Pat Disabato’s football notes: Tinley Park suffers heartbreak on selection night

SHARE Pat Disabato’s football notes: Tinley Park suffers heartbreak on selection night
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One point.

That’s what prevented Tinley Park from qualifying for the postseason.

The Titans finished 5-4 and with 38 playoff points. The cutoff for qualifying was 39.

“It was a tough weekend,” Tinley Park coach Nick Johnston said. “If we control our own destiny like we should have, we don’t have to worry about playoff points.”

Six wins automatically qualifies a team for the playoffs. The Titans had their chances to reach that number in three of their four losses, to Joliet West, a 20-18 final, T.F. South, a 34-19 final and Oak Forest, a 30-23 defeat.

“We had leads in the second half in each of those games,” Johnston said. “We didn’t execute in the red zone. That’s what’s frustrating.”

The Titans figure to return seven starters on each side of the ball next season. Though, replacing quarterback Quinn Kelly and running back Jamari McDonald is going to be difficult. Kelly finished with the program’s single-season record for passing yards this season with 1,840, to go along with 24 touchdowns.

Johnston is hoping freshman Rocky Griffin will make the leap to the varsity in 2015. The expected return of receivers Maurice Robinson, Garrett Maas, Sam Geraci and Randy Clark, along with four lineman, should expedite Griffin’s learning curve.

“Rocky has great poise and he’s talented,” Johnston said. “Quinn did a wonderful job the past two seasons. He improved greatly from his freshman season. He did it through a lot of hard work.”

Rich East springs upset

Rich East was aware of its task entering its Week 9 matchup vs. Bloom: win or face the consequences of its once-promising season coming to an end.

It was a tall task, considering the Rockets were in the throes of a three-game losing streak and Bloom was coming off a 48-0 Week 8 win over Rich South.

Rich East, however, executed a superb game plan by its coaching staff and stunned the Blazing Trojans 28-0. The loss denied Bloom, which committed four turnovers, its first outright conference championship since 1984. Instead, the Blazing Trojans were forced to share the Southland title with Crete-Monee.

“That’s why they play the games,” Rich East coach Barry Reade said. Just about everything that could go our way did. But I thought we had a good game plan going into the game and the kids did a great job of making it happen.”

The Rockets turned of pick-six plays from Andre Stokes and Brian Stewart into a stunning victory that assured Reade’s squad of qualifying for the playoffs. The Rockets (6-3) will host North Lawndale in Round 1 in Class 5A.

“We knew we had to win Saturday to get into the playoffs,” Reade said. “Everyone stepped up to the challenge. Now it’s a new season. They (North Lawndale) have good team speed. They’re a lot like us in that respect. We have some momentum going after Saturday’s win.”

Lockport looks to future

While Lockport coach Dan Starkey’s preference would be preparing for a first-round playoff game, he’s confident the foundation is set for that to occur in the near future.

“I believe we have established a foundation for the program,” said Starkey, whose Porters finished 3-6 in his first season. “We hope to be a playoff team next year.”

The pieces appear in place for that to happen. The Porters figure to return a good group of starters, led by offensive linemen Matt Chmielewski and Quinn Pulaski and receiver/cornerback Deandre Taylor.

The Porters likely will welcome a group of sophomores that finished 6-3 and freshman “A” and “B” squads that combined to go 10-8.

“We’ll see how all the pieces fit,” Starkey said. “I’m excited a lot about the group of sophomores coming up.”

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