COAL CITY — Looking at the schedule before the season, it might have been difficult to imagine Coal City being 2-0 after the first two weeks with traditional powers Morris and Kankakee Bishop McNamara as the first two games on the Coalers' slate.
Coal City senior Daniel Jezik didn't have any trouble thinking it, though.
"I thought nothing other than us being 2-0," Jezik said after running for 289 yards and two touchdowns Friday night in the Coalers' 34-20 win over Bishop McNamara, which entered the game ranked No. 2 in the AP's Class 4A poll. Like in last week's win over Morris, Jezik and his Coaler teammates, who were ranked No. 4 in 4A entering the game, fell behind on a big play early, but quickly turned the tables and took control.
Bishop McNamara recovered a fumble on Coal City's opening drive and, on the second play from scrimmage, scored on a 44-yard halfback pass from Owen Jackson to Max O'Connor to take a 7-0 lead.
The Coalers responded, getting runs of 11, 7 and 12 yards by Jezik before quarterback Payton Hutchings picked up 38 yards on a keeper on 3rd-and-9. On the next play, Jezik scored from 11 yards out and the game was tied at 7.
After forcing a Bishop Mac punt, Jezik opened the next Coal City drive with a 22-yard burst before Asa Cooper ran twice for 13 yards. Hutchings then hit Kyle Burch with a 23-yard touchdown for a 14-7 Coaler lead.
Midway through the second quarter, Jezik started a Coaler drive with a 38-yard run before Cooper broke loose on a 24-yard run of his own to the 4. He then scored on the next play and Coal City owned a 21-7 lead.
Bishop McNamara countered with a 71-yard drive that ended with a one-yard plunge by Jackson, but the kick failed and it was 21-13 with 1:29 to play in the first half.
That left enough time on the clock for Coal City to drive to the McNamara 20, and Hutchings spotted Austin Pullara wide open over the middle. Pullara made a diving catch in the end zone and Coal City took a 27-13 lead into halftime.
Besides his touchdown catch, Pullara led the Coal City defense with nine solo tackles and added an interception.
"We didn't panic after they scored early," Pullara said. "We just kept playing our game and got better. Everyone on the defense did a great job tonight.
"I was open on the same play earlier in the game, so we knew we could come back to it. Payton put it out there and I went and got it."
Jezik, who had 165 yards at halftime, found the going a little tougher in the second half, but put the game away in the fourth quarter when he broke free for an 84-yard touchdown run after Bishop McNamara had scored on a 25-yard pass from Tyler Hiller to Manny Harris to close to within 27-20. Jezik's score put Coal City ahead, 34-20.
"They were putting nine or 10 guys in the box in the second half," Jezik said. "We just kept playing our game and stuck to the game plan. Our offensive line did a great job. I don't get those yards without them.
"On that long run at the end, they had so many guys up near the line that once I got through, there was no one there. The offensive line opened up the hole. I can't say enough about the job they do. We just wore them out at the end. That comes from all the work we've done on the practice field. That's where we won this game tonight."
Coal City coach Dan Hutchings echoed Jezik's sentiments.
"To beat two real good teams like Morris and Bishop Mac in the first two weeks just shows that our guys work their tails off," he said. "Daniel Jezik runs so hard, but he will tell you he can't do it without the offensive line. And, we got Asa Cooper more involved tonight, Payton had a good night with a couple of TDs. It was a team win, for sure.
"And our defense just keeps playing well. We are aggressive and they took advantage of that on a couple of plays, but I would rather make aggressive mistakes than passive ones. We just can't let ourselves get complacent now. We have to focus on Herscher next week."