CULVER — So much of a team’s post-season success comes down to peaking at the right time.
With back-to-back wins headed into this Friday’s Sectional 41 match-up with West Central, that’s exactly what the Culver Cavaliers seem to be doing.
Not that it’s been easy. Up to Week 9’s regular-season closer with LaVille, the Cavaliers were sitting at 2-6 in the midst of a five-game losing streak against a Northern State Conference slate that included a dominant New Prairie squad that is now No. 1 in the state in margin of victory, as well as top 10-ranked Bremen and Jimtown programs.
But through it all, the Cavs kept right on plugging away, and their hard work paid dividends first with a regular season-closing win over LaVille and then last week’s 36-33 sectional-opening victory over South Central (Union Mills).
“Our kids have practiced hard all year and accepted our roles and responsibility. The last two weeks we’ve really put it together and we’ve beaten quality football teams,” said Culver head football coach Andy Thomas. “I think we’ve kind of come together and gotten better here towards the end of the season, and I think it’s a huge testament to the mental toughness of our kids because there have been some rough stretches in this season. For our kids to keep fighting and staying with it says a lot.”
This week, the 4-6 Cavs host a 7-3 West Central squad for a chance at a Sectional 41 championship berth opposite the winner of No. 7 Whiting at No. 3 Winamac. It’s a team Culver knows well after getting a look at them in Week 1 in an eventual 18-6 loss at home.
“We’ve got to play assignment football. They’re a tremendous team, and they execute very well on offense. We need to tackle well; when we have a chance to get somebody down, we need to get them down,” said Thomas of the Trojans.
“They run option very similar to us. They run it well, and they execute very well. They have a great quarterback, a great fullback and a senior-dominated offensive line. And they’re very good on defense. They run a 4-3 defense and do a great job with that, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
Coaches often dread having to beat the same team twice in a single season, and Friday’s match-up in Culver is a chance for a reprisal, but Thomas downplayed any talk of revenge. Instead, he says the one-and-done playoff format is more than enough motivation for his Cavs come Friday.
“I don’t believe in revenge or any of that jazz — it’s usually short-lived and it kind of fizzles out pretty quick if that’s all you’re worried about. We just want to continue to play our best football and try to continue to keep playing. At this time of year if you need extra motivation — if you don’t do the things you need to do then you’re going to pack up your gear, so that’s motivation in itself,” said the eighth-year Culver skipper.
“I think the kids enjoy being around each other and enjoy football, and I think they want to keep playing. I don’t know that we’re going out and trying to prove anything to the world or anything like that, we’re just trying to play our best and work our hardest and put ourselves in position where we have a chance to win a game.”