FORT WAYNE – The calendar is a faithless liar, the way the Saint Francis football team sees it.
It says November is still young, a single-digit newbie. It says the playoffs don’t begin until long, long from now – eons, really, or at least eons the way the blindered culture of football measures these things.
Except here is quarterback Josh Miller, who knows a thing or two about the passage of time, saying otherwise.
Absolutely, he said Thursday, when asked if the Cougars were already in playoff mode two weeks early.
After the loss to Robert Morris, we can’t afford another loss, especially if we want to get into the playoffs, he goes on. At this point, Taylor’s our opponent for this week, and we need to beat them to have any chance. So we’re focusing one game at a time, and that’s kind of what you do in playoff mode.
Head coach Kevin Donley is in full accord.
There’s no looking ahead from our standpoint, and I don’t think it is for the players, either, he says. You’d better take care of what’s there right now. Most important game is the next one.
The next one is Taylor in Upland, and if the Cougars are 10-2 lifetime against the Trojans, you’d never know it. They look at Taylor, and see a team that’s 4-4 but has lost three games by a touchdown or less and the fourth by 11, on the road, at No. 11 Saint Ambrose. They see a team that revolves around quarterback Jonathan Keith (62.3 percent completion mark, 1,462 yards, 10 touchdowns) and receiver Shawn Lashbrook, who caught 13 passes for 134 yards in a 26-19 double-overtime loss to Marian last week and has 47 receptions on the season, six for scores.
They see a team they have to beat first to get to Marian, whom they’ll also have to beat. It’s classic survive-and-advance two weeks before it becomes survive-and-advance in fact.
You’ve got to take care of this one first, Donley says. And they’re a good football team. We’ll have to overcome adversity in the game, because they’re going to make plays. You look down at the results, they’ve been in every game. Every loss they’ve had, they could have won.
They could be sitting here on top of the conference.
Instead, it’s the Cougars (6-2, 3-1) who sit a half-game behind frontrunner Saint Francis (Ill.) (6-3, 4-1) in the Mid-States Football Association Mideast League. They’re tied with Marian for second.
The good news for the Cougars: They’re finally getting healthy again.
Offensive linemen Kegan Morris and Zach Greiner will be back this week, as will running back Jason Nicodemus. As well as Miller, who, speaking of the passage of time, has watched it crawl by on its hands and knees the last two weeks while his chronic ankle injury slowly healed.
It hasn’t been that hard to watch from the sideline, he says. As a competitor, I want to be out there, but as a teammate I just want to do the best I can to support Dave (Yoder) and Wes (Hunsucker) whenever they’re out on the field.
On the field is still better, though.
Miller coming back adds a new dimension, Donley says.
He’s an athlete who can do things with his legs as well as his arm. Greiner and Morris, those are veteran offensive linemen, so that helps a great deal. And Nicodemus coming back will be big. Tough kid.
Just the thing for a tough opponent.
They’re extremely dangerous, Miller says of Taylor. They’re going to be more than a challenge for us on Saturday.