STILLWATER — Each week during the regular season saw the Stillwater football team produce a blowout win.
After each of those lopsided wins, though, the Warriors didn’t spend much time celebrating. There’s always been too much work to do for a team that knows its real season begins in Week 8 with the Section II Class C tournament.
“This year,” Stillwater head coach Ian Godfrey said after last Friday’s 45-7 win against Fonda-Fultonville, “the focus has been that nothing is handed to you.”
Throughout its 2019 season, Stillwater has prepared and played like a team that has learned the necessary lessons from the end of its 2018 season. Stillwater was 6-0 to start last season, then lost its next two games — a Week 7 divisional showdown against Holy Trinity, then a Week 8 quarterfinal against Chatham — as its season came to a disappointing conclusion.
“Last year, I wouldn’t say we got complacent, but we got to a point where we felt untouchable,” said Stillwater senior Brian McNeil, the Warriors’ left tackle and middle linebacker. “We let it get to our heads. This year, that’s not happening.”
Instead, McNeil said he’s sensed his team has gotten sharper with each week of the 2019 season.
“The whole week [before playing Fonda], we had laser-focus throughout practices. We all understood the circumstances of that game,” McNeil said of his team’s matchup with an at-the-time unbeaten squad. “It was the best week of preparation we’d had.”
Stillwater played a nearly flawless game against Fonda last week on its way to winning the Central Division and securing the top seed for this year’s Class C area playoffs, and the Warriors will need a similar effort to get past Granville in Friday’s quarterfinals. Stillwater (No. 1, 7-0) has outscored opponents by an average margin of 31.1 points per game, but Granville (No. 8, 4-2) heads into the playoffs with its lone two losses this season coming against teams with a combined record of 12-2.
“Make no mistake,” Godfrey said, “Class C is a really competitive and tough class.”
The winner of Stillwater vs. Granville will advance to play in a semifinal against the winner of a matchup between Fonda (No. 4, 6-1) and Greenwich (No. 5, 6-1). Week 9’s other Class C semifinal will pit winners from games between Cambridge/Salem (No. 2, 6-1) and Voorheesville (No. 7, 5-2), and Watervliet (No. 3, 4-2) and Tamarac (No. 6, 4-2).
If top-seeded Stillwater wins Friday, its by-seed road to a Section II championship will see the Warriors need to beat one-loss teams in both their semifinal and final. Quarterback James Galarneau said senior-laden Stillwater, which lost in the 2017 Section II Class C Super Bowl before last year’s first-round exit, knows it needs to be at its best in the coming weeks, and that its experiences from the last two years have prepared Stillwater for what’s ahead.
“We’ve been through everything,” Galarneau, a senior, said.