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'D' is key to Seneca's playoff push

SENECA — Before the season started, one of the goals for Seneca’s football team was to make the playoffs. But, after starting out 0-2 with losses to Interstate Eight Large Division opponents Sandwich and Peotone, that goal may have seemed out of reach.

Don’t look now, but the Irish, under first-year coach Ted O’Boyle, have won four of their last five games and, at 4-3, have the look of a team that will be playing beyond Week 9 for the first time since 2001.

The old saying goes that offense wins games, but defense wins championships. You can’t win a championship without making the playoffs, and to that end, the Seneca defense is stepping up its game.

Case in point, Friday night’s 46-0 thrashing of Dwight. The Fighting Irish were dominant on both sides of the ball, but it was the defense that stood out. They did not allow a first down until the fourth quarter, when Dwight ran a fake punt. Seneca held the Trojans to negative yardage — negative-29, to be exact, in the first half in building a 40-0 halftime lead. The defense actually started the scoring barrage when Brandon Webb recovered a Dwight fumble in the end zone for a touchdown just 1:24 into the game.

“Everyone is on the same page,” Webb said about the Irish. “We all have the same goal, and that’s to make the playoffs. The coaches give us a good game plan and we stick to it every week.

“The season is going great. We have a winning record right now, and we just have to keep it up for another two weeks.”

Webb was part of a defensive line that spent most of the night in Dwight’s backfield. Other members included Nick Kirkton, Brad Wyss and Justin Walsh. Linebacker Mike Taylor, along with defensive backs Jimmy David and Tommy Lovett also made key contributions throughout the evening.

“Our defense has been solid all year,” O’Boyle said. “It was nice to see us get a defensive touchdown. We hadn’t had one all year. One of the goals for this game was to get our seniors a running clock. They hadn’t had one in their career here at the school, so it was good to see that happen for them.”

The Irish visit 3-4 Herscher this Friday night before hosting 4-3 Manteno in the regular season’s final week. On paper, both appear to be winnable games, which would give the Irish six wins and qualify them automatically for the playoffs. If they split and go 5-4, they would have to wait and see whether or not their playoff points would be enough to qualify them for the postseason.

In their recent 4-1 run, the lone blemish is a 31-0 loss to Wilmington, but a loss to the Wildcats, ranked No. 6 in Class 3A heading into last weekend’s action, is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, the Irish have used it to their advantage.

“We got humbled pretty good against Wilmington,” O’Boyle said. “But, a lot of teams do. Our kids took it to heart and didn’t pout or hang their heads about it. They have worked hard since then. This group works their butts off and I would love to get them to Week 10.

“We don’t know how these next two games are going to go win or loss-wise, but one thing I do know is that we are going to fight tooth and nail to get these kids into the playoffs.”

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