Qualifying for the playoffs appeared a formality when Eisenhower was 4-1.
The Cardinals, however, dropped four straight games, putting an end to their playoff hopes and season.
Coach Travis Moore, however, found a silver lining in missing the playoffs for a second straight season.
“I appreciate the way the kids played all season,” Moore said. “They played hard. Our young men showed a lot of character and work ethic that will take them very far in life. We came away every game with a chance to win.”
That includes losses to undefeated Evergreen Park and 8-1 Richards. Eisenhower held the Mustangs’ explosive offense scoreless over the final three quarters of a 21-13 setback and led the Bulldogs’ 17-6 at halftime Friday before dropping a 25-17 decision.
“Those two games speak a lot about the growth of our program,” Moore said. “We lost four all-conference linemen from last year when Richards beat us convincingly (42-0). They pretty much had everyone back and we were in position to win that game (this year).”
The Cards will take some graduation hits, tops among them senior running back T.J. Skelton (1,200 yards rushing), senior lineman Josh Akin (115 tackles, 3 sacks) and senior linebacker Alec Esparza (74 tackles, 3 sacks).
The return of quarterback Jaylen Culpepper and lineman Alonzo Lomax in 2014 should complement a sophomore team that finished 8-1 and won the South Suburban Red.
“We’re excited about the future,” Moore said. “We have some good kids coming back and a very talented sophomore team. They’re eager to hit the weight room and get bigger and stronger.”
Tough loss for Rich Central
There was great disappointment by Rich Central after it squandered a 20-6 fourth-quarter lead Saturday to Crete-Monee that led to a 27-26 overtime defeat.
A win would have provided the Olympians (8-1) with the Southland Conference championship.
Coach Terrell Alexander put the responsibility for the loss squarely on the coaching staff.
“It’s a tough loss, but we needed to make better decisions as a staff,” he said. “It’s not the kids’ fault. Crete’s been in this position before and gutted it out. We’ll learn and be better because of this.”
Player of the Week
Jacquet McClendon, of Evergreen Park, is the SouthtownStar Football Player of the Week.
The senior receiver caught five passes for 240 yards, including touchdowns of 17, 58, 34 and 89 yards, to lead the Mustangs (9-0) to a 50-13 win over Reavis for an undefeated regular season.