Prairie Ridge’s recent paths to the playoffs were usually unencumbered, with the main issue being how high the Wolves would be seeded.
This time was different. It took a late-season surge after Prairie Ridge’s room for error was zero just to get into the playoffs. Once there, however, the Wolves have acted like their old selves.
In disposing of their first Class 6A playoff opponents – Lakes, 21-14, and Marmion, 21-20 – No. 14-seeded Prairie Ridge (7-4) ran its consecutive playoff victory string to seven, earning a shot at No. 1 Boylan (11-0) in a 1 p.m. quarterfinal Saturday at Titan Stadium.
“It’s the most confidence we’ve probably had all year with the run that we’ve been on,” Wolves coach Chris Schremp said. “Most people, probably including some of the kids on the team, never thought we’d be where we’re at now. It’s just, ‘Heck, let’s go out and play and be excited about being where we’re at.’ Nobody expected us to be here, it’ll be fun to go out and play, and see how we do.”
Boylan is 50-1 since the 2010 season with a Class 6A state championship in 2010 and a Class 7A title in 2011. Prairie Ridge suffered its last playoff loss at Boylan, 14-7, in 2010,
then won the 6A state championship the next year.
The Titans defeated Cary-Grove, 17-10, last week and are 8-1 against Fox Valley Conference teams in the playoffs since 2000.
The Wolves finished 3-6 and missed the postseason last year, but bounced back by winning their final three regular-season games by wide margins to qualify. The playoff wins needed late heroics from the defense at Lakes and a last-minute touchdown from the offense against Marmion.
“I love the way we’re playing right now,” Wolves linebacker Danny Giffels said. “Our offense has definitely turned it up and we’re all playing for each other, more as a team. It’s nice to see everybody come together like this.”
Prairie Ridge made the Class 6A semifinals in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and now is 13-2 since 2009 in postseason games.
Schremp said the Wolves don’t change a lot in the playoffs. It’s more a matter of refining what they do well.
“It’s a focus we take into the playoffs where we do what we do,” Schremp said. “We practice hard on the basics of football. It doesn’t change because we’re in the playoffs. We try getting better at doing what we do. We really try to focus our scout teams where we’re getting a good look on offense and defense and similar to a game situation.
No FVC team accomplished what the Wolves did by playing in three consecutive semifinals. Schremp feels that plays a part too.
“It’s just expectations now,” he said “We expect to do well in the playoffs and the kids believe in what we’re doing.”