Most high school football teams start thinking about playoff possibilities now, but Deerfield has been in postseason mode all month.
After dominating Maine East 56-0 at Adams Field last Friday, the Warriors will play what coach Steve Winiecki considers their fourth consecutive playoff game at 7:30 p.m. this Friday against Niles North in the Central Suburban North — and regular-season — finale.
“Last night was the third week of the playoffs for us,” Winiecki said the day after the victory over Maine East. “We were 1-4 [after losing to Highland Park on Sept. 26], and we had to win every game to stay in the playoffs.”
Deerfield (4-4, 3-1) needs a win over the Vikings on Friday to secure a winning record and become playoff eligible. After that, it depends whether the Warriors have accumulated enough playoff points to be one of the five-win teams in the Class 6A postseason. For now, they are only thinking of Niles North (4-4, 2-3).
“They’re a very, very similar team,” Winiecki said. “We have to prepare for Niles North like we prepare for anyone else by focusing on the things we have to do right.”
He wants all three parts of his team — offense, defense and special teams — ready like they were for Maine East (1-7, 0-4).
The Warriors’ preparedness was on display against the Blue Demons as Johnny Fisher ran the ball eight times for 105 yards and three touchdowns and Alex Williams carried four times for 45 yards with two touchdowns. The other offensive touchdowns came from Brian Ranallo and Mike Puccio.
Charlie Jones completed the scoring for Deerfield on special teams with a 62-yard punt return while the defense kept Maine East out of the end zone with 15 tackles for loss coming from 12 different players.
Team defense has emerged during the Warriors’ three-game winning streak. Winiecki attributed that to players sticking to their assignments rather than 11 players trying to make a play at once.
“Everyone is doing their job now,” inside linebacker Michael Kuras said. “When I see the fullback coming at me, I’ll fill the gap and block him [away from] the other inside linebacker so he can make the tackle. When everyone is doing their job, it will work out better.”
Winiecki said he is happy with the way the offensive line has matured during the last four games, including the 17-14 loss to Highland Park.
“We took an undefeated team down to the final play, and they’re still undefeated,” Winiecki said.
Warriors center Scott Garcia said the growth of his fellow linemen came with experience and education.
“In the first few games people didn’t know exactly where they needed to be,” Garcia said.
As the center, it is his job to line them up.
“I have to get intelligent, watch where the defense is lining up and make sure everyone knows their assignments.”