LANSING | The T.F. South football team played Friday night like it should have the first eight weeks.
The Rebels' defense and special teams shut down Lemont like rush hour on the Dan Ryan Expressway in their 39-6 win.
The 5-4 Rebels are in the playoffs by the skin of their teeth and are over .500 for the first time this season. This is the 17th time out of the last 20 years the Rebels have made the postseason.
They will learn their first-round opponent tonight and will be on the road.
The players rallied when their backs were against the wall and beat a team that has also struggled this year. The Rebels' Fred Taylor had a blocked punt which was a game-changer. He also recovered two fumbles. Ka'Ton Mays had two interceptions. This was by far their best performance of the year. Kendall McCaskill ran for two scores and 117 yards, including an 87-yard touchdown.
"We weren't going to miss the playoffs," Taylor said. "We knew this was a playoff game for us, and we knew Lemont was tough.
"As a captain, I had to make sure we made the plays."
That they did. These kids maybe reached back into the history of this program and didn't want to be the team that didn't make the playoffs. A 4-5 mark is not acceptable at South where the standard is set high. By that, I mean not just in wins and losses, but the total package. Friday nights in Lansing are a big deal, and a lot of these kids remember coming to games as youngsters. Now they are a part of that tradition.
This was against a Lemont team that, until last year, South struggled against. Last year, the Rebels won 21-20 at Lemont, and the Indians came in remembering that. With a 3-5 mark entering the game, Lemont was using this as a playoff game.
You can't point fingers at the inconsistencies that plagued T.F. South most of the year, and neither did the team. It won two in a row for the first time and kept its focus Friday night. What the Rebels have to do is make sure they carry this momentum into the postseason, or it will be one and done. If they revert back to not finishing and not playing a complete game, they will be turning in their equipment.
Who will they get? Lincoln-Way North, Crete-Monee, Richards or maybe a trip south to Normal or Normal West?
"Hey, we are just happy to be playing," Rebels coach Tom Padjen said. "We aren't collecting equipment tomorrow (Saturday)."
South could surprise a few people and make a run if it plays together like it did Friday. It's up to the Rebels to meet the challenge like it did the last two weeks when they were staring the end of the season in the face.