With just three weeks left in the regular season, Deerfield’s football team finds itself in a tough spot.
The Warriors are 2-4 and 1-1 in the Central Suburban North following a 35-21 road win at Glenbrook North on Oct. 2. Despite what may seem like an uphill climb to the playoffs, coach Steve Winiecki isn’t panicking.
With division games against Maine West, Maine East and Niles North left, hope still remains Deerfield could reach the postseason with a strong finish. Winiecki took time to answer several key questions about his team — and the stretch run — for Pioneer Press.
Tim Froehlig: What impressed you most against Glenbrook North Week 6?
Steve Winiecki: “Our juniors and seniors currently on the varsity team hadn’t fared well against them in the past. So for those guys to step up and get a key road win we needed to have was big. Our kids travel well. We’re 2-1 on the road now, but 0-3 at home. We’ve got one final home game this week against Maine West. It’s homecoming.”
Froehlig: How do you get your players to avoid distractions during such an important week?
Winiecki: “We can’t get caught up in the hoopla of everything else that’s going on involving homecoming. We have a football game to win, and while it’s an exciting, fun time that’s wonderful for our students and community, our focus has to remain on the task at hand. The little things we do during practices and staying in our routine will be crucial these final three weeks.”
Froehlig: You have to win those final three games to become playoff-eligible. Are you concerned?
Winiecki: “This may sound strange, but I actually like the position we’re in. Obviously, we’d prefer to have a better overall record, but we’re doing a lot of things well. We’re coming off a huge win against a division opponent we needed to have. Our defensive line is playing well. Senior running back John Fisher had four touchdown runs against the Spartans. And our quarterback [Anthony Ranallo] ran for 125 yards and scored our other touchdown. The offensive line has been a huge bright spot, and a key reason we were successful with our ground game last week.”
Froehlig: Do you feel more prepared for the stretch run having faced tough teams like Highland Park, Glenbrook South, St. Viator and New Trier?
Winiecki: “I’d agree we’re pretty battle-tested at this point of the season. It can only help us the rest of the way. That’s not to slight any of our upcoming opponents, by any means. But every game is a playoff game for us from here on.”
Froehlig: Any keys to success the rest of the way, in your opinion?
Winiecki: “I just started watching film of our win against the Spartans, and several things stand out. We need to keep the pace we had in that game during the remainder of our games. We dictated things, jumped out to an early lead. The game was played at our tempo, and we had a number of long, sustained drives that kept our defense fresh and off the field more. It goes without saying, but it’s a lot easier to play ahead than from behind. I’d like to see more of that. That will be important.”