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 dont 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 cant afford another loss, especially if we want to get into the playoffs, he goes on. At this point, Taylors our opponent for this week, and we need to beat them to have any chance. So were focusing one game at a time, and thats kind of what you do in playoff mode.
Head coach Kevin Donley is in full accord.
Theres no looking ahead from our standpoint, and I dont think it is for the players, either, he says. Youd better take care of whats 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, youd never know it. They look at Taylor, and see a team thats 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 theyll also have to beat. Its classic survive-and-advance two weeks before it becomes survive-and-advance in fact.
Youve got to take care of this one first, Donley says. And theyre a good football team. Well have to overcome adversity in the game, because theyre going to make plays. You look down at the results, theyve been in every game. Every loss theyve had, they could have won.
They could be sitting here on top of the conference.
Instead, its 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. Theyre tied with Marian for second.
The good news for the Cougars: Theyre 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 hasnt 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 theyre out on the field.
On the field is still better, though.
Miller coming back adds a new dimension, Donley says.
Hes 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.
Theyre extremely dangerous, Miller says of Taylor. Theyre going to be more than a challenge for us on Saturday.