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Mount Carmel Caravan defensive back Deontae Brown (35) intercepts the pass against Providence Celtics wide receiver Cody Kirby (4) at Providence High School in New Lenox, Illinois, Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. | Michael DiNovo~For Sun-Times Media
Mount Carmel at Providence.
That was a Week 9 matchup we could not wait to see. And it was an interesting game that for the most part lived up to the billing.
The unfortunate part from the Celtics’ standpoint was their rash of turnovers, with two absolute killers among the six total.
You can’t say how the game would have played out had Providence not fumbled into the end zone, with Mount Carmel recovering, on a second-and-goal from the half-yard line in the first quarter. Or, if on first-and-goal from the Mount Carmel 6 in the final minute of the half, had an errant pitchout not been picked up and returned 88 yards by the Caravan’s Vincent Speller for the game’s first touchdown.
As well as Providence’s defense played, had the Celtics been ahead 10-0 or 14-0 at halftime rather than being down 7-0, you never know. What is definite is the 17-0 final does not reflect the type of battle it was.
Ah, those nasty turnovers.
Yes, that game is history. We enter an entirely different world, a new season, this weekend when the playoffs begin. Nobody anticipates Providence (7-2) giving the ball away another half-dozen times when Bradley (6-3) visits at 7 p.m. Friday in a Class 7A clash.
Turnovers, however, are part of the deal, and that won’t change now that every game is win or go home. Better defenses not only stifle opposing offenses, but they find ways to create turnovers.
Of course, there also are occasions when offenses suffer unforced errors that can help determine the outcome. That’s one reason underdogs have hope entering the playoff atmosphere.
The biggest underdog among area teams this weekend is Plainfield Central (6-3), which is at Lincoln-Way East (9-0) in 7A. Central has had a good season, but there is nothing that has transpired to suggest the Wildcats will survive to see another week.
Virtually everyone who predicts how the playoffs will turn out has East, led by explosive quarterback Tom Fuessel and a strong defense, atop their list of potential state champs from our area. Providence may have something to say about that next week, but we’ll discuss that later.
However, if Central can force East into turnovers, or if the Griffins’ offense suddenly becomes overly generous, it could turn into a tighter game.
Forget the playoff seeds because as we know they often do not indicate which is the better team. In addition to East and Providence, the solid favorites among our area teams this weekend are Coal City (8-1), which should handle Peotone (5-4) in 4A, and Joliet Catholic (5-4) and Morris (8-1), which should take care of Elmwood Park (7-2) and Rich East (6-3), respectively, in 5A.
The playoffs, of course, normally are not a breeze for anyone; you know you will face quality opponents somewhere along the way. But the 5A brackets worked out about as well for Joliet Catholic and Morris as they could have hoped.
In the case of the Hilltoppers, avoiding turnovers and getting wingback Ty Isaac’s legs back under him will be huge. Isaac, who has been nursing a groin injury, will play Saturday at Elmwood Park, at least for a while.
Several games that may be tight, but where I think our teams can survive, are Bolingbrook (7-2) at Sandburg (7-2) in 8A, Plainfield North (7-2) at Oswego (8-1) in 7A, Lemont (8-1) hosting Morgan Park (6-3) in 6A, Lincoln-Way West (6-3) at Rochelle (6-3) in 5A and Wilmington (7-2) at Byron (7-2) in 3A. Yes, I do like Bolingbrook regardless of whether quarterback Aaron Bailey is back from a right knee sprain.
You may raise eyebrows about Plainfield North taking down Oswego. The way Oswego has been rolling, how explosive the Panthers have been, most prognosticators will tell you there is no way the upset will happen. Oswego won the Week 7 Southwest Prairie meeting 35-7 and has been impressive since.
However, the Tigers came away from that game feeling they did not play well and should have made it much closer. This is an instance where I have a gut feeling the repeat game in the opening round will work against the team that won the first one. Perhaps North will force those key turnovers.
If I’m wrong, hey, it won’t be the first time.