In the aftermath of Friday night's Northern Illinois Big 12 East championship loss to Kaneland, the Redskins have had a lot of time to reflect on their third straight loss to the Knights. While losses are always tough to take — especially league games — there were still some moral victories for the locals to take away from it and into the postseason.
"It was a tough loss," Morris defensive/tight end Danny Friend said. "Everyone took it pretty hard. But we'll be back this week and take care of business."
"We need to keep our focus," Morris quarterback Zach Cinnamon said. "We're still working hard but the loss last week actually helps us here. It makes us more focused and determined."
Kaneland won the game 33-30 by scoring inside the final 30 seconds of the game.
"Watch the film and it was a great game on both sides. Kaneland played an outstanding game and our kids played hard," Thorson said. "It came down to who had the ball last. Offensively I was happy with how we moved the ball. They did a good job of shutting our run game down, especially in I-(formation), so we had to go to spread. I thought the way the kids played in spread was outstanding, especially since we haven't used that offense a lot this year. We give Kaneland credit. They stopped our run game in I-(formation) and forced us to make some adjustments. But our adjustments worked, I thought."
The individual highlights from the game were also numerous — so much so that Thorson rattled them off en mass.
"I think there were a lot of good things that happened," he said. "On the offensive side, I thought Zach Cinnamon was outstanding. For playing in the biggest game of his career, that was huge the way he played. Jake Hogan came up with a couple of huge plays. The one catch on our sideline might be one of the best catches I've ever seen. The offensive line really pass protected well. Even in spread, they did a good job of run blocking."
"Danny Friend made some huge catches and Anthonee Monson had a nice touchdown. Overall with the offense, I was pretty happy. We were able to move the ball on them. Their defense hasn't given up a lot of points this year," he added. "On the defensive side, I thought Danny Friend was outstanding. I thought our D-line getting double teamed the whole game was still getting pressure on the QB. We saw a lot of good things, unfortunately they got the better of us. But it's something to build off of."
It's a game that is now in the past and gone — yet not forgotten.
"They have a great team. We're not moving ahead, we're focusing on Rich East, but I know all these kids would want to see them again down on the turf," Thorson said of the state championship field down in Champaign. That's a very good team. Their line was massive. I give our kids a lot of credit. For the first time this year I could say that their team was physically bigger than we were at almost every position. Our kids held their own. They got their yards and did a good job but our kids didn't back down. A couple of big plays here or there, and it's our game."
So, in an ideal world if Morris could write its own ending it would include four wins and another crack at the Knights.
"I'm not going to make a prediction, but in a perfect world I'm sure that's what these kids want to see," Thorson said. "Still, I'm not thinking of anyone else other than Rich East. The way that game went, and as close as it was down to the wire — I still think if we had 30 more seconds, we probably could have won the game. We just ran out of time. You'd definitely like to get the chance to pay back the team that beat you if you could, but they have a tough road and we have tough teams ahead of us, too. We'll see how it works out, but it would be fun ."
And are the players on board with that same vision — getting the chance to play Kaneland again this year in what would be the Class 5A title game?
"It's what we're hoping for," Friend said. "It's what we want."
Cinnamon then confirmed that it is what the Redskins would like to see happen.
"Oh yeah," he said.