After Derby played one of its worst football games in last week's regular-season finale, coach Brandon Clark pushed his team. Hard.
He had his defensive starters on the scout team against the offensive starters. He had his offensive starters on the scout team against the defensive starters.
"It became an emotional practice," Clark said. "We had some battles out there."
Thursday the emotion intensified when the team shared stories and talked about what this season has meant to them. Tears flowed.
That emotion carried over to Friday's first-round playoff game at Northwest, where the Panthers won 24-14.
Derby (7-3) will play host to the winner of today's Topeka-Dodge City game.
"It was the preparation," Clark said. "We won this game on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday."
Junior quarterback Tyler Harrison, who threw for 144 yards, agreed.
"It all started in practice," he said. "We had the most up-tempo practice we've had all season. Everybody was going hard. It all carried over to this game."
The game was emotional for Northwest, as well.
Star running back Demarcus Robinson, who played sparingly last week because of an ankle injury, was limited Friday, as well. He had seven carries for nine yards on Northwest's first four possessions — all were three-and-out series — and he didn't play again.
"He couldn't go," Northwest coach Weston Schartz said. "He just couldn't go. I wish he could have. We're obviously a better team when he's healthy and we can do some different things."
Andrew Etheridge replaced Robinson. He finished with 154 rushing yards on 16 carries; he had two carries for 119 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.
"Andrew Etheridge is also a good running back," Schartz said. "He did a wonderful job. Probably what hurts the most is overall depth. When Andrew plays tailback, it affects his defense a little bit."
Although Northwest (7-3) stopped Derby on a fourth-and-goal from the 1 on the game's opening series, the defense struggled. The Panthers scored all 24 points in the first half, and running back Jameson Moore had 101 of his 105 rushing yards before the break.
That was a huge difference for Derby, which had zero rushing yards in the 27-0 loss to Heights last week. Derby also didn't commit a turnover; last week the Panthers had four.
The Panthers continually took advantage of short fields, too. A tipped punt gave Derby the ball at the Northwest 36 — 10 plays later, Devin Hedgepeth caught a two-yard pass from Harrison. After a seven-yard Northwest punt to the 25, Derby scored three plays later on a nine-yard Moore run.
Derby also recovered a Northwest fumble at the 14, scoring two plays later.
Northwest had opportunities, though. After driving to the Derby 15 late in the first half, the Grizzlies settled for a field goal and missed.
Then, after getting a late touchdown, the Grizzlies' Levi Stephenson recovered the onside kick. Northwest turned it over on downs.
"We gave them a lot of breaks," Schartz said. "But you have to make those plays in the game."
Derby (7-3) 7 17 0 0 — 24 Northwest (7-3) 0 7 0 7 — 14
D—Hedgepeth 2 pass from Harrison (Young kick)
D—Moore 9 run (Young kick)
D—Oaks 10 run (Young kick)
NW—Etheridge 53 run (Drake kick)
D—Young 37 FG
NW—Hubbard 5 pass from Chadick (Drake kick)
Rushing—Derby, Moore 26-105, Oaks 8-62, Hedgepeth 2-10, Reese 1-(-2), Jewell 1-(-5), Harrison 7-(-33). Northwest, Etheridge 16-154, Robinson 7-9, Rhone 3-7, Heithaus 2-1, Thurman 1-(-2).
Passing—Derby, Harrison 13-21-144-0. Northwest, Chadick 6-13-81-0.
Receiving—Derby, Hedgepeth 7-58, Gillogly 4-47, Reese 1-30, Moore 1-9. Northwest, Moore 1-39, Hubbard 3-22, Rhone 1-16, Rivera 1-5.