It took until the eighth game, but Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac football coach Gary Denhart finally saw what he had been anticipating.
"Our first complete performance," said Denhart in reference to Friday's 48-7 victory against visiting Milford. "We were clicking on all cylinders."
The win made the Comets (5-3) playoff eligible and – Denhart hopes – provides momentum for Friday's regular season finale against Salt Fork at Catlin. With a victory, O/A-P will assure itself of a postseason berth when the IHSA announces the pairings Saturday night.
With a loss to the Storm (6-2), Denhart's team will be a bubble team, possibly with only 35 playoff points.
"It's going to be close (if O/A-P doesn't win)," he said, "and I'm not comfortable with it. We've got to be 6-3."
Though Denhart said "everyone" played well against the Bearcats, he particularly liked the performance of his offensive line and first-year starters Skyler Johnson and Stephen Kuchefski.
"They executed and had their best games of the year," Denhart said. "In the summer, we didn't know who would start for us at tackle. That was a pivotal position, and they surprised us.
"They have worked hard and have gotten better every week."
Their blocking helped open up holes for J Sutton (135 yards rushing) and Brady Leeman (108 yards). The Comets' remaining backs teamed up for an additional 101 yards on the ground.
Another standout was Jaycen Herndon, whom Denhart said, "did an awesome job at center."
Defensively, Leeman had six tackles against Milford, Kalob Creighton had five, Gannon Ellett had five and Ray Withers was in on four stops. Trace McClintock had an interception.
The Storm is coming off a week when it was idle, receiving a forfeit from Schlarman. Coach Brian Plotner said he won't know whether the break was a good thing until after this week's game.
"We tried to get some kids rested up," he said, "so from that standpoint, we hope it was beneficial, but you like to keep the continuity going. Time will tell."
Plotner and many of his squad members scouted Oakwood/ Armstrong-Potomac's game last week. The coach sees that as an advantage.
"It was very beneficial to see them firsthand," Plotner said. "They played an excellent game, and we saw how well they run the ball and how good the defense was.
"On game film, you don't always catch what you will see in person. At times, you're not able to see certain things like splits, alignments and pass routes."
Plotner said because of the opportunity he will have less of a job convincing his players about how tough the Comets will be in Friday's 7 p.m. contest.
"The biggest thing we saw was how good of a team Oakwood has," Plotner said. "They dominated that game."
Coach Guy Goodlove wasn't jumping for joy after his second-ranked (Class 2A) team scored 51 points and won by 22 last week at Hoopeston Area.
Losing nine fumbles and allowing the opposing quarterback, Brock Baker, to pass for 247 yards has a tendency to dampen spirits.
Goodlove didn't accept the excuse that four starters were missing, including injured lineman Alex McMahon, who will return this week.
"I can't remember the last time I had a Westville football team play this poorly," Goodlove said. "We took a step backward. I've been telling this team we had to get our focus and intensity back, and this was a good wakeup call."
Motivation won't be a problem this week as the Tigers (8-0) host neighboring rival Georgetown-Ridge Farm (3-5) in the annual Coal Bucket game.
Against the Cornjerkers, Jordan Barney led the defensive effort with 11 tackles. He also caught the only pass freshman Matt Maser attempted and turned it into a 60-yard touchdown.
Dusty Zaayer had eight tackles, and teammates Aaron Johnson and Kasey Verhoeven each intercepted passes.
The Buffaloes staged a late-game rally last week to edge Bismarck-Henning 14-8 in overtime. They spoiled the Blue Devils' chances for the playoffs and now hope to end Westville's 23-game regular season winning streak.
"We hope to ride that emotion into the Coal Bucket," coach Jason Baccadutre said.
"Football is a game of ups and downs. You've got to roll with the punches and keep fighting. They finally did their job. Everyone played well."
Tyler Dill had two receptions for 28 yards. He scored the decisive TD in overtime, catching a pass from Chase Vire at the 5 on a second-down play and diving across the pylon to reach the end zone.
"We had a couple of great plays at the end of the game," Baccadutre said.
To reach the extra session, Vire had to elude a would-be tackler and connect with Dill for the tying two-point conversion in the game's last five minutes.
"The kids really needed that," Baccadutre said. "I'm glad they got the win to solidify what they've done."
Baccadutre sees the current Westville team as similar to the one the Buffaloes lost to twice in 2006, except in one respect.
"They are a lot faster as a team," he said, "and we're not as fast. We'll have to contain the speed as well as we can."
The Cornjerkers (1-7) close the season with what they consider a winnable game against rival Milford (5-4).
"There's not a lot of animosity," Hoopeston coach Jeff Ohlemeyer said. "It's a friendly rivalry. Those kids have played against each other since youth football and summer baseball."
The Bearcats need a win to have any chance for a postseason game.
Ohlemeyer hopes to put his team in position for success.
"It's going to be a matchup-type game," he said. "We'll put our best athlete (Brock Baker) on their best athlete (Ryan Kunce) and see who wins," he said. "We've been susceptible to the long pass. We'll try to limit Kunce's catches."
Ohlemeyer saw many positive signs in last week's game against Westville.
"We were down 12-0 in the first three minutes, and then we responded and went down and scored," Ohlemeyer said. "It proved to the kids what we've been saying. If you put your mind to it and do what you're supposed to, we can compete with anybody.
"Unfortunately, it took us 6 1/2 weeks to get to that point. Hopefully, we've found the switch."
Daryl Brown hauled in seven passes for 153 yards. Baker and Andrew Colunga each had nine tackles. Tim Hicks had eight tackles against the Tigers.
"We didn't get everything accomplished we wanted this year, but we made good progress," Ohlemeyer said. "We hope that bodes well for Week 9 and for years to come."
Coach Mark Dodd collected the uniforms this week. His first B-H team will finish 4-5 after ending with a forfeit from Schlarman.
"It's over a little sooner than we wanted," Dodd said. "It's time to start looking to next year. We have to get stronger, and that's where we're going to work.
"Injuries hurt us all year. I attribute some of that to bad luck and some to not being strong enough. The strength part will definitely change."
Team leaders in the final-game loss to G-RF were Logan Patton, with five catches for 70 yards, and Murad Abbed, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for all-purpose yards. Abbed rushed for 118 yards, had a 7-yard reception and completed a pass for 3 yards.
For eight games, Abbed ac-cumulated 1,018 yards. David Ingram, who sat out last week for disciplinary reasons, amassed 984 total yards.