OSWEGO – Mark Melton provided a taste of his potential with a spectacular touchdown run against Minooka in the spring season finale.
He showed the full menu Friday.
Melton caught passes, played defensive back and punted – even downing his own punt at one point. His running, however, was simply brilliant.
Oswego’s senior running back ran for 241 yards and scored four touchdowns – all of his scores coming in the second half – to carry the Panthers to a key 41-28 win over Minooka in the Southwest Prairie West opener on a rainy night at Ken Pickerill Stadium.
“I put it all on the line,” Melton said. “I said I was going to run my hardest every rush, and that’s what I did. Honestly, I’m thanking my linemen, my receivers – it wasn’t just me. We did this as a team.”
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Melton scored on a 58-yard hook-and-ladder from Tyler Weddington for the go-ahead score in the third quarter, then ran in a 7-yard TD. He later caught a 24-yard TD pass from Cruz Ibarra.
Melton momentarily came out after he slipped cutting on the wet grass on Oswego’s last possession as the Panthers (3-2, 1-0) looked to prevent Minooka (2-3, 0-1) from a last-ditch drive – but he returned to pick up a key 11-yard first down on third down.
Not content to run the clock out, Melton broke off a 68-yard TD down the right sideline to cap off his huge night.
“He tore it up tonight. He played like a man on a mission,” Oswego coach Brian Cooney said. “He was twitchy tonight, hitting those holes hard. Cutbacks were good, vision was good. That is about what Mark Melton can do.”
Melton was on the business end of a perfectly-executed trick play that turned the game.
With Oswego backed up to a first-and-22 trailing, 14-12, on its second drive of the second half, Weddington caught a short pass from Ibarra on the left side of the field. Weddington lateraled it to the speedy Melton, who scooted down the left sideline for the 58-yard score and a 20-14 lead after Oswego made the 2-point conversion.
“We ran it the whole week of practice. That was our go-to play when we were backed up that we were going to pull out a little trickery,” Melton said. “That got the crowd live and the team live. It gave us momentum.”
“That was the right call at the right time,” Cooney said. “Great call by [offensive coordinator] Ben Kleinhans. I had said let’s not run it when they’re looking for it, let’s run it when we want to. Great call, great play.”
Big plays, unfortunately, have bit Minooka a few times this season and did so again Friday.
In the first quarter Oswego’s Triston August returned a blocked punt 32 yards for a touchdown.
“That’s been our MO this year, is not stopping big plays,” Minooka coach Matt Harding said. “Teams can’t drive the field on us but we have given up big plays with busted coverages. We have a bunch of kids. They’re getting better. The experience they’re getting on Friday will help them.”
Minooka took the 14-12 halftime lead with Ethan Murphy’s 27-yard TD pass to Trevor Hudak and Malik Armstrong’s 2-yard run.
Armstrong, an NIU recruit, was spectacular wherever he lined up.
He ran for 72 yards on 27 carries, returned kicks and played defensive back. With the Indians traling, 27-14, after Melton’s 7-yard TD, Armstrong gave them a jolt with an over-the-shoulder 40-yard catch that set up his own 4-yard TD run. Armstrong later answered Melton’s 24-yard TD catch with his own 13-yard scoring run.
“He is playing both sides of the ball, returning kicks, I’m surprised they kicked it deep because we’ve returned three or four TDs,” Harding said.
Minooka, in a slightly precarious spot at the season’s halfway point with three losses, was down four starters, including outside linebacker and a cornerback. Murphy ran for 86 yards and threw for 114.
“Like I told them, the adversity they will face day in and day out, I will remember more how they fight that adversity than what the scoreboard says,” Harding said.
Ibarra was 15 for 19 for 148 yards, a TD and interception, and Deakon Tonielli caught seven passes for 57 yards for Oswego, which won its third straight game after an 0-2 start.
“We were fortunate to be down by only two at halftime,” Cooney said. “The kids played phenomenal in the second half. Great win.”
It didn’t decide a conference championship, but the game still carried weight with Melton.
“Oh, my goodness, 2019 they took our conference championship here, and I watched it as a sophomore. We got it back last year,” Melton said. “Homecoming week we had to perform. It was very exciting to beat them. I love playing Minooka.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle