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October 18, 2012LANSING - Five years ago, Thornton Fractional South beat rival Oak Forest in the regular season and rolled into a state quarterfinal rematch undefeated, only to see Oak Forest turn the tables.
That might have been the biggest game ever between the two rivals, but Friday's showdown with the South Suburban Blue title on the line could check in at No. 2 on that list. The game will be shown on CN100, The Comcast Network, at Noon and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, and 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22. You can also find it throughout Chicagoland with Xfinity On Demand.
South has rolled through conference play unbeaten, including snapping Lemont's 18-game conference win streak. Oak Forest's only loss came to Lemont on a late field goal. If the Bengals can beat South Friday, those three teams will share the conference title. If T-F, coming off a 4-5 campaign a year ago, can finish off its perfect conference run, the Rebels will have sole possession of the conference crown.
"This is for the conference championship," Oak Forest coach Brian McDonough said. "This is huge for us." Oak Forest, a 7-1 team which will be making its 13th consecutive playoff appearance, has dealt with its share of adversity this season. Star junior fullback Matt Barry, a three-year starter, tore his ACL on the first play of the 17-14 loss to Lemont. Quarterback Tom Zale has also missed significant time. Any team that runs the option knows how important those two positions are to make it work properly.
"It changes things," McDonough said. "(Barry's injury) demoralized us, but we rebounded. We have two decent backups and didn't miss a beat."
Zale is back, but Nick Ciufia was solid in his stead and gives the Bengals some other options. Ben Santiago has stepped in solidly at fullback.
For T-F South, it's a tale of two seasons. Last year, every possible break that could have gone against them seemingly did, keeping the Rebels out of the playoffs for the second time in three years. Oak Forest beat them 33-21 last year with the game turning on a ball tipped off a Rebels' defender for an Oak Forest touchdown.
This season, the Rebels went for two late against Tinley Park and picked up a 22-21. Then against Lemont, the Rebels scored a touchdown to start overtime. Lemont answered, but missed the extra point, giving South the 21-20 win.
"It's been a great turnaround for us," T-F South coach Tom Padjen said. "At one point we were 1-5 last year, but we beat two playoff teams at the end of the season. That gave us some good momentum. Things have worked in our favor this year. Last year we had a lot of frustration, lost the close games. Things have gone a whole lot better this year."
Senior tailback Saleem Sanford has been a standout, rushing for 17 touchdowns and over eight yards per carry. He's been supported in the backfield by Joe Young. Quarterback Payton Padjen, the coach's nephew, throws the ball about 10 times a game.
"We had some heartbreak against them last year," Padjen said. "With the weather conditions, ball security and field position will be important. It's great to be on the Game of the Week with a big game like this. Everybody is excited for it."
Be sure to tune in to see Edgy Tim's "Keys to the Game." Get more Edgy at edgytim.com
- Paul Johnson, CN100 Correspondent
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