Last Friday, legendary Oswego figure Ken Pickerill tragically passed away at the age of 91. He coached football, baseball and wrestling here at Oswego High School. Just hours removed from the saddening news, the Panthers (3-0) took to the gridiron to take on Plainfield South (1-2), where the Panthers would defeat the visiting Cougars 34-6.
“Coach Pick was a lot of things,” Oswego head coach Brian Cooney said. “He put so much into this school and this program; the stadium. He built this place with his bare hands. You can’t replace a guy like that; he’s one of a kind.”
What Pickerill meant to the program and the school was evident on Friday night. The word “Pick” was inscribed into the middle of the midfield logo, where after the game, the team came together and had a moment for their fallen icon.
“It was emotional, I was tearing up,” junior defensive back Joey Demarco said. “To be out here for him and knowing he built all this… It was crazy to play a game for [Coach Pickerill] and dedicate a game to him. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The Panthers turned back the clock to a game plan around hard nosed ground-and-pound football with dominant defense, just like Pickerill ran during his historic tenure as head football coach.
The defense has been the cornerstone of the Oswego program going all the way back to the days of Coach Pickerill, and on Friday night, it shined once more.
The Panther “D” forced three interceptions along with a fumble, including a “pick-six” from Demarco on the first possession of the game.
“I’ve been waiting 11 years for a moment like that,” Demarco said with a huge grin. “I knew I had to get into the endzone.”
The defense also forced two sacks and allowed only 100 yards on the ground for the Cougars, who couldn’t get anything going with their triple option set offensively.
“Secondary is doing what it has to do, especially with an offense like Plainfield South runs,” Cooney said. “I think all three levels played well.”
The “old-timey” football didn’t stop with the defense. The Panthers turned to a ground-and-pound type mentality, scampering for nearly 200 yards on the evening, led by senior Charles Laird with 65.
Junior back Beau Miller, who was limited through the first two weeks due to an ankle injury, had a bit of a “coming out party,” getting 10 carries for 30 yards and a touchdown.
“He hasn’t had much time,” Cooney said about Miller. “He’s got that burst. We’re going to be counting on him more.”
The passing game was nearly non-existent. Junior QB Cole Pradel threw for 73 yards on 6 of 14 passing with 2 touchdowns. One of the best plays of the night was a touchdown pass from Pradel to senior wideout Jack Lemke on a slant for a 6 yard touchdown. Lemke finished with three receptions for 35 yards and two touchdowns.
Pradel came into the game completing passes at a clip of 77%. On Friday, just 43% of his passes were completed.
“It wasn’t the best game for me personally,” Pradel said. “But we came out here and still got the win, so I’m pretty pleased with that.”
This week the Panthers head to Plainfield East to take on the Bengals at 7 p.m.