Berus, Indians focused on the moment
For his entire coaching career, Plainview's Chris Berus has lived by one code.
It has no established guidelines and you won't find a textbook that explains the steps. It's all-consuming mission is improvement, in every phase of the game.
It has carried the Indians through a turbulent start to this season, when the squad clutched to a 2-2 record at the end of September. It kicked into overdrive afterwards, spurring Plainview to a 6-0 finish to the year that saw the Indians become one of the dominant teams in southern Oklahoma.
But now, it takes a backseat to the urgency of today, when the Indians take part in the first round of the 3A playoffs by hosting Newcastle (4-6).
"It's a one-game season now," Berus said. "The only way to advance is to survive."
From the outside looking in, the game appears to lean heavily towards Plainview (8-2, 6-1 District 3A-4). But a careful look at Newcastle's season reveals a squad that lost five of its six games to top 10 teams in the state and will certainly have no fear of the Indians.
"They aren't going to be intimidated coming in here," Berus said. "They're going to throw some things at us we haven't seen this year."
Berus complimented several other aspects of the Newcastle squad, calling them "hard-nosed" and "filled with team speed."
Still, Plainview should be well-equipped to handle any challenge that comes its way. The team has been clicking on all cylinders as of late and put together another dominant performance in last Friday's regular season finale at Lone Grove, racing past the Longhorns 42-0 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.
And while the urgency of the situation dictates that The Process is not Berus' top priority, it is still something that time and experience has not let him completely abandon.
"We still have a lot of young guys, and because of that, you still want to have the mentality that you're better when you step off the field than you are when you got on it," Berus said. "We're not the very best we can be yet."
Lone Grove, Madill face two different tasks
While the Indians do their thing tonight, two fellow members of District 3A-4 will have their own playoff challenges, though the nature of each varies wildly.
Lone Grove (5-5, 4-3) must rally back from its crushing defeat against Plainview to face the top-ranked team in 3A, unbeaten Kingfisher (10-0).
"It's just a deal where we really want to give the best effort we've given all year," Longhorns head coach Kenny Ridley said. "We're definitely the underdog, we after watching film, we feel like our district schedule has gotten us ready to face a team the caliber of Kingfisher."
There's plenty of evidence to give credence to Ridley's train of thought; 3A-4 features another undefeated team in Madill, who Lone Grove played to the wire earlier this season in a 17-6 loss, not to mention that 8-2 Indians squad.
"As a team, we really feel like we saw more team speed in Plainview than what we see in Kingfisher," Ridley said. "We won't be scared to play this team."
Meanwhile, the Wildcats (10-0, 7-0) have to avoid a letdown against Star Spencer (5-5, 3-3).
"There will be several No. 1 seeds going down for that reason," Madill coach Milton Cooper said. "Star Spencer is a very talented team that won a state title three years ago."
Cooper praised Star Spencer's defense above everything else on the squad.
"Defensively, there's so much athleticism on that team that they won't let you get away with making a mistake," Cooper said. "They run really well."
To counter that, the Wildcats will turn to star quarterback Paten Bond, who has electrified crowds with both his legs and arms as the focal point of the Madill offense this season.
"We all know when he's healthy and on the field we've got a chance with anybody we play," Cooper said. "Our offense is built around him and we do what we do because of his abilities."
In the end, Cooper knows that he will simply have to rely on the players who have brought the team to this point.
"The thing I love and respect about this group is how hard they've worked and practiced this year," Cooper said. "They really believe in what they're doing.
"I do trust that and trust our guys."