Minooka hangs on to edge Glenbard East
Seeds don't matter to Minooka.
The Indians knew they were an underdog on paper heading to Glenbard East in the first round of the Class 8A playoffs Friday night, but that didn't diminish an ounce of belief.
Despite a slow moving first half, the Indians relied heavily on their defense and rode a strong run game to a 16-14 victory over Glenbard East.
Minooka (7-3) leaned heavily on running back Joey Partridge, who carried the ball 32 times for 130 yards in the win.
"Joey's been our lead [running back] all year," Minooka coach Matt Harding said. "We need to clean things up no doubt, but we made plays when we needed to. These kids came here and absolutely believed. We've made the playoffs five years in a row and we've been known to go places once we get here. A win is a win and [Class 8A] football is no joke."
Partridge was part of a strong statistical first half for the Indians. But after driving into the red zone twice and seeing no points as a result, Minooka knew it had to capitalize after halftime if it wanted its season to continue for at least another week.
A Glenbard East goal-line stand, stuffing Partridge, with 5:29 left in the first half kept the game scoreless. For a couple of seconds, that is.
The next play the Rams fumbled the snap in their end zone and quarterback Dillon Williams was shoved out of the back of the end zone for a safety. Minooka took that 2-0 advantage into the halftime break.
"Our defense has been doing it all year," Partridge said. "We needed them to pick us up a couple of times and even though it's only worth two points, it kind of got us going a little bit."
"Our defense is the best part of our team," said Minooka quarterback Gavin Dooley, who added 78 rushing yards and a rushing score of his own. "We always have the confidence that they're going to come through and they bailed us out once again."
After seeming in control in the second half after Dooley found junior wide receiver Kam Chigi for a 36-yard touchdown to stretch the lead to 9-0 in the third quarter, Glenbard East and standout receiver Eric McClain answered quickly.
A 4-play drive that spanned just 1:34 ended with a Williams to McClain connection from 20 yards out to cut the Rams' deficit back to two. Dimitri Hritz also returned a fumble 31 yards for a touchdown to give the Rams late life with 4:37 to go to answer Dooley's touchdown scamper.
However, in the end, Glenbard East (8-2) couldn't overcome an eye-popping 15 penalties that cost them 112 yards in the season-ending loss. Efrein Ramirez also had an interception in the fourth quarter for the Indians.
"We just played too often behind the chains tonight," Glenbard East coach John Walters said. "You certainly make it tough for yourself to win a football game with the number of mistakes we made tonight.
"I thought the kids fought hard, battled through a lot of adversity tonight, but at the end of the day, that's a very well-coached football team over there and we just couldn't make the connections to get it done tonight."
The Rams got the ball back with 2:41 to go, trailing by 2, but the Minooka defense got a quick turnover on downs to send it into a second round matchup where they will host No. 7 seeded Palatine (9-1).