The Oshkosh North Spartans football team was a loss away from missing out on the WIAA playoffs in Week 5.
But with their backs against the wall, they put together an impressive run, starting with winning their last three games of the regular season — including beating rival Oshkosh West in the final week — to make the WIAA Division 2 postseason.
A couple of more plays and they still might be playing, having lost a 14-7 heartbreaker to the top seeded Green Bay Southwest in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday in Green Bay.
“Our coaching staff put together a nice gameplan and our kids executed it as well as I could’ve asked,” North coach Chris Kujawa said. “Just a couple of plays. If we make a catch or if we make a tackle, it’s a whole different ballgame.”
The run to the postseason for North started out in Week 6 against Fond du Lac, who they promptly beat 31-15. They would beat Neenah the next week handily.
They finally capped the season and secured a berth into the postseason with a 17-7 win over Oshkosh West to finish the regular season 4-4.
Kujawa believes it was just a matter of knowing they could win.
“I don’t think we prepared any different or had any less expectations,” Kujawa said. “The biggest difference is that (the kids) finally decided they could be beat people.”
That is the philosophy that the Spartans took into their Level 1 postseason game against Green Bay Southwest, the No. 1 seed in the region and undefeated at 8-0.
Even with that, North felt they had a real shot in the game and a real shot at coming out of the region, banking on the momentum that they had created at the end of the season.
“When I saw the region, I felt we could play with anybody and beat anybody in the region,” Kujawa said. “We drew the best team right away and if you want to be the best you are going to have to beat the best and we had to do that right out of the gate and didn’t.”
Still it was a tough end to a very good season for the Spartans.
But it was also a definite improvement over the last two seasons, which saw the Spartans go just 3-15 overall and 2-14 in conference.
Kujawa thinks that his team coming back next year, with key returners such as Nate Neveau and Robert Phillips, has already learned the most important thing for next season.
“They learned the most important thing…how to win,” he said. “The thing that I hope they take from our senior class this year is how to prepare.
“I think (next year’s returners) understand what it takes to win and have gotten that desire to prepare from our senior group.”