Addison Trail's football team knew the reward of Saturday's 35-0 victory over Proviso East.
"We punched our ticket to the playoffs," senior Vince Beltrano said. "Now we have to improve our seed, win conference and go on from there."
The Blazers, in other words, want to upgrade to a first-class ticket.
They took a key step Saturday in Maywood, overcoming a sluggish start to take command in the second half. Addison Trail (6-0, 4-0 West Suburban Gold) faces fellow unbeaten Glenbard West next week and, after playing Willowbrook, finishes the regular season against another unbeaten in Downers Grove South.
The goal of qualifying for the playoffs is significant, but it's tough to get too excited with such a rugged road ahead.
"We got one of our goals, we're in the playoffs now," senior Anthony Catanese said. "Now we just have to finish strong these last three games and take them one at a time."
Addison Trail looked like it might roll after converting a first-quarter fumble into a 3-yard touchdown run by Catanese, who scored three times en route to 82 rushing yards on 13 carries. The Blazers' offense stalled the rest of the half, however, leaving them with the 7-0 lead.
The Blazers maintained the 7-point advantage after Proviso East (1-5, 1-2) missed a 25-yard field goal near the end of the second quarter.
After punting on its first possession of the second half, the Blazers finally starting clicking on offense by scoring touchdowns on four of their last five possessions. They scored touchdowns off all three of their second-half interceptions, including two by Beltrano.
Anthony Messina, who had 11 carries for 93 yards, scored on second-half touchdown runs of 2 and 18 yards. Catanese added scoring runs of 2 and 44 yards, the second touchdown coming out of a Wildcat formation with Catanese at quarterback.
Proviso East running back Ryan Jones rushed for 81 yards, but the Pirates were hampered by 5 turnovers -- including interceptions by the Blazers' Delricien Smith and Kevin Kent -- and 8 penalties. The Blazers also committed 8 penalties.
"We've still got our toughest competition ahead of us, and there are still some things we've got to get better in with our execution," said Blazers coach Paul Parpet. "When we execute well like we did in the second half here, that's the stuff we need to carry into next week and the rest of the season."