On paper, the Ottawa football team faces an uphill battle Friday in the 4A playoffs against top-seeded Paola.
The Panthers have been the class of 4A all season, while Ottawa has struggled. Ottawa (1-7) fell 62-7 to Paola (8-0) earlier this season.
"We are going to plan to win the game," Ottawa coach Rob Hedrick said. "We are going to prepare like we are going to win the game. We are going to go and give it our best shot. There has been bigger upsets."
Hedrick said the Cyclones, who lost 49-7 in the season finale to Tonganoxie, are never going to back down from a challenge.
"It would be easy for kids to give up," Hedrick said. "None of us have. We are going to try to find every weakness in our opponent and try to take advantage of it. Match their weakness with our strength and try to make plays. We have kids that battle their hearts out. When you work hard and play hard, good thing happen."
Hedrick credited the seniors for their dedication to the program.
"They have done a good job of staying in the program and not just during the season," Hedrick said. "When we got shut down during the spring and summer, these seniors took it upon themselves to form workout groups. They were communicating with them and setting up workouts. That is the kind of people they are — high-character kids."
Hedrick said the game results have been hard on everybody.
"Games like this are frustrating because we are getting manhandled," he said. "It is tough to be a part of. You have to keep coming, and they do. They won’t give up. They never will. That is what makes bad situations like this enjoyable because of the kids and the heart they have."
Ottawa made plays against Tonganoxie. Axavier Vink returned an interception for a touchdown. Reese Fogle had two interceptions and nice catches on offense. Jose Richards kept drives alive with his receptions.
"We have kids making plays," Hedrick said. "Axavier is a kid that deserves that. He has not missed an off-season workout in his two years of high school."