To go 9-0 is the perfect ending of any regular season in high school football. || But for those teams that have done that, do you know what would be even better? || How about a perfect 10. || Lakeview and St. Philip are coming off 9-0 seasons and head into the postseason with hopes of getting that 10th win and keeping the 2013 campaign going. || They will get that chance tonight as the Michigan High School Athletic Association football playoffs start throughout the state. || In the area there are nine teams that have earned postseason berths and all will be in action under the Friday night lights. || In Division 2, Lakeview will host Portage Northern. || In Division 3, Harper Creek will host Byron Center and Coldwater will travel to Stevensville-Lakeshore. || In Division 4, Pennfield will go on the road to play at Paw Paw. || In Division 5, Olivet will travel to Hopkins and in Division 7, Homer will play host to Reading. || In Division 8, two area teams will match up with Bellevue going to Climax-Scotts. || And in 8-man football, St. Philip will host Waldron. || Each of those teams are playing for the all-important win and hoping to avoid that season-ending loss.
But there are only two that know nothing of losing this season and have an opportunity to get that 10th victory — Lakeview and St. Philip.
“We have all talked about what we have done and how 9-0 is special, but now we want to build on that,” Lakeview senior Evan Eldridge said. “We don’t want to get knocked out in the first round like we did last year. We want to keep playing and build some memories.”
For teams sitting at 9-0, there has been pressure all season to keep that perfect record going. If Lakeview or St. Philip had lost during the year, it would have ended that undefeated run, but both still would have gone to the playoffs.
But now, there is more to the perfect season. A loss not only takes away that zero in the loss column, it ends the season. Is there added pressure to that, worrying about a loss, or is there a confidence throughout the team knowing your squad has won nine times before?
“Little bit of both,” said St. Philip coach Dave Downey. “I definitely see confidence growing every week with every win, but it can also put more pressure on them to perform better and keep the win streak going.”
Downey thought he saw a little of that pressure manifest itself in Week 9 when St. Philip was trying to finish off its first 9-0 regular season since 2008.
“Last week we fumbled twice early and that’s not typical, so I think there was some pressure getting to them in a tight game. They might feel the pressure from our school atmosphere. Usually it’s the volleyball team that feels that pressure going to state finals every year,” Downey said regarding the seven-time defending state championship St. Philip volleyball team. “Now it is the football team’s turn to feel some pressure. But it can be good for them, making them push a little harder in practice and in games.”
Knowing each of their players will react differently to being 9-0, it’s more important for the team to realize it has done something special.
Every team left in the playoffs, except one in each division, is eventually going to lose to end the season. But only a few teams will be able to look back and say they were 9-0 — that can’t be lost in the postseason hype.
“We have talked this week about how 9-0 is forever and they can always look back at this and be proud,” Lakeview coach Matt Miller said. “And really, I don’t think our kids feel pressure from going 9-0. I think it builds confidence. Our team had a goal of being 9-0 and for them to accomplish that, I think they can be pretty proud of that.”
And every coach, in that position, talks about wanting to take that 9-0 season and build on that.
“We are 9-0, but now the new season has started and we are all 0-0 and there are 32 teams left in our division and we have a lot more to go and we want to prepare ourselves for a playoff run,” Miller said.
In both cases, Lakeview and St. Philip have stormed up to the 9-0 level fairly quickly. It was just last year Lakeview had made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. And for St. Philip, the Tigers are 9-0 after going 1-8 as recently as 2011.
So for players on each of the perfect teams in the city, and players on all of the postseason squads in the area, it is the time of the year to realize what they have accomplished and look to add on to already special seasons.
“I appreciate what we are doing this year because during my freshman year I never thought we’d ever be 9-0 or even close. Never thought we’d even make the playoffs,” said St. Philip senior Jack Luoma. “So to experience this is great.”