First of all, if you’re still playing football on Week 10 of the high school season, you’re good.
But it also doesn’t hurt to be lucky.
And in the case of Warren, there can be little argument that the Blue Devils got lucky when pairings were drawn for the Class 8A playoffs.
In Warren’s 16-team half of the 32-team bracket, there are three teams with 7-2 records. Stevenson, which already beat the Blue Devils this year by two touchdowns. Maine South, which has won seven in a row and is a legit threat to win state each and every year.
The third team is Glenbrook South, which is where Warren will play at 6 on Saturday night.
Not only that, but if the Blue Devils beat the Titans, they still won’t have to play either Stevenson or Maine South. That’s not a bad deal when you’re a 6-3 team swimming with the sharks in the 8A bracket.
Question is: Can Warren take advantage of its position, bring its “A” game to Glenview and come away with a win? Or, will it come up with another enigmatic performance, which has happened three times this year, all against teams that won at least seven games.
The good news is that the team is getting healthier, with players coming back from injuries.
“We’ve had four or five guys who have been out that we’re hoping will be back this week,” Devils coach Dave Mohapp said. “Bryson (Eppinger) and Lucas Fulton, two of our linebackers, haven’t played in awhile. Bryson got injured against Stevenson, and Lucas got injured in a practice after Stevenson. So we’ve played without them for a couple of weeks. (Safety) Roderick (R.J. Pompey) came back last week. (Kyle) Whitmer came back last week also. We’re hoping (Max) Sorby, one of our running backs, will make it back this week. We had a couple of linemen get chipped up, but it looks like they’ll be all right.”
With 13 playoff appearances in 15 years, Mohapp has a good idea of what it takes to win in November.
“I think one thing that’s really important, and something that has settled into me the last couple of years is that you have to have a fresh team going in,” he said. “It’s a long grind. We play in a tough conference.
“You’re coaching hard and the kids are working hard every week because you’re not playing easy games. So it’s definitely a challenge, but having a fresh team and a healthy team is important. You have to catch some breaks. You know you’re going to play good teams, because that’s all that’s left. You better be ready.”
Definitely ready are the senior defensive players.
Linebacker Bryson Eppinger: “We’re healthier, and we have a really good attitude heading into the game this week. I think we’re ready to get after it.”
Free safety R.J. Pompey: “We have to get after teams early and stick with it. You don’t want these teams to stick around.”
As for the offense, senior QB Andrew Nickell knows exactly what it’s going to take to put points on the board.
“It comes down to executing the game plan,” he said. “Obviously, those (three losses) were some of the better teams we played against, and that’s what we’re going to see in the playoffs. The main challenge for us is proving that it’s not just a fluke putting up big points against the teams we’ve beaten.”
Coach Mohapp also used the E-word — execution — as the to success on Saturday.
“I think you have to be a fast-starting team, especially in the playoffs. The other thing for us is being consistent offensively, defensively, and in special teams, and putting all of those together,” he said. “Everybody has problems with that during the year, but playing well in all three phases is important in those big games. Offensively we have to execute and be able to finish. You look at a couple of those games (that were lost), and we’ve gotten turnovers but not been able to convert them.”