By Drake Skleba

East battles, falls to Minooka

First-year coach Brad Kunz has the Bengals ready for a turnaround after 1-2 start to the season


Last updated 10/2/2019 at 2:10pm

In 2013 and 2014, under head coach Mike Romeli, the Bengals of Plainfield East High School made consecutive trips to the IHSA Class 7A playoffs.

Since that 2014 Class 7A Playoff loss to St. Rita, the Bengals have won just 10 games.

When the time came for a change, Plainfield East Athletic Director Paul Raspolich, looked to Plano High School for the man to resurrect the Bengal football program — Brad Kunz.

Kunz a 2005 graduate of “The U” the University of Miami played all three offensive line positions for the ‘Canes from 2001-2004.

Kunz played in two NCAA Football National Championship Games in 2001 (37-14 W Nebraska) and 2002 (31-24 L Ohio State).

“It was a real cool experience, for me to be able to play in the 2001 NCAA National Championship Game, as a redshirt freshman,” Kunz said. “A number of my teammates wanted me to get in and have my name mentioned as having participated in the game for the 2001 NCAA National Football Champion Miami Hurricanes.”

After a tryout with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, Kunz played three years in the Arena Football League and briefly in the Canadian Football League.

Kuhn graduated from Miami with degrees in History and English, and moved on to his teaching and coaching careers, at Plano High School

“I originally went to Miami to be a doctor but switched my double-major to History Education and English, so I could help and teach kids. I met my wife, Melanie, in Peoria, where I played my last year in the AFL and thus began my teaching career. We have twin sons, Will and Drew who are three.”

After serving for three years, as an assistant to the Plano Reapers’ legendary coach Jim Green, Kunz took over the Reapers football program in 2013.

In six years at Plano, he went 38-23 and led the Reapers to the IHSA playoffs in five of his six seasons. In 2013 and 2015, Kunz’ Reapers advanced to the second-round.

“I learned so much from Jim Green, who should be in the IHSFCA Hall of Fame very soon,” Kunz said. “I loved my six years at Plano

“I loved the enthusiasm that Paul (Raspolch) and the mission, for the kids, that everyone strived for at East. I want to teach my kids how to be successful at football but I want more that that, for them to learn how to be successful at life. It would be great if they could go play college ball but I want them to succeed after football”

After falling 35-20 to rival Plainfield North on August 30, the Bengals, rallied past West Aurora, for a 27-25 win.

Kunz’ Bengals, scored late in the fourth quarter, for Kunz’ memorable, first coaching victory, at East.

In Friday night’s Southwest Prairie Conference crossover at Minooka, between Plainfield East and the state-ranked hosts, disaster struck Minooka in the first minute of the game.

Indian quarterback, Seth Lehr, was knocked out of the gam, on an illegal late-hit, roughing the passer penalty, on a Bengal linebacker, on a 20-yard pass completion to senior Steve Gonzales (two catches, 28 yards).

Josh Davis replaced Lehr.

Senior Connor Etzkorn scored the first of his two touchdowns for a 7-0 Minooka (3-0) lead, with 11:04 in the first quarter.

Davis scored two Indian touchdowns and lead Minooka (3-0) to a 35-20 victory over the feisty Bengals.

Davis rushed for 29 yards on seven carries and completed six of nine passes for 65 yards.

“I knew I had to come in and do my job replacing our leader, Seth,” Davis said. “I started slow but I felt I did a good job tonight. I went out there knowing that my entire team, had my back.”

Plainfield East (1-2) was led by their senior quarterback Joey Morgan, who completed 18 of his 30 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown. Senior wide receiver Aidan Tonarelli hauled in seven of Morgan’s tosses for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Davis gave Minooka a 14-7 lead on a one-yard plunge and the Bengals would tie the game, 14-14. on a four-yard run from Dale Dambeck, right before halftime.

The Indians stormed out of their halftime locker rom and scored two touchdowns, in the first three minutes of the third quarter.

Davis, would streak 24-yards for six and then after a Bengal turnover Etzkorn, would score his second touchdown of the game, from two yards out. After Indian kicker, junior Mason Spivey’s fourth PAT, the Indians led 28-14.

The Bengals stormed back only to turn the ball over on the Minooka goal line on successive drives.

On a first and goal, at the Minooka one, Morgan would throw an interception to Minooka’s Zach Grayson. On their next series from the Minooka two-yard line, Minooka’s Gonzales recovered a Bengal fumble in the end zone.

Dambek pulled the Bengals within 28-20 on his 25-yard pick six interception return, early in the fourth quarter.

Minooka senior wingback, Noah Ellens (14 carries, 127 yards, TD) then raceed 76-yards, for six and to turn out the lights on Plainfield East.

“Seth is our leader and it really hurt us to see him go down,” Ellens said. “We all have extreme confidence in Josh. He played very well for us tonight. On my final touchdown run, my offensive line gave me a hole and I ran 76-yards, untouched to the end zone.”

“To lose our leader (Seth Lehr), to an illegal hit is very disheartening for me to witness,” Minooka coach John Belskis said. “Josh came in and did a good job for us and we have confidence in his abilities. A lot of adversity for us tonight but we pulled together and picked up the win. We have to step back now and pick up the pieces.”

Next Friday night, the Bengals host No. 8 Oswego (3-0) in another tough game.

“We made some mistakes tonight but I still feel we played very well tonight against the seventh best team in Class 8A,” Kunz said.


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