CAMP POINT, Ill. (WGEM) -- Admittedly a shot at a state championship is in the minds of the Central/Southeastern coaches and players.
"It's back there but we've got to focus one game at a time," senior Doug Weese said.
But this is not a team willing to peak too far ahead. They realize Saturday's semifinal foe, Belleville Althoff, is as good as advertised.
"Probably the best collection of athletes that I've ever coached against on one team," C/SE head coach Brad Dixon said of the Crusaders.
"They have a lot of Division I players, a 6'3" 240 (lb.) defensive lineman going to Illinois and a middle linebacker who's 6'4" 240 (lbs.), and a quarterback that's getting looked at by NIU. Just as far as a collection of athletes that they can put out there it's probably the best we've seen for sure."
There isn't a special secret or hybrid offense the Panthers have been waiting to unveil in the Final Four.
As senior lineman Logan Myers sees it, ball control is crucial for success.
"It's a pretty big deal to hold on to the ball more than the other team. We've had almost every game this year where we've had the ball more than the other team and we've gone 12-0," Myers explained.
"We've done it so far and we'd like to hold on to the ball a little bit more."
Weese claims it boils down to execution.
"We've got to play our assignments just like every other week and do the things we need to do to be successful."
Make no mistake about it. This C/SE team is blessed with experience and led by its senior class but there's a special crop of underclassmen who are making their presence felt.
"We've had some guys that have really stepped up. Mike Johnson, I know he's hurt but he's done a great job, Andrew Shake, Jared Starman, and Jacob Waters is someone who's made some big plays for us. He was just a JV player and no one knew about him but he worked his butt off and got in the weight room," Dixon indicated.
"We've had a lot of those guys step up and fill a lot of holes especially on the defensive side of the ball. I'm very proud of what those guys have been able to do."
The rallying cry continues in Camp Point and the surrounding communities. Hundreds made the 500 mile road trip to DuQuoin last weekend giving the players quite the humble attitude.
"They'll stop you in the gas station and say, 'Hey great game last game.' They'll see you walking your dog down the street (and say), 'You guys played a great game,'" Myers said.
"People know who you are and love the football program. It gives us a sense of pride."
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