Osakis head football coach Bill Infanger admits his team has probably lost a bit of the swagger that his players had developed through a 6-0 start after back-to-back losses to end the regular season.
“I think any time you come out of two losses like the ones we have faced the last two weeks, you lose a little confidence,” he said on Monday. “Some of that is gained back by earning the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, but you still have that taste in your mouth until you go out, get back on the field and start playing good football again.”
The Silverstreaks will have a chance to do that when they open up the Section 6AA playoffs at home against Sauk Centre on Tuesday night. The Mainstreeters enter the tournament as the No. 6 seed after going 2-6 out of the West Central North Conference.
If Osakis is going to put together a long run in the playoffs, it is going to start by establishing themselves up front against Sauk Centre. The Silverstreaks dominated their opponents at the line of scrimmage through their 6-0 start. Playing two top-five teams in the state in Barnesville and Browerville slowed that rushing game down a bit.
“We need to get back to winning the battle at the line of scrimmage,” Infanger said. “The first six weeks, I feel like we imposed our will on other teams with our running game. The last two weeks we have been on the other end of that stick. We also have to tackle better. We have faced some fast, strong backs the last two weeks and our tackling has been less than stellar.”
One advantage Osakis will have is getting to play from the comfort of its own field through the first two rounds. Infanger talked at the beginning of the season about how important it would be to wrap up a top-two seed and guarantee themselves of those home games.
Osakis had to go on the road in the first round against section power Pierz the last two years. The Silverstreaks lost both games handily and came back from those with an understanding of how important it would be to put themselves in a better position by playing well in the regular season.
Osakis did that with its 6-2 record through the first eight games. This team earned the right to host its first playoff game since making the jump to Class 2A. Now its on them to go out and take advantage of it.
“The confidence that comes from that is big,” Infanger said. “But with it comes pressure. We have to come out and defend our turf against Sauk Centre tomorrow or else earning home field really amounts to nothing. We’re not going to look past these guys.”
There really isn’t any team in the section that Pierz or Osakis can look past as the top two seeds. The Pioneers came into last year’s playoffs with a 7-1 team and Ottertail Central made the section really top heavy with an undefeated team that went all the way to the 2A semifinals.
Pierz is ranked No. 10 in the latest Class AA polls, but Osakis has also spent some time in that spot. The Silverstreaks hope to get back to playing the kind of football that got them off to that fast start in what they hope is an entertaining next couple of weeks.
“I do feel our section is more wide open than it has been in the past,” Infanger said. “This year you get the feeling that anyone is beatable in a given week. It will come down to who can gel at this time of year and put a nice run together. So many teams in our section don’t play each other so you really don’t know where anyone is at with not many head-to-heads or similar opponents for comparisons. It will be exciting to see how it plays out.”