The Hononegah Indians are happy to be in prime position to finish in second place in the NIC-10 this season. Happy, but certainly not satisfied.
The Indians are coming off an impressive 28-18 victory over Harlem that broke the tie for second between the two teams. They essentially have a two-game lead with three games to play.
“There were a lot of playoff implications in that game,” Hononegah head coach Tim Sughroue said. “You always want the best possible seed you can get. And there’s also the pride of being second in the conference.”
Friday night the 5-1 Indians go to 3-3 Rockford Guilford, an inconsistent team that has Hononegah coach Tim Sughroue concerned.
“They are very talented,” Sughroue said. “They gave Belvidere fits, and Belvidere is a real good team. And now their backs are against the wall. Every game is going to be huge to them, and they’ve always given us problems. We’ve got to be ready to play our best game.”
The Vikings are coming off a very tough 19-14 loss against Auburn. Running back Justin Carroll had 101 yards on 20 carries, while quarterback Nick Hyatte also toted the ball 20 times, settling for 73 yards. Hyatte is a threat through the air as well, passing for 134 yards and a score last week.
While Hononegah knows that winning out would mean an 8-1 mark and a home playoff game, Sughroue is well aware that looking ahead could lead to problems for his team.
“We take it one game at a time,” he said. “You can’t be 8-1 unless you are 6-1 and going out there and proving that we are a good team. You could get the best seed in the world but if you’re not improving every single week it doesn’t mean a lot.”
After losing the season opener to Boylan, the Indians have rattled off six straight wins. The only contest in which they were even challenged came against Harlem.
Sughroue’s message to his team has been one of continued improvement.
“I think there have been some years in the past where we have peaked too early,” he said. “Our strength and conditioning coach Dan Phelps has done a great job of working in some recovery time so that when we hit the playoffs we should be in our best physical shape.”
The speedy Alex Martin is coming off a monster game in which the junior running back scored all four of the Indians’ touchdowns. Martin has averaged 7.3 yards per carry, and brings Hononegah a dimension they haven’t had for a long while.
“Alex is so fast,” Sughroue said. “We had him clocked at 4.31 in the 40. If you’re going to get him, you better get him early. He’s also a great blocker, and that’s one thing that doesn’t get enough attention. His blocking has improved dramtically over the last couple of weeks.”
Sughroue bristles at the suggestion that his offense is too heavily reliant on the run game. Senior quarterback Joey Welsh has thrown the ball over 10 times just once this season.
“A lot of people say that we run the ball too much,” Sughroue said. “But we’ve had two of the biggest comebacks in our school’s history with this offense. We were down 10 points to Belvidere North with eight minutes left and ended up winning by 10. We did the same thing at Guilford a few years ago. We feel like this team can break a long play at any time.”