Article printed with permission from Herald Times Reporter
By the end of Week 4 of the prep football season, things were looking bleak for Two Rivers.
The Raiders were 0-4 overall and 0-2 in the Eastern Wisconsin Conference. TR was without starting quarterback Trevor Smith, who is out for the season after suffering a broken leg in a Week 1 loss to Roncalli and the defense had just surrendered a season-high 54 points to Campbellsport.
For awhile, the thought of pushing the streak of consecutive playoff appearances to four took a back seat to simply getting in the win column.
On Sept. 19, that’s exactly what the Raiders did, topping Waupun on the road 44-27.
“We kind of came together and said ‘this is what we need to do: we’re going to stick to our game plan no matter what. Everybody has to do their part’ and they came out and did it,” Two Rivers head coach Kevin Shillcox said. “It was extremely satisfying. It was a good moment for the kids.”
After securing their first victory, the Raiders strung together back-to-back wins, downing Kiel 51-35 before taking down Sheboygan Falls 40-34 last week.
With two games remaining in the regular season, Two Rivers becomes postseason eligible with a single win.
Shillcox noticed an immediate change in the aura surrounding his players following the win over Waupun.
“It was like the old times, last year, when they were getting the wins, they had that confidence,” Shillcox said. “They’re just playing with confidence right now, at the right time of the year.”
Maintaining the proper attitude was a key to the turn around.
“What’s been keeping us together as a team has just been staying family, staying together as a team and not straying from the course of what our goals were at the beginning of the year,” Shillcox said. “The kids never gave up … even when it was getting a little ugly. They keep coming back and fighting. We’re pretty competitive. They keep their heads high.”
Marcos Alfaro Jr. stepped into the quarterback role in Week 5 allowing Ethan Willman, the conference’s leader in receiving yards, to move back to wide out.
Two Rivers has averaged 45 points and 431 yards of offense per game since that change.
“Opening up the playbook again, having a little more experienced quarterback, it helps,” Shillcox said. “I think the kids know that there’s more there and they play with a little more energy because they know we have a lot of weapons and our offense can be pretty potent. We can move the ball quickly. They know they’re going to be in every game when the playbook is that open. We’re not afraid to call anything on offense.”
Two Rivers (3-4, 3-2 EWC) travels to Kewaskum tonight for a showdown with the Indians (7-0, 5-0 EWC), the fourth-ranked team in Division 3 in the WisSports.net coaches poll.
Kewaskum boasts Brandon Thull, the state’s leader in rushing yards. The senior averages over 220 yards per game on the ground, a total of 7.8 yards per clip.
Tonight’s game is, no doubt, a ‘big one’ but that didn’t changed the way Shillcox addressed his team this week.
“There’s no special message. We’ve done that in past years … we thought one game was bigger than the other. My motto this year is: ‘there’s no game bigger than the next one,’” Shillcox said. “We don’t talk about who we’re playing, it’s just an opponent. We’re going to worry about what we do.”
The Raiders go toe-to-toe with New Holstein (2-5, 1-4 EWC) in the regular season finale next week. Though TR needs one more win to clinch a playoff berth, Shillcox doesn’t feel his squad is under duress.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure on the kids right now,” Shillcox said. “Our kids were under a lot of pressure at 0-4 and they never got rattled. It didn’t bother them. They kept working.”