Students and fans of the Deerfield High School football team may be putting extra emphasis on today’s 7:30 p.m. game with Township High School District 113 rival Highland Park at Adams Field, but the Warriors themselves have a different mindset.
The game may be Senior Night and a potential playoff berth is riding on a victory over the Giants, but Coach Steve Winiecki is not looking beyond the X’s and O’s on his board and won’t let the players do much else either.
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“If we put too much importance on it they’ll get uptight,” Winiecki said. “They know what’s riding on it. They can read the IHSA (Illinois High School Association) website.”
A victory for the 4-4 Warrior gives them a 5-4 record putting the team in playoff contention. “At 5-4 you’re on the bubble,” Winiecki said. A loss will end the season.
Just under half the teams in Illinois qualify for the playoffs in one of eight classes, according to the IHSA website. Everything depends on the number of games a team wins, the number of games it opponents win and the amount of contests the teams it defeats count as victories.
For Deerfield, the task at hand will be containing Highland Park running back Andrew Sledd. He has been the main cog in the Giant attack all season. The last standout runner the Warriors faced was Glenbrook North’s Grant Rushing who shredded the defense for more than 200 yards.
“We didn’t tackle very well against Rushing,” Winiecki said. Deerfield has been concentrating on bringing runners down during practice since the loss to the Spartans. Since that game they have put together a three-game winning streak.
Deerfield will be using the techniques it has been developing the last three weeks to slow Sledd. “He’s going to get his yards,” Winiecki said. “We need to get him going east to west and someone will bring him down. If he gets going north to south he can make you look silly.”