No matter what happens Friday night, the Burr Oak football team has already made history. With a 5-4 record, the Bobcats qualified for the postseason for the first time and take on host Lawrence in the first round of the Michigan High School Athletic Association 8-Man playoffs. The Tigers finished 8-1 in their first season of 8-Man ball.
“We are very excited to be in the situation we are in, being the first Burr Oak Football Team to make the playoffs,” coach Ryan Stephens said. “We met as a team [on Selection Sunday] to watch the pairings and discuss the significance of our season. Despite our struggles in the last few weeks, I believe the players are fired up about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the small town of Burr Oak and will represent Burr Oak this coming weekend against Lawrence with a sense of pride and tradition.”
The program was resurrected in 2003 after the school didn’t field a team from 1991-2002. Having won just 17 games in the previous 10 seasons, Burr Oak’s five-win total this fall is the most since 1988, when it also went 5-4. According to the historical website Michigan-Football.com, the Bobcats’ 1974 campaign that yielded a 7-2 record was the most successful in team annals.
“It feels great. It’s such an honor to be apart of this team and do something that has never been done before in Burr Oak history,” junior running back/linebacker Alex Munoz said.
With that came a great deal of self-applied pressure to get the fifth victory of the year after a 4-5 record in 2012 was two spots shy of a postseason berth.
Not that they’re in, the Bobcats don’t have much time to celebrate knowing the caliber of opponent they face in Lawrence.
“We know they have a beatable defense but [Stephens] says that we’re gonna have to be on our horses against their offense,” junior running back/defensive back Chantz Owens said.
The Tigers outscored their eight opponents (one game was won by forfeit) by an average of nearly 20 points per game.
“Lawrence has a high scoring offense, so our emphasis this week will be defense and how to shut down their athletes,” Stephens said. “I believe our boys will rise to occasion. I am very proud of all that they have accomplished this season.”
It’s been a long time coming.
“We have worked really hard,” junior quarterback/linebacker James Saylor said. “We really wanted this and we reached our goal as a team to make it to the playoffs. I think the team really deserves this.”