PLANO — Deadlocked in a scoreless tie with just over seven minutes left in the game, Coal City special-teamer Bailey DePodesta picked a poor time to forget his punt assignment.
He picked an even better time to make up for it.
After forgetting to get onto the field during the aforementioned punt, DePodesta remembered the final time and made it count, recovering a muffed punt with 1:37 left, sealing the Coalers 7-0 Interstate-8 victory at Plano.
The Coaler defense, like it did much of the night, made sure the mistake wouldn’t be costly. A three-and-out later, junior quarterback Brennan Shetina carried over the momentum from the previous drive into a touchdown.
Shetina started out with a 6-yard option run from his own 45-yard line. Ryland Tondini gained 10 more on the next play, before Shetina found Matt Burchfield down the sidelines, tip-toeing his left foot in for a 25-yard gain. One play later, Tondini put the Coalers on top of the defensive battle with a 12-yard run with just 3:57 remaining.
“For a while there I didn’t think either of us would be able to score,” Onsen said of his team and his counterpart, Plano. “I was wondering how many overtimes we were going to go."
Plano’s offense found a spark itself as it gained 34 yards in six plays to get to its own 46-yard line with just over two minutes to go. But a backwards pass was recovered by Coaler cornerback Jake Czaja at the 48.
Three rushes and three Reaper time outs later, Onsen was forced to send out the punt team once again, this time with DePodesta on the field. He came scorching down the field, and as the Peotone returner heard footsteps, he muffed the kick leaving DePodesta to fall on top of it and seal the victory.
It got to a point during the fourth quarter of Friday night’s game that Coal City coach Lenny Onsen figured his team would be playing until midnight.
“I definitely don’t like the drama,” Onsen said. “I’d like this to have been different. We have a lot of improvement to do, but in the I-8 it’s a hard fought game every night. We were fortunate tonight, and it’s good to be back on this side.”
Coal City rebounded to move to 5-1 on the year following last week’s 14-10 loss to Sandwich.
“It was very huge for us,” Onsen said of the rebound. “If we want to be a tough playoff team, we have to win tough games on the road after tough losses like last week.”
Tondini (14 carries, 92 yards) battled through little-to-no gains all night long, with the exception of a 45-yard burst in the first half, but once he found a hole, he took advantage.
“It feels great, but I have to give all the credit to the line,” he said. “They stepped up in the fourth quarter when we knew what was on the line. We needed to win this game, and we’ll see where it takes us in the future.”