By James Kay
For the first time in over a decade, Proviso East's football team is in contention to make the playoffs. After only winning five games since 2010, the Pirates have matched that win total this season with a 5-2 record. They have scored the second-most points (212 points trailing only Willowbrook High School by 2 points) while allowing the third-fewest points (159) in the West Suburban Gold Conference.
Proviso East is looking to join Willowbrook as the second team in the conference to clinch a playoff berth. They play Proviso West (0-7) on Oct. 18 in a must-win game to keep their postseason hopes alive. Here is the scouting report on the Panthers heading into Friday:
Breaking through the offensive line
During Lyons Township's homecoming game against Proviso West, the Panthers only attempted two passes over 20 yards. That's because the offensive line couldn't stop the Lions from finding holes up front and quarterback Max Uribe didn't have time to deliver passes in a clean pocket. The Panther O-line's proclivity for holding penalties also did them in against LTHS.
However, against OPRF, the Panthers line gave Uribe more time to navigate the field and West put up 26 points against the Huskies.
If the Pirates are able to penetrate the pocket, the game is theirs to win. But if the Panthers' playmakers are able to get any daylight in the open field, this game could be closer than West's record would suggest.
Stopping Brandon Smith at all costs
Panthers running back Brandon Smith has a lethal combination of size and speed that leaves defenders trailing behind when he gets room to show off his abilities. Against OPRF, Smith ran for 129 yards on the ground while finding the endzone twice. OPRF's head coach John Hoerster had this to say about Smith after the game on Oct. 4.
"[Smith] was probably the best player on the field tonight," said Hoerster. "He is a phenomenal football player, and when you play against guys like that, you have to be in the right spot. He took advantage of us not being in the right spots. He is a very impressive athlete."
The problem that Smith and the Panthers deal with is that teams stack the line when they face West. Since the Panthers don't have a strong passing game, the Pirates have the advantage of being able to put all their attention toward keeping Smith from breaking off big gains.
By the numbers:
Even when Smith smashes the teeth of the defense, the Panthers haven't been able to produce enough offensively. In seven games this year, they are averaging 8.8 points per game, and have been held under 14 points in five of those games. On the other side of the ball, they surrender just over 46 points per game.
The Pirates have averaged 29 points a game this season while surrendering 22 points a game to opponents. Before last game's 8-point effort, the Pirates averaged 32 points per game in their first six games.
The numbers suggest that Proviso East is set up to win this game but nothing can be taken for granted. According to Max Preps website, the Pirates are 2-13 lifetime against the Panthers. This has been a season of turnaround for Proviso East, and beating their rival who has beaten them in the past would continue that march toward redemption.
Community Guide 2019 - 2020
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