SOUTH BELOIT—2002.

That’s the last time the South Beloit football team earned a playoff berth. The last time, that is, until Friday night, when the SoBos will travel to take on Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland Friday night at 7 p.m.

The SoBos’ last playoff appearance was epic: It ended with an IHSA Class 1A state title. Since then, the school has dipped into the gridiron abyss. Only twice in the years since the title have the SoBos notched four wins to be in contention for a spot.

Their last foray into 11-man football ended with a 2-7 mark in 2019.

The SoBos made the switch to eight-man, and in their second season, coach Jim Morrow has led them back to the promised land.

After South Beloit clinched a berth in the postseason with a win at Blue Ridge/DeLand-Weldon, a wild scene awaited them back home.

“We pulled into the parking lot at about 1 a.m.,” Morrow said. “We had a lot full of people waiting to greet us off the bus, decorating cars, celebrating. It had been a long time since we made the playoffs, and there was a ton of positive energy around the program. I don’t think you can describe this season as anything but a success.”

The 5-4 SoBos have already had one shot at Flanagan-Cornell-Woodland. That came back on Sept. 10, when the SoBos fell 44-38 in overtime.

It was a wild contest, complete with the SoBos losing the turnover battle 5-0 but still having an opportunity to win.

“We took a couple of deep shots that got picked off,” Morrow said. “And they other three were on running plays. It was kind of amazing we were able to force overtime with all those turnovers. They have a very good team. They have really solid skill position guys, fast guys, and they execute very well.”

But Morrow said the SoBos’ unique style could give FCW an issue.

“I think we were the only team they faced all season with a quarterback under center,” Morrow said. “Every other team they played ran a spread, so they were forced to play us totally differently than anyone else on their schedule.”

The SoBos fell to Milledgeville by a lopsided margin in the regular season finale, but Morrow said there were some mitigating circumstances.

“We were not at full strength last week,” Morrow said. “We ended up starting some freshmen and were very short-handed. That’s not to take anything away from them, because they are a very good team. But we have everybody back this week, with quarterback Tanner Joiner being a game-time decision.”

If Joiner can’t go, Morrow believes Kaden Myhres can do the job.

“Kaden stepped in for us in week three,” Morrow said. “His growth in practice has been exponential. He’s really playing quality football and making the right reads, which in a read-option system is critical. I don’t feel like there will be a huge drop off at that spot if Tanner can’t go.”

The SoBos have been led on both sides of the ball by Fern Balderas, who plays running back and linebacker. The 5-4 SoBos have seen Balderas run for at least 100 yards in five games, while gaining 96 yards in another.

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