WARRENSBURG — There was no waiting around for Warrensburg-Latham Friday night.
The Cardinals (4-3) had lost two games in a row, to Central Illinois Conference powers Tuscola and Shelbyville, and three of four dating back to a Week 3 loss to St. Teresa.
Scott Godfrey told his team, which is now one win away from being playoff eligible, its postseason started Friday.
Dionte Lewis must have taken it to heart, scoring the first Warrensburg touchdown on a 77-yard kick return in the first quarter on the way to a 55-7 win against Meridian (1-6).
Lewis didn't stop there, scoring five more touchdowns and his brother, Diondre, scored one of his own.
But the defense, led by Will Kent's 11 tackles and 23-yard interception return for a touchdown, was key for Warrensburg.
Jorden Tedford also added a pick that he took down to the 1-yard line to set up another score.
“Our playoffs started this week," Godfrey said. "Our defense kind of set the tone, giving us short fields all night and giving us a bunch of turnovers. That really helped us, as well as special teams when Dionte took the kick back for a touchdown."
The Cardinals play Clinton (2-5) on Friday and Central A&M (5-2) in Week 9 looking for a playoff berth.
But the stretch of tough games helped the Cardinals, who likely will end up in Class 1A, last season and Godfrey hopes for the same this season.
“It certainly helped us last year and we hope moving forward it helps us," Godfrey said. "But you know, when you're in the 6-3, 5-4 area you've got to go on the road and play against a really good team and you hope your schedule prepared you for it, but ideally we'd like to be at home facing a 5-4 team."
Not far away
Shelbyville (6-1) coach Bill Duckett may not have taken his spot on the sidelines Friday, but the head coach wasn't far off.
Duckett watched the game on a live stream from his Champaign hospital room, where he arrived Sunday after suffering a mini-stroke.
He also spoke to the team via speaker phone prior the Rams' 40-0 win against Clinton Friday.
"It was nice to hear his voice. It gave us some sense of consistency," interim coach and defensive coordinator Brad Hilbert said. "His dad always comes in and talks to the team pregame, which is big for us.
"And, I'll tell you, the Clinton program wished us well and gave us a card before the game. That was very classy of that program."
Duckett is hoping to be released from the hospital in the coming days, but Hilbert is unsure of when Duckett may return to the football field.
On Friday, Turner Pullen accounted for all six Shelbyville TDs, five rushing and one passing.
“They were incredibly focused as a team,' Hilbert said. "I was very impressed with those young men and the way they adjusted to myself and the way they came together."
The playoff picture is shaping up for area teams.
A handful of area teams have already notched an automatic bid with six win:
- Effingham (First since 2014)
- Taylorville (6th in a row)
- St. Teresa (5th in a row)
- Tuscola (5th in a row)
- Shelbyville (5th in a row)
- MacArthur (First since 2014)
- Monticello (9th in a row)
- Argenta-Oreana (2nd in a row)
- LSA (3rd in a row)
- Maroa-Forsyth (14th in a row)
- Pana (3rd in a row)
- Newton (4th in a row)
Other teams are on the cusp with five wins, making themselves eligible for the playoffs.
- Mount Zion
- Central A&M
There was no shortage of big numbers again in Week 7
- Jacob Beeson, Pana QB, 78 rushing yards and 3 rushing TDs, 269 passing yards and 2 passing TDs
- Peyton Doughty, Newton RB, 151 rushing yards and a touchdown
- Nathan Harman, Monticello RB, 113 rushing yards, TD
- Dionte Lewis, Warrensburg-Latham QB, 77 yard KR TD, 116 rushing yards, 3 TDs, 72 passing yards, 2 TDs
- Terrance Hill, Effingham RB, 168 rushing yards, 2 TDs
- Jacardia Wright, St. Teresa RB, 236 rushing yards, 2 TDs
- Turner Pullen, Shelbyville QB, 77 rushing yards, 5 TDs; 293 passing yards, TD
- Ian Benner, Maroa-Forsyth QB, 148 passing yards, 3 TDs, 41 rushing yards, TD
- Titus Cannon, Lincoln RB, 128 rushing yards 3 TDs, 44 receiving yards
- Argenta-Oreana run game, Josh Williams (176 yards, 4 TDs, Skylar Peterson (107 yards, TD), Makail Stanley (53 yards, TD), Trey Williams (76 yards, TD). TOTAL: 426 yards.