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Coalers hit road, Irish stay home for openers

Published: Monday, Oct. 28, 2013 10:00 p.m. CST
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(T.G. Smith – tsmith@shawmedia.com)
Members of the Seneca football team will be walking onto the football field for a playoff game for the first time since 2001 this weekend.

A fifth win qualified Coal City for the football playoffs, and a second loss didn’t keep Seneca from opening at home.

Coal City’s 38 opponents’ wins kept it from being one of the 10 teams in the state that finished 5-4 and did not qualify, the IHSA announced Saturday. The Coalers are a No. 8 seed (of eight) in Class 4A and will face No. 1 Quincy Notre Dame, which is 8-1, in their first game. The game will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday at Notre Dame.

“We’re just happy we got in and get to play in the playoffs,” Coal City coach Lenny Onsen said. “A couple weeks ago, it didn’t look very good. To be able to slip in is great for the kids. They get the opportunity to play in the playoffs, and for our younger kids, they get more practice time and more experience for the future.”

When the Coalers lost, 33-26, on Oct. 11 at Peotone, they dropped to 3-4 and did not know if wins in their final two games would be enough for them to qualify. They defeated Westmont, 49-6, in Week 8 and Reed-Custer, 35-0, in Week 9, and while their combination of opponents’ wins and defeated opponents’ wins was the third-lowest among at-large qualifiers in the state, they made the cut.

“That’s all we talked about after we lost to Peotone, was what we had to do. Everything else was in other people’s hands,” Onsen said. “The kids came out and did an outstanding job from there. There wasn’t any letdowns. We said we gotta get to 5-4 to have a winning record, whether it was enough [to qualify] or not. The kids worked their butts off. The preparation the last two weeks was great.”

Seneca is seeded sixth (of 16) in Class 3A. The Fighting Irish will host their first playoff game since 2001 against 11th-seeded Kewanee, which is 6-3. Fellow Interstate Eight Conference Small member Wilmington is seeded second in Seneca’s quadrant but will not play the Irish, if both teams keep winning, until the third round.

Attempts to reach Seneca coach Ted O’Boyle for comment were unsuccessful at press time.

Minooka and Morris did not make the playoffs as they both finished 3-6 overall. Morris was technically alive into Week 9, but its loss to Kaneland made its elimination official.

The Redskins last missed the playoffs in 2000, and Minooka has now failed to qualify in two straight seasons.

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