AURORA – Michael Ford emerged from a dog pile of Oswego East football players cheesing with the gold football traveling trophy awarded to the crosstown winner.
Every player in blue wanted their hands on this moment to savor.
For the first time in the 16-year Oswego crosstown rivalry, the Wolves hold the upper hand. Ford directed two touchdown drives in the second half, with the go-ahead score in the final minutes. Oswego East’s defense turned away multiple Oswego drives deep into its own territory, the last in the game’s final seconds of the Wolves’ 14-7 win in a game held at West Aurora.
“I didn’t find out there was a trophy until a few years ago, that’s how crazy this is,” said Ford, the Wolves’ senior quarterback, who ran for 84 yards and threw for 57. “Coming out here, making history, being the first team to ever beat Oswego is something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.”
Oswego (3-1) had won the previous 15 meetings with Oswego East (2-2) dating back to 2005. In fact, the Wolves hadn’t scored a touchdown against their rivals since 2015.
In a season of firsts – spring football, no playoffs to play for, the first time the game was played at a neutral site, this meant everything to Wolves’ coach Tyson LeBlanc and his kids, who bounded around the field and posed for photos with the golden football trophy.
“A year with no playoffs, this is the Super Bowl,” LeBlanc said. “I didn’t even know what the traveling trophy looked like.”
— Joshua Welge (@jwelge96) April 10, 2021
Sophomore Oshobi Odior’s 5-yard touchdown run with 1:43 left capped off a 14-play, 72-yard drive that chewed up over six minutes for the game-winning score. It was aided by three Oswego defensive penalties, including a 15-yarder on third and long and offsides on third and short.
Oswego had a last-ditch drive in the final two minutes. Backup quarterback Julian Toma – starting for the second straight week with Cole Pradel out with a knee injury – led the Panthers from their 20 to the Oswego East 21, converting a fourth-and-15 to Deakon Tonielli.
On the second-to-last play of the game, Toma’s fourth-down pass in the end zone was knocked away by Oswego East’s Jabari Peoples.
“Red zone stops,” said LeBlanc, whose team held after losing leads in the final minutes the last two weeks. “They were the key to the game. We’ve always had a different level of focus when this week comes up in practice.”
Oswego led 7-0 at halftime on Toma’s 5-yard TD pass to Nik Hampton with 10:00 left in the second quarter, but probably felt it should have led by more. The Panthers outgained the Wolves 183-68 in the first half, but only came up with the one score on four drives past midfield. On the first drive of the game, a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line came up empty, hurt by a 16-yard holding call.
“We had a lot of opportunities to score, especially in the first half, well within the red zone,” Oswego coach Brian Cooney said. “Holding calls, excessive celebration, things that punched us back. We have to do better at the little things.”
Oswego East, held to three first downs at half, shook up its playbook to start the third quarter to get on track.
Ford had three quarterback runs, the third a 9-yarder setting up Odior’s fourth-down conversion, and Ford’s 15-yard TD pass to Jackson Lamboley with 8:39 left in the third quarter tied it 7-7.
“We started running the ball, we kept true to ourselves and good things happened,” Ford said.
Indeed, Ford ran for 79 of his 84 yards in the second half, after just three carries in the first half and minimal action running the ball last week against Yorkville.
“We started to run the ball with the quarterback. I needed to go with that because we didn’t do it enough in the first half,” said LeBlanc, holding up a play card with a handful of plays highlighted with marker. “We talk about a numbers game, when the quarterback can run the ball there’s that extra number. If they’re not going to bring a safety down in the box it’s hard to defend.”
— Joshua Welge (@jwelge96) April 10, 2021
Meanwhile, Oswego East’s former backup quarterback from a year ago, Dylan Allen, intercepted two passes. The first came on a deep ball into the end zone in the first half after a Joey DeMarco interception set Oswego up with a short field. The second came with 8:08 left in the fourth quarter, to set the stage for Oswego East’s game-winning drive.
The Wolves also stopped Oswego four times on downs.
“He was a backup quarterback for us last year, and he was begging me to play corner,” LeBlanc said. “We put him in there this year. I said ‘Dylan, you’re a senior, it’s Covid, we got nothing to lose.’”
Allen, who lost his voice in the postgame celebration, gained a memory he won’t forget.
“We came into this game, we were so ready,” Allen said. “We didn’t worry about our last two games. Amazing red zone stops, defensive line put pressure on the quarterback, we had great calls from the coaches, did our assignments perfectly, just executed great.”
Toma was 13-for-29 for 160 yards, with Hampton and Deakon Tonielli each catching four passes. Mark Melton ran for 96 yards for Oswego. Darquel Sanders ran for 51 yards for Oswego East.
Source: The Daily Chronicle