LANSING | It looked as if T.F. South was going in reverse.
Maybe it was because The Times No. 3 and Class 7A No. 10 Rebels were. Everything that clicked in a seven-game winning streak came apart in the first half as T.F. South couldn't get going. The Rebels did not have a first down and had a total of 6 yards of offense.
The Rebels came back, but fell short in a 28-20 South Suburban Blue Conference loss to Oak Forest on Friday night. The loss cost T.F. South the outright SSC Blue title and it has to settle for a three-way tie with Oak Forest and Lemont, which beat T.F. North.
“It was like we were spinning our wheels in the mud,” T.F. South coach Tom Padjen said. “We had no blocking, didn't hit anybody and had breakdowns. Since we beat Lemont, we have been cruise control and have not been firing on all cylinders.”
It would have been much worse, but Oak Forest (8-1, 5-1) had a punt return for a touchdown called back on a penalty.
The Rebels (7-2, 5-1) saw their seven-game winning streak snapped, though they have won 10 of their last 12 games, dating back to last year.
“Oak Forest outhit us and outplayed us in the first half,” Padjen said. “We came back, but we can't dig ourselves in a hole like that and expect to win.”
Ben Santiago rushed for three scores and 143 yards, including the first touchdown on a 23-yard run with 3 minutes, 43 seconds left in the first quarter. The Bengals made it 14-0 when Tom Zale hit Nick Ciufia for a 7-yard score with 3:37 left in the first half.
South came out and ate up 6:55 in going 75 yards in 15 plays with Saleem Sanford, who finished with 115 yards rushing, scoring on a 3-yard run with 5:05 left in the third. A penalty on the extra-point attempt pushed the ball back and the kick failed.
Santiago made it 21-6, but Peyton Padjen hit Drakkar Frazier for a 37-yard touchdown pass with 26.5 seconds left in the third quarter and it was 20-12.
Ciufia then went 66 yards to set up the Bengals' final score to make it 28-12.
“We score, east up some clock, then they score in 30 seconds,” defensive coordinator Bob Padjen said. “We had a some letdowns and missed assignments on defense.”
The Rebels await their first-round playoff opponent and will also wait to see if they are Class 6A or 7A.
Joe Young's 11-yard run made it 28-20 with 7:14 left and he also ran in the conversion.
“We fought hard to the end, I'll give the kids credit,” Tom Padjen said. “From where we were last year (4-5), it was quite an accomplishment.”