Reaching second round of playoffs doesn’t change Raiders’ approach to practice and prep
QUINCY — Jack Brenner noticed one significant difference when it came to practicing in November for the first time.
“It’s a little cold,” the Quincy Notre Dame junior defensive back said as temperatures dipped to 40 degrees on Wednesday night.
There was another significant difference, too.
“It’s the playoffs,” Brenner said. “Everything is a little more important.”
That doesn’t change the tenor and tone of a two-hour workout.
“We just keep the same mindset, 100 percent every practice,” QND senior linebacker Reese Frericks said. “Just do what we do.”
It’s worked well enough to get the QND football team into the postseason and then upend top-seeded, undefeated Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond 21-14 last Saturday in the opening round of the Class 2A playoffs. The Raiders (5-5) hope to keep the run going when they play host to Nashville (7-3) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Advance Physical Therapy Field.
“It’s something we worked on all season, even going back to the summer, with guys being together and being good teammates and supporting and encouraging each other,” QND coach Jack Cornell said. “We wanted to be the best versions of ourselves and the best football players we can be.
“And you see, especially in the tough losses, that our guys really started to buy in because we were in those games. Sure, it slipped away at the end. But that helped galvanize our guys to prove we are this close, and if we keep going forward, we’ll be in good shape.”
It’s produced four consecutive victories, a physically imposing defense and the joy that comes with piecing together a complete effort.
The defensive effort against Arthur was second to none.
The Knights returned the game’s opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown and scored on Easton Frederick’s 20-yard reception five minutes later. Arthur didn’t score again as quarterback Jayce Parsons three threw interceptions and the running game was limited to 51 yards for Landon Waldrop and 41 yards for Parsons.
“I think it was our energy that made it possible,” junior linebacker Taylin Scott said. “We were hyped up all week and we just powered through it. The weather conditions weren’t so great, but it was awesome how we played and how we stuck together.”
There were adjustments, too, like moving Brenner to cornerback, where he made five tackles and a tackle for loss.
“I thought we were really physical,” Brenner said. “We were really aggressive. We knew what we were doing. Even when I had to switch positions, we were all fine. We all knew what we were doing. … We have a lot of trust in each other. We all understand and believe we can do this.”
It led to defensive coordinator Ben Morrison calling it one of the best defensive efforts in the past four seasons.
“Definitely our coaching staff and our will just to get better set the tone,” said Scott, who finished with 16 tackles and six tackles for loss.
More so, the Raiders played as one.
“Everyone was just doing their own job, pursuing to the ball and playing physical,” Frericks said.
In the locker room, everyone stayed on the same page.
“It’s like a family,” Frericks said. “When we go to school, we talk about football non-stop. It’s our group chat. It’s everything. … Everybody knows what they’re doing and everybody loves the game.”
Their attitude mirrors that of the coaching staff — intense, determined and fun-loving. On top of it, they all want to be known for playing physical.
“We want to be, they want us to be and you have to be physical as a defense,” Brenner said.
You have to keep an edge, too, which is why the effort in practice hasn’t wavered.
“I really liked Reese’s answer,” Cornell said. “Nothing has changed. Like I’ve told you before, it’s a blessing not a burden. We had so much fun that last week of practice before playing John Burroughs. We just really enjoyed every moment we had together because we know it’s a fleeting moment.
“Then when we got the call that we got in the playoffs, we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a good thing going. Let’s keep having fun. Let’s keep doing what we’re doing. Let’s renew our focus.’ It’s the same type of practices we’ve been having. It’s a little bit colder out here, which you like. But like Reese Frericks put it, we’re going to go 100 percent at practice every day.”
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