The numbers, even when considered by those who helped compile them, seem hard to believe.
The 154 points Prairie Ridge’s offense piled up during a three-game winning streak that rescued the Wolves from the brink of playoff elimination are impressive enough.
The Wolves have amassed 1,268 yards of total offense and 22 touchdowns over that stretch to earn them a postseason berth at 7 p.m. Friday at Lakes, two years removed from a Class 6A state championship and one year after missing the playoffs altogether.
“It’s nuts,” senior fullback Zack Greenberg said.
Even in the midst of a difficult six-game stretch when the Wolves were shut out – twice – for the first time since 2006 and when the offense mustered only 77 points en route to a 2-4 start, there had been flashes that Prairie Ridge’s offense was starting to build steam.
The Wolves reviewed enough film to understand the speed they were supposed to be playing at. Yet, little things kept them locked into neutral, keeping the offense from meeting the potential they believe was possible.
“We were never bad, we were just screwing up,” Greenberg said. “We took turns screwing up.”
Coach Chris Schremp likens his offensive scheme to an up-tempo basketball team that relies on its fastbreak ability to succeed. But early on, the Wolves struggled to generate much of anything. Offensive linemen were coming off slow, backs were coming off slow and the lack of point production was the only evidence the Wolves needed to bring on change.
“We just weren’t as fast as we could have been,” senior offensive lineman Shane Evans said. “It was frustrating to see, but we finally got together and really made that push.”
Schremp kept pushing hard. Film study turned into constant repetition in practice. But with time running short and the Wolves needing to win out over the final three weeks of the regular season, they knew they couldn’t waste any more time in getting things where they needed to be.
“We thought it would come around,” Schremp said. “I don’t think we thought it would click the way it has the last couple of weeks. But we knew we could be a lot better than what we were.”
Prairie Ridge’s homecoming game against Dundee-Crown was the turning point. Evans and his fellow seniors took the opportunity to heart, believing it was their last chance to show what they were capable of. Little did they know that one win – a 42-0 victory a week after generating only one touchdown in a lopsided loss at Huntley – would be the kickstart they needed.
Since then, the Wolves have scored 56 points in consecutive weeks, not only getting to 5-4 and playoff eligible, but showcasing the kind of offensive firepower Schremp had envisioned all along.
“I don’t think we’re really shocked at all,” Evans said. “I think we knew the whole year we had it in us and it’s finally good to see it finally coming out.”
The thought of seeing their season end after nine weeks played a key turnaround. For junior quarterback Brett Covalt, who has run for 13 touchdowns to helped spark the Wolves’ offensive transformation, returning Prairie Ridge to the postseason was enough motivation.
But, like the way Schremp wants things run, it had to happen quickly.
“We didn’t want to end up like we did last year,” Covalt said. “After we lost a certain number of games (last year) and we knew we weren’t going to get into the playoffs, I felt like our team kind of gave up. So this year, making the playoffs definitely drove us.”
Now that the Wolves are back in the postseason starting Friday night at Lakes (8-1), confidence couldn’t be higher. But as high-powered as Prairie Ridge has been of late, especially offensively, Schremp won’t allow the accomplishments of the past three weeks to create a false security moving forward.
Now, it’s a matter of sustaining it.
“This is the first round of the playoffs, and what we did the first nine weeks of the season, good or bad, doesn’t really matter,” Schremp said. “We can look back and say, ‘Look at how good we were the last three games,’ but we could also say, ‘Look at how bad we were the three weeks before that.’
“So we just need to keep getting better. That’s what we’re preaching. Yeah, we scored a lot of points, but those points don’t mean anything in this next game.”