Tonight is the night Bluestem senior Augie Schmidt has been waiting for, when Bluestem plays at Caney Valley in its first trip to the Class 3A football playoffs.
"I stayed in football because I always had a feeling that we could be the group that changed things," Schmidt said."... This is something I've been waiting to do for my entire high school career. To be the group that takes Bluestem to the next level, to the state playoffs."
Football success at Bluestem (3-6) has been non-existent. In 14 seasons, the Lions have ended a 43-game losing streak (1998), a 69-game losing streak (2008) and a 29-game losing streak (Oct. 7).
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"I think people view us as a game they can just go out there and not get beat; we'll just roll over," Schmidt said.
And that has happened.
"I feel like in the past, we'd give up one touchdown, and it's all over. Now we give up a touchdown, and we're thinking, 'We're still in this. We've got this,' " Schmidt said.
Believing is one of the most difficult changes to make in a program that has struggled mightily.
"Obviously, something this is something that that hasn't been done before here," first-year coach Kyle Wallis said. "I'm really proud for the kids, for all the hard work we've asked them to do, which is so different than in the past.
"They've learned that when they keep at it, the process will take care of itself, if they keep working."
Bluestem had a three-game winning streak where it gave up 18 points and had one shutout.
The players believe in Wallis, even though he has made changes. He moved Schmidt from linebacker to defensive line. He moved two-year starting quarterback Cade Minnick to wide receiver and replaced him with first-year starter Blake Bolander, who leads the Central Plains League with 1,173 passing yards. Minnick has 460 receiving yards.
"The changes weren't very difficult," Schmidt said. "We had an open mind. He's the coach, he knows what is best for us. He sees the potential we have at those positions, and we have succeeded."
Whether Bluestem wins or not tonight, the Lions aren't merely happy to be in the playoffs.
"We're greedy, we want more," Bolander said."... We have to go into the game knowing what we did when we won those games. It took a lot, and we don't want to waste it.
"You've got to keep winning. That's what a successful program does. That's what we want to be."
The Lions hope they're on their way.
"This is pretty awesome," Bolander said. "Just knowing that when we're looking back 20 years from now, coming to a class reunion, that we were the ones that changed this program. We helped get it to where we wanted it to be."