Lehr, undefeated Indians drive past Oswego for SPC West title
Last updated 10/26/2019 at 8:50am
In the state's top game of Week 9, the Associated Press' Class 8A No. 6 Minooka (9-0, 5-0) traveled to No.8 Oswego (8-1, 4-1), on a picture-perfect fall evening.
The Southwest Prairie West championship game was also a battle for the top seed in the IHSA Class 8A Football playoffs, which begin next weekend.
Minooka was No. 1 and Oswego was No. 2, in Class 8A seeding after eight weeks.
With the game deadlocked at 21-21, with 9 minutes, 19 seconds remaining, Minooka took over on the Indians' 31-yard line.
Led by senior quarterback Seth Lehr (11-for-20, 124 yards, TD), the Indians drove 63 yards in 12 plays, taking up seven minutes and 11 seconds and had the ball at the Panther six-yard line.
On the play that will be forever remembered in Minooka football lore, the Indians' 6-foot-2, 225 junior fullback Zach Wingerter (six carries, 25 yards, TD) ran over three Oswego defenders and into the end zone.
After junior Mason Spivey's fourth PAT, the Indians led 28-21 with two minutes left.
"I was not going to be stopped on the goal line," Wingerter said. "I love to run over people and I had to do that to get the game-winning touchdown."
One minute later, the Indian co-leader in tackles, free safety, Zach Grayson, picked off Panther quarterback Cole Pradel (10-for-18, 134 yards, TD, 2 INT) and Lehr and the Indians lined up in the victory formation and ran out the clock to become 2019 Southwest Prairie West Conference champions.
The 2019 Minooka Indians are the first team in the long football history at Minooka High School to finish a perfect 9-0 regular season.
In 1971 the Indians, under Frank Abbott, finished the season 8-0. In 1973 the IHSA expanded the regular season to nine games and then in 1974 the IHSA Football playoffs began.
"On the drive, our offensive line took over and we marched down the field behind them," Lehr said. "There is no better offensive line in the state than ours. Zach (Wingerter) loves to run over people. We are undefeated SPC West champs. Awesome."
"Everything was a blur for me on that drive," Minooka Hall of Fame coach John Belskis said. "Everything was moving so fast, I didn't realize that we had controlled the ball that long. Zach just runs over people. I am so happy for all of my kids. Even the kids who didn't play all contributed to the SPC West title and the undefeated regular season with their hard work. I guess we put Minooka on the IHSA football map tonight."
Oswego, who entered the game with eight consecutive SPC titles and a 66-2 record over that span, got on the board first.
Pradel connected with his favorite receiver Jack Lemke (four catches, 80 yards, TD; four carries, 123 yards, TD) from 53-yards out for a 7-0 Panther lead with 4:21 in the first quarter.
On the last play of the first quarter, Oswego's 41-yard field goal attempt doinked off the cross bar.
The Indians responded with a 13-play, 80-yard drive, capped off by a 1-yard Lehr (seven carries, 20 yards, TD) touchdown, to tie the game at 7-7, with 5:31 remaining in the second quarter.
With 1:29 remaining in the half, Oswego, went 54 yards in six plays to grab a 13-7 lead at the break.
Pradel (15 carries, 89 yards, TD) scampered 17-yards for the touchdown. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Panthers, pushed back the extra-point from 32 yards and was missed.
The Indians, sparked by a 26-yard kickoff return from Grayson, on the second half kickoff, retook the lead.
Minooka's leading rusher Noah Ellens (24 carries, 110 yards, TD) electrified the huge Indian Nation contingent that traveled to Oswego, with a 34-yard touchdown jaunt. With Spivey's kick the Indians led 14-13 with 10:01 left in the third quarter.
"I was really happy to get the big touchdown for us," Ellens said. "It really gave us momentum coming out of halftime. It's great to be undefeated and SPC West champs."
With 3:03 left in the third quarter, Lemke on a jet-sweep, raced 84-yards for a Panther touchdown. Panther running back Beau Miller (seven carries, 34 yards) crashed in for a two-point conversion, for a 21-14 Panther lead.
The Indians would respond, when Lehr connected with his favorite receiver Trent Hudak (six catches, 77 yards, TD) from 23-yards out to tie the game at 21-21 through three quarters.
With 9:19 left, "The Drive" began that ended Oswego's eight-year run of SPC championships and lowered the Panthers' record over that span to 66-3.
"It's just awesome to be SPC West Champs," Grayson said. "It's just awesome to be the first undefeated team in school history. Drew Gutknecht got his hands on the ball that made my interception possible. What a great night."