CRETE | There is no doubt the Crete-Monee football team is everything people expected, and more. The Class 6A No. 1 Warriors proved that Friday in a season-opening 38-7 win over T.F. South.
Their offense came up with big plays, but the defense really came through in shutting down the Rebels. Defensive end Travelle Smith had three sacks and tackle Jonathan Schultz helped slam the door.
What T.F. South did was show it could fight back. Trailing 6-0, the Rebels put a scoring drive together which ate up nearly seven minutes and actually led 7-6. But Crete's talent, size and experience took over.
What T.F. South takes from this game is important. Last year, the Rebels went downhill after a season-opening loss to the Warriors. This team is not ready to do that. In fact, the Rebels themselves can be a playoff team. They have some gaps to fill, but they seem to want to compete and not quit. They understand what the program's tradition is about.
The Rebels must also remember that they will see teams like Crete in the playoffs.
"We fought hard and I am proud of our effort," T.F. South coach Tom Padjen said. "We like playing Crete. It is a good way to open the season. They are a great team and it is easy to see why they are No. 1 in (Class) 6A."
South had a good game plan: Eat up the clock and keep the potent Crete offense off the field. It worked for a few series.
"That was our plan -- keep those offensive guys on defense or on the sidelines," Padjen said. "Our guys played hard and I was happy for that. We have some things to work on and I think the kids want to put in that effort."
Smith thought South's offensive line did a nice job early.
"They kept me from getting outside and they were able to run on us," he said. "We started doing some things better and stopped them.
"They are a good team and I think they will be a playoff team."
So does Smith's coach, Jerry Verde.
"When I took over here six years ago, T.F. South is the program I modeled mine after," Verde said. "Tom (Padjen) is a class guy. They have had a lot of success and that is one of the reasons we like playing them in Week 1."
This is a good rivalry. It was standing room only and both teams know each other. Both are good programs and there is nothing like a good, friendly rivalry.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.