 28 games? And are they headed for a semifinal rematch with Homewood-Flossmoor? And a rematch with Palatine, this time for all the marbles in Champaign? (I think so.)

The forecast for Wilmette on Saturday is 65 degrees and sunny. The Cubs will be World Champions by then so you won't have any excuse to stay home and watch baseball. If nothing else, when Kelly-Martin is lighting up the scoreboard in the Big Ten you can brag to everyone around you, "Hey, I saw that kid play in high school -- I knew he'd be a great one!"

Seriously, how can you not go to this game?

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