Making the playoffs will be no easy task for Waubonsie Valley after Friday's outcome, but the Warriors have been down this road before and they're shifting to full playoff mode beginning with next week's game.
A 19-7 home loss to Lincoln-Way Central dropped the Warriors to 3-4 on the year and in need of winning two tough conference games in order to finish 5-4 and return to the IHSA football playoffs.
"As of right now we're in the payoffs. We lose again, our playoff hopes go down the drain," said Warriors coach Paul Murphy, whose team takes on Naperville North next week. "We're up against the back of the cliff and we've got to act like a wounded animal."
After a scoreless first quarter on a muddy field, Waubonsie Valley found itself down 12-0 at the half against a Knights squad that is headed back to the playoffs after picking up its sixth win. A 7-yard touchdown run by Mike Morgan opened the game's scoring with 5:03 left in the half, and then a fumble by the Warriors set the stage for a 28-yard touchdown pass from Sam Pipiras to Devin Smith in the final minute of the half.
But the Warriors offense countered with a pretty 63-yard scoring play to close to within 12-7 early in the third quarter. Quarterback Tanner Westwood rolled out to avoid the heavy pressure and fired on target to Eric Esch near the right sideline before taking a big hit after releasing the ball. Esch cut back to the left side of the field and outraced the Knights defense to the end zone to make it a 12-7 contest just one minute into the second half.
But the Warriors couldn't score from there, slowed by an interception, a botched punt attempt and too many near misses on deep passes. When Morgan -- who finished with 27 carries for 149 yards and two scores -- broke off a 30-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, the visitors had the game in hand.
"We got that momentum and we really had our chances to beat them from there, but we've really got to work on our execution," said Esch, who had 3 catches for 82 yards. "Anytime you lose like that it's tough. We had our chances to score and we came up short."
Linebacker Kyle Schroeder did his best to help hold down the Knights attack and now hopes his team gets back on track next week in an effort to repeat last year when the team needed a win in the final week to reach 5-4 and make the playoffs.
"I'm proud of the defense. We had 11 cats on the ball and we went to every single play," he said. "We played hard throughout the game. Nobody gave up. We just came up a couple plays short. That's what it was. We still got some (wins left). We're still looking for the playoffs."