After an unrecognizable 24 minutes of play, the real Benet football team finally stood up in the second half.
The Redwings dominated the final 24 minutes en route to a 28-13 victory over Oswego in the second round of the Class 7A playoffs Friday at Benedictine University in Lisle. Second-seeded Benet (10-1) will play in its first quarterfinal game since 2003 when it travels to play No. 8 Downers Grove North (7-4), a 29-13 winner over Thornton.
Benet overcame five fumbled turnovers, including four in the first half. Third-seeded Oswego (9-2) took advantage twice in the first half on short fields as running back Mickeel Stewart, who carried the ball 23 times for 131 yards, scored on a 14-yard run at the end of the half to give the Panthers a 13-7 heading to the break.
Needless to say, the Redwings needed to regroup for the second half.
"We came out and we were just jacked up," Benet defensive lineman Charles Melka said of the second half. "We controlled our own fate. We controlled our own destiny. Let's do it right now. Let's play the game the way we know how to play it, and that's what we did."
Benet junior Porter Ontko accounted for 3 of Benet's 4 touchdowns, perhaps none more important than his 50-yard interception return for a score less than two minutes into the third quarter that put the Redwings ahead to stay at 14-13 following the second of John Duvic's 4 extra points.
Ontko started the game with a 65-yard touchdown run and sent the game out of reach with a 41-yard scoring scamper that gave Benet a 28-13 with 5:26 left in the game. Ontko needed only 12 carries to reach a personal-high 208 yards, but his play on defense is what turned the night around.
"We really had to step it up in the second half," Ontko said. "I jumped the ball, luckily got it and got a few good blocks. Took it home. It was a crazy play."
Oswego did a great job shutting down Benet's passing game, limiting Benet quarterback Jack Beneventi to 9-of-17 passing for 75 yards. He attempted only 1 pass in the second half as the Redwings piled up 170 of their 282 total rushing yards.
Jack Crain, who forced a fumble for one of Oswego's 3 turnovers, scored on a 4-yard run to boost Benet's lead to 21-13 midway through the third quarter.
"They tried to take away our strength, which is our passing game," said Benet coach Pat New, whose team now seeks its first semifinal berth since 1984. "We thought at halftime, let's try running the ball a little bit. That seemed to obviously work for us pretty well in the second half."
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