MORRIS – The playoffs begin now for the Morris football team.
After suffering their fourth loss of the season Oct. 5 to Sycamore, the Redskins must win their final two games to become eligible for the playoffs.
The first game on the agenda is this, as Morris travels to Northern Illinois Big 12 rival Kaneland (5-2), which suffered a 45-28 defeat to Yorkville last week. Earlier in the season, Morris lost to Yorkville, 34-21.
"That's the way this conference has been this year," Morris coach Alan Thorson said. "Every week, it comes down to who makes the fewest mistakes. Kaneland beat DeKalb, then they lost to Yorkville. It's hard to guess each week who is going to beat who.
"This is a very good conference. There are at least four teams that are going to make the playoffs, and if we win our last two, all five of us will make it. I don't think that has ever happened before."
The need for a win gives the Redskins a larger sense of urgency, something Thorson has felt during practice already this week.
"These kids know what's at stake," he said. "There was a lot of disappointment after the Sycamore game. It was tough to lose on homecoming, and we certainly didn't want to be in the position where we had to win our last two to get in.
"We know we have to go up and beat a good team. But, confidence hasn't been the issue with our team all year. We feel like we have a good team. We just have to play a full four quarters of football. We feel like, in our losses, we outplayed the other team for three of the four quarters. We have to get that consistency where we can put four good quarters together."
Kaneland, which has outscored its opponents 176-134 in seven games, will feature a balanced offensive attack. The main ball carrier will be senior Jonathan Alstott, while quarterback Joe Smith will have a variety of receivers to choose from.
"Kaneland will be a different type of challenge than Sycamore was," Thorson said. "They are a typical Kaneland team. They like to spread things out. They will run a lot of different formations, five wide receivers, trips, spread. They will probably throw it 20 to 30 times a game, but they are able to run it pretty well, too.
"They are going to be physical with us, but we are used to that. We played very well defensively in the second half against Sycamore. We need to carry that effort over into Friday night."
The Redskins will feature a balanced offense, as well, dividing the carries between Chatten Dryfhout, Brandon Phelps and Tyler Petty. Quarterback Mitchell Mayberry has a receiving corps of Zach Reddinger, Jacob Overbeck, Alex Cameron and the running backs, who have been improving every week.
"We have to be consistent offensively and not commit any turnovers," Thorson said. "We have had glimpses of looking great at times, but we have to keep the mistakes – turnovers and penalties – to a minimum.
"These kids know that there is no holding back. They are fighting for their playoff lives here, and I expect us to come out and play like it."