Goss: Joliet West still putting up fight despite missing playoffs
BY DICK GOSS firstname.lastname@example.org October 20, 2013 10:06PM
Joliet West and running back Jordan Brown rolled over Joliet Central 50-0 Saturday. | Jon Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 22, 2013 6:33AM
Joliet West football coach Jason Aubry likes to use the phrase “you’re only as good as your last game” when he addresses his team.
In Week 6, the Tigers lost in a near-upset to mighty Lincoln-Way East 35-28. Griffins coach Rob Zvonar said afterward the Tigers deserved to win.
“You’re only as good as your last game.” Aubry’s favorite phrase was appropriate at the following week’s practices.
However, West traveled to Stagg that Friday night and absorbed a 61-35 drubbing. It was the Tigers’ fifth loss. The dream of being the first playoff team in school history was gone.
The playoff berth mattered so much to Aubry and the Tigers that their 50-0 victory Saturday over Joliet Central was not a prime topic of discussion.
“I wanted it so bad for these kids,” Aubry said. “I don’t know if it was because the Lincoln-Way East game was so emotional, but the Stagg game was just tough. We’re a better football team, but we didn’t play well at all against them.
“The week before the Stagg game, practice felt good. The week after it, ‘you’re only as good as your last game’ kept going through my mind. I had this knot in my stomach. I didn’t know how to approach it.”
The reason is simple. Aubry knows how good his team is. You hate to be the best 3-5 team in the state, but I would vote for West being that team.
The Tigers earlier lost 36-28 to Sandburg in an either-way game they very nearly could have sent into overtime. Not that it matters now, but Sandburg shut out Stagg 14-0 Friday night. Go figure.
“What kills me is we are a playoff-caliber team,” Aubry said. “We’ve proven we can compete with the heavyweights in the (SouthWest Suburban) Blue. It’s just that in this conference, the margin for error is zero.
“I hate that we’re in this situation for our kids and coaches. I’m sad for the seniors. We’re the best JT team in almost 20 years. This definitely is the best team I have had in my eight years here. We could easily be 5-3 and getting ready for the playoffs. Instead we’re 3-5 and not going.”
Wide receiver Niko Messino said he will come away from the season, which ends Saturday at home against Lockport, with a disappointed feeling.
“We’re Joliet West, and it seems like we’re always one or two plays away. That’s all it was,” he said. “It was good how we responded (against Central) and it will be important how we respond to Lockport in our last game.”
Tailback Jordan Brown said the Stagg game was one of those things that can happen — at exactly the wrong time.
“We came out on the short end that night,” he said. “I really feel we’d beat them nine out of 10 times.”
When he looks back on 2013, Brown said he will remember it as “a successful season where we just came up short.”
Aubry said it is possible coaches put too much emphasis on how their team needs to win this game or that game.
“I think we sometimes forget we are dealing with kids, and maybe we should make it more fun,” he said.
So in last week’s practices, with an extra day (because the Tigers play home games on Saturday), some fun diversions were added.
“We had a lineman challenge where they tried to catch a booming punt, and our offensive line coach went against a defensive lineman and we threw fades,” Aubry said.
“The kids liked it. We’ll always prepare them, but they need to have fun, too. We should do more of that.”
It will be interesting to see how West responds to the challenge of Lockport (2-6) on Senior Day. The Tigers must come to play.
“We’re in a spot where we’re facing a Lockport team that has steadily improved,” Aubry said.