As the sun began to sink into the grass in Crete Tuesday evening, the temperature dropped below 25 degrees. But on the Crete-Monee football field whistles were still blowing as the Warriors prepared for their semifinal matchup against top-seeded Richards on Saturday.
“If you think this is cold you better get used to it,” Crete-Monee coach John Konecki yelled to his team. “It’s going to be just as cold Saturday!”
Crete-Monee (9-3) hosts the Bulldogs (12-0) at 2 p.m. in the Class 6A semifinals. The Warriors started the season 0-3 so they didn’t necessarily expect to be playing this late in November. But they didn’t count themselves out of it either.
“Honestly, I can’t say that we all knew we would be in this situation,” senior linebacker Anthony Millender said. “But we were all focused on where we wanted to go. We kept maintaining that focus especially in Week 4. Every week we treated like a playoff game.”
The Warriors weren’t just playing for a spot in the playoffs, they were competing to keep the conference championship legacy alive at Crete-Monee. The Warriors have won conference every year since 2007.
Crete-Monee ripped off nine consecutive wins to claim its 11th consecutive conference title and its third trip to the semifinals in school history. This season the Warriors are considered the underdogs, but that doesn’t hold a lot of weight in their minds.
Crete-Monee was the top seed last season and was ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
“It was motivation for me,” Konecki said. “As far as the team, we haven’t really spoke about it. I try to leave the past in the past. It taught us a lot of lessons but really we just had to go back to work. Starting in December we came [into the weight room] and we just got after it.”
The Warriors are just one game away from playing for the state title.
“We’re the eleventh seed,” Millender said. “That’s all it is, nothing more nothing less and all you gotta do is keep going out there and play ball.”