Harper Creek has been down this road before.
They have experienced all the bumps, faced the road blocks and hugged all of the curves.
So the Beavers have a map of how to drive deep in the playoffs. And they are on that road once again, heading into the third week of the playoffs where Harper Creek will host Tecumseh in a Division 3 regional contest tonight.
For the third straight season, Harper Creek is playing in the regionals and that experience can only help as the Beavers look to keep driving on the road to Ford Field.
“We know what to expect. We know getting this far, every team is going to be good and we need to work harder in practice and prepare ourselves for what is coming up,” said senior lineman Austin Sackrider. “We know what the atmosphere is this deep in the playoffs. We know they are going to come out as hard as we are and want it as bad as we do, so we have to match that intensity.”
By the time you get into November there are fewer and fewer high school football teams on the practice fields each week.
Over the last three years, Harper Creek has become used to being one of those teams.
In 2010, Harper Creek advanced to the third round and lost to DeWitt in the regional final.
Using that experience, the Beavers advanced to the third round again in 2011 – this time Harper Creek defeated Adrian to get to the state semifinals.
Now in 2012, Harper Creek is in the third round again and the Beavers don’t want to take a step back – so the idea is to at least get past this round and take their chances again next week in the state semifinals.
“I’ve been on varsity for three years, so each year we have gone at least this far, and it’s always been a matter of working hard to get this far,” said Harper Creek senior back Connor Bauserman. “Being in these games before, we know what it takes to win these kinds of games. We’ve gone a little further each year. Now we want to repeat as regional champs and then maybe build on what we did last year in the next round.”
Harper Creek coach Ed Greenman knows better than most that his team can’t look toward matching last year’s semifinalist team until the Beavers can get past a very good Tecumseh squad.
While the Beavers have been a perennial playoff player, Tecumseh is new to this kind of postseason action. The Indians, under second-year head coach Al Romano, are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and haven’t reached the third round of the postseason since 1991.
But clearly, Tecumseh has turned a page this season and has put together the kind of team that can and has made a deep playoff run.
Tecumseh showed it wasn’t a fluke as it beat an undefeated Milan team last week, 26-6, in the second round. And in the first round, the Indians beat a Chelsea team that it had lost to in league play during the season. Chelsea had won the Southeastern Conference White Division in the regular season with Tecumseh coming in second.
The Indians weren’t really challenged in the regular season with just two wins over teams with a winning record and their two losses coming against the only other two teams with a winning record.
“Tecumseh is playing with a lot of confidence,” Greenman said. “They haven’t had a lot of success in the last decade, but they have a newer coach and he has given that team that spark.”
Confidence isn’t something Harper Creek has trouble with as the Beavers will get to play their third playoff game at home and have strung together nine straight wins.
“We talk about playing and practicing at a championship level and we know what it takes and what that means because of what we’ve done the last few years,” Greenman said. “I think there’s a feeling among our coaches and kids that whoever we line up against, we can win.”