Oswego Panthers football team pounces early, gets off to 7-0 start
Even by the high standards of Oswego High School football, the Panthers this year are coming up big early in the season.
The Panthers are off to a 7-0 start, their best start since 2004, according to MaxPreps.com.
To be uniquely successful in a run like Oswego has had – the Panthers have won at least nine games in four straight seasons and have had at least eight wins in seven of the last eight – makes this year's team stand out. However, the team is not judged by its first seven games, Head Coach Brian Cooney told the Will County Gazette.
“This team will need to continue to dedicate themselves to improvement and fixing the errors,” Cooney said. “If we can do that, they may separate themselves from some of the other teams we’ve had here. Time will tell.”
The elevated success this season comes after Class 8A all-state quarterback Steven Fran graduated. His departure made change necessary for Oswego's offense, Cooney said. The offense begins by establishing the running attack, and that has been more evident this season.
Through the first six games, according to statistics on MaxPreps.com, the Panthers averaged 162.5 rushing yards per game. Drew White led the team with 473 yards on 99 carries, with Nick Marra adding 265 yards on 53 carries. Each player had four touchdowns.
“We will line up with two or three backs in the backfield, but are also comfortable and confident with only one back in the backfield if that is what it takes to move the chains,” Cooney said.
Levi Olson took over as the starting quarterback this season and opened with 612 passing yards and six touchdowns, with three interceptions, in the first six games. Elliott Pipkin was the top receiver in that span, making 26 catches for 399 yards and four touchdowns.
Cooney said the overall play of the Panthers' defense has been a strength this season. It certainly has been a nightmare for opposing offenses. Oswego racked up 43 tackles for losses in the first six games, including 16 quarterback sacks. Noah Shannon led the defense with nine tackles for losses, while Spencer Rowe and Dayne Millard had five apiece. Fourteen players had at least one tackle for a loss.
Cooney said the regular takedowns behind the line that Oswego produces comes from a combination of coverage and pursuit.
“Our coverage downfield has, at times, forced the opponent’s quarterback to have to hang on to the ball,” Cooney said. “Other times, our defensive linemen and linebackers’ pursuit causes enough disruption to create those tackles in the backfield.”
The Panthers' defense also created 15 turnovers during that span.
There is one area in which Oswego is striving to be more successful: postseason play. The Panthers have advanced to at least the second round for five straight seasons, but haven't made it past the quarterfinals.
Cooney cited three things that can get Oswego past the postseason obstacles.
“Remain healthy, commitment to improvement, continue to get better every week in all three phases,” Cooney said.
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