The Central Heights football team is in the state playoffs for the first time in seven years. The Vikings made a fourth-down stop with West Franklin smelling the goal line late in Friday’s game at Ottawa University’s AdventHealth Field.
That defensive stop sealed the Vikings’ 22-18 victory. Central Heights (2-7) received the fourth spot in its district and qualified for the 2A playoffs. Central Heights plays 7 p.m. Thursday at Humboldt. The Cubs are undefeated and a district champion.
West Franklin (1-7) ends the season Friday at Erie.
The two Franklin County rivals gave fans a barnburner. For Central Heights, it was a historic victory. It was the Vikings’ first win ever in the Flint Hills League.
“It is exciting,” Central Heights coach Bob Risch said. “Against a rival, it means even more.”
Risch said the work the players put in this season is paying off.
“Midway through the season, we evaluated ourselves and found out what we needed to do,” he said. “It is still a work in progress. We are not finished yet. We are getting better every week.”
West Franklin coach Nathan Teichgraeber said the game boiled down to a series of plays, not the final fourth-down play.
“Really there were a lot of plays in the game that could have turned the tide,” Teichgraeber said. “We had our opportunities. Hats off to Central Heights. They played a good hard-nosed game and finished.”
West Franklin twice had drives stopped inside the Viking 10 with fumbles.
“It has been the story of the season,” Teichgraeber said. “A lot of those mistakes are correctable.”
Central Heights had those plays go against them in games earlier this season.
“Our defense played well all season,” Risch said. “They challenged us up the middle. We stepped up huge. We had some big turnovers and made key plays. We put one piece together after another. ”
The Vikings used some big plays offensively to move the ball on the Falcons. Risch said seeing those explosive plays shows how much they have grown.
“They come to practice every day and compete,” Risch said.
West Franklin hopes to use this has a learning experience.
“It is a process,” Teichgraeber said. “Our young guys have gotten better throughout the year. We have to keep coaching them. Keep loving them. We will get there.
"We need to get back to work. You find out a lot about yourself, not necessarily when things are going well, but when you hit adversity. We had our share of adversity this year. Hopefully, we can use that as fuel in the future.”
Central Heights is looking forward to the next challenge — the state playoffs.
“It is one game at a time,” Risch said. “You can’t take anything for granted. You have to come out and play.”