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Anthony Cikauskas’ grab, solid defense helps Oswego squeak past Plainfield North

Long and rangy at 6-3 and 227 pounds, Anthony Cikauskas spearheaded a defense that slowed down visiting Plainfield North.

Oswego’s Jack Lemke (3) makes the catch in front of Plainfield North’s Jalyn Givan (1).
Oswego’s Jack Lemke (3) makes the catch in front of Plainfield North’s Jalyn Givan (1).
Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

With 64 players on the roster, Oswego likes to play two-platoon football.

A few players may fill in on both sides of the ball, but not many are impact players for the Panthers on offense and defense.

Junior Anthony Cikauskas, a defensive end and tight end, is the exception to the rule.

Long and rangy at 6-3 and 227 pounds, Cikauskas spearheaded a defense that slowed down visiting Plainfield North Saturday afternoon. He also caught a two-point conversion pass that turned out to be the difference in a 14-13 Southwest Prairie West victory,

“We don’t do (a lot of) tight end plays,” Cikauskas said. “But when we need them, it comes in handy.”

Cikauskas’ catch gave the Panthers (5-0, 1-0) a 14-0 lead with 8:29 left in the game. It loomed large when Plainfield North (4-1, 0-1) rallied for a pair of late touchdowns before its own conversion pass fell short with 36.3 seconds remaining.

“He didn’t practice too much on offense,” Oswego coach Brian Cooney said of Cikauskas. “We spotted him in when we needed him Wednesday or Thursday.”

When Cikauskas’ number was called on the PAT try, Cooney said jokingly, “I was kind of shocked ... the offensive (coaches) ... actually pulled the trigger and did something with him.”

No surprise, though, that Cikauskas loomed large on defense. Plainfield North came in averaging 42 points a game and has one of the state’s most dynamic players in Purdue football/track recruit Marcellus Moore.

“We just studied their plays and studied what he was doing on the field,” Cikauskas said. “If we saw any motion, we would step outside more and just watch him ... make sure he was in our eyes.”

Moore finished with six carries for 35 yards and two catches for 18 yards.

“The game plan was to know where No. 4 (Moore) was because he’s one of the fastest kids in the state,” Cooney said.

Oswego’s grass field being slick from Friday night’s heavy rains didn’t make Moore’s day any easier. On the kickoff after the Panthers’ second touchdown, he slipped and went down at the 15-yard line without being hit.

“Our kids did a good job of indentifying the different positions (Moore played),” Cooney said. “But even when we knew he was coming, he’s still a challenge to stop. He’s got speed like no other and I’m sure this track didn’t help him out.”

Oswego had a big day from junior running back Beau Miller, who carried 15 times for 97 yards and a touchdown. The featured back for the Panthers’ sophomore team last season, Miller had been slowed by an ankle injury earlier in the year. Now he’s part of a deep backfield corps that complements the passing of quarterback Cole Pradel, who threw for 75 yards and ran for a TD.

“We probably have four backs who all play fullback, halfback, slot,” Cikauskas said. “We have playmakers on the field. for sure.”

Plainfield North has some playmakers of its own besides Moore. Junior defensive back Carlos Conley had two interceptions and senior running back Nathan Simpson ran 26 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. Junior quarterback Adam Smith threw for 86 yards and a TD to Cooper Bridges (three catches, 42 yards).

But Oswego found a way to continue its remarkable run in conference play. Since the start of the 2011 season, the Panthers are 61-2 in league games.

“We like these wins, but we also see things that are standing in our way,” Cooney said. “Stupid penalties that are well within our control. It’s not like it was holding or a block in the back or pass interference. It was getting tied into jawing with the other team -- stuff we’ve got to stop.”