NEW LENOX — A bobbled snap here, a couple dropped passes there and a handful of missed opportunities.
Slightly out of sync with minimal room for error, Normal West High School's No. 8-ranked and fifth-seeded football team could not overcome its missteps Saturday in a 33-7 loss to New Lenox Providence in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs at Bishop Kaffer Stadium.
"We were just one or two plays away from making this a whole different ballgame," said Wildcats coach Darren Hess after his team fell behind 16-0 in the first half in ending its season at 8-3, one step short of the program's first quarterfinal appearance.
Led by quarterback Caden Kalinowski and running back De'Shon Gavin, Providence picked up 329 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. The No. 13 seed Celtics (7-4) will face the winner of Saturday night's game between St. Laurence (7-3) and Hinsdale Central (6-4).
"We know we're a well prepared team and we know we've played great teams throughout the year. It's just taking care of ourselves," said Providence coach Mark Coglianese.
Armani Forrest had 110 yards on three carries for the Wildcats, whose only score came on Adriel Fussell's 11-yard dash in the second quarter. A couple West receivers could not corral likely TD passes, and a field goal try just before halftime was blocked.
"It's a game of one play here or there that could cost you. That's what we experienced today," said Hess. "What I'm really proud of today is how we competed. We weren't intimidated by their tradition and coming up north here. I don't think the score indicates our effort."
Kalinowski had two TDs and 102 yards on 18 carries while going 8-for-8 passing for 89 yards in the first half before throwing three incompletions in the second. Gavin finished with 161 yards, bolstered by an 80-yard TD jaunt after Steven Meyer's third-quarter interception in the end zone.
"Big plays are huge, especially this time of year," said Coglianese. "They came back with their own big plays and we were fortunate enough that we didn't let them in the end zone."
After both teams went three-and-out on the opening series, a 53-yard punt by Logan Anderson pinned the Wildcats at their own 1 and a mishandled snap resulted in a safety that gave the Celtics a 2-0 lead.
Working with a short field, Providence capitalized when Kalinowski followed a 35-yard run with a 6-yard score. He then engineered a 16-play drive that culminated in his 4-yard run for a 16-0 lead with 9:43 left in the second quarter.
West got on track late in the half as quarterback Carson Camp set up Fussell's TD with a 15-yard scramble on fourth-and-14 from the Providence 26. The Wildcats got the ball back but couldn't tack on points before heading to the locker room.
Providence tacked on a 32-yard field goal from Eduardo Favela with six minutes left in the third. Forrest broke off a 63-yard jet sweep on the next series to help West move within striking distance before Meyer's pick led to Gavin's deflating run.
The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs on their next three series and Jake Magurnay's 1-yard dive with 2:40 left capped the scoring.
"Our kids kept competing, and that's what they do. We'll learn from this," said Hess. "When you get to games like this you have to make plays and unfortunately we just didn't make as many as they did.
"We have a lot to build on. I'm proud of our seniors for their effort and attitude all year and I think it will give our juniors a good message of what we can do next year to be better."