COAL CITY – Heading into the locker room at halftime and with a playoff berth delicately hanging in the balance, the Coal City football team had to feel good about itself on Friday night.
Tied at 7-all with visiting Plano in an Interstate Eight Conference matchup at Dzuris Athletic Complex, a fourth win seemed within the Coalers’ grasp.
“We had some breaks. They had some big plays that were called back and the ball was bouncing our way,” Coal City coach Lenny Onsen said of the first half. “We went into half with the score 7-7 and we told the guys to regroup and to come out and play well after half, it just didn’t work that way.
“We made mistakes and they capitalized on them. It’s like sharks in the water when there’s blood, [Plano] got hungry and kept coming. That’s what a good football team does. That’s why they are 5-1.”
The circling in the water and the momentum swung heavily in the favor of the Reapers right at the onset of the third quarter.
Three quick scores in the frame on the back of a couple of Coal City turnovers turned a close game into a blowout in what ended up being a 35-14 win by Plano.
“We had a few mental lapses on defense [Friday]. It seems like every time we line up wrong, they’d run it right to where we’re line up,” Coal City quarterback Brennan Shetina said. “But the same goes for the offense. We might miss a block or get a first down or have a nice big run to start the series and then we’d get a holding call or something. That would kill us every time we’d get something going. It seems like it went like that all night long.”
The most obvious turning point came after Plano scored a touchdown in the third quarter to break the 7-7 tie.
On the ensuing drive, Shetina threw an interception and the Reapers capitalized.
Making matters worse, Coal City fumbled and Plano scored again to make it 28-7.
“They scored and then I threw an interception on a screen. That was also a drive killer,” Shetina said. “That kind of thing is unacceptable. We can’t have that if we want to be where we want to be. It’s a lot of little things. Things that are actually simple, easy cleanups.”
“Those are the wrong kind of things to do. They get the short field and their momentum is going strong right there,” Onsen said. “That’s hard to overcome. We just didn’t have the horses this evening to overcome it. It’s been one of those things.”
Now at 3-3, Coal City knows there is no more room for error if the Coalers want to make the playoffs now.
“We have to really regroup and work hard and get ready to go again. We have the next three ballgames left and we have to play them one at a time,” Onsen said. “Right now we have to look at the Peotone game as a playoff game for us. We have to play our tails off to win the next three to make sure we are in the playoffs with six wins. If not, we’re going to have to take a good look at ourselves.”
It makes for easy math, actually.
“There’s three games left. We’re 3-3 and it’s simple, we need to rally these last three weeks,” Shetina said.
“If we win three games, we get into the playoffs, if we don’t win three games, we don’t get in. It’s a pretty simple concept right now. It’s time to rally the guys and to get going.”