So what can Sandwich do for an encore?
In winning two games in the state playoff and advancing to the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history, Sandwich (10-1) is treading in unfamiliar territory. The Indians will play at Mendota on Saturday in a Class 4A matchup.
"One day our kids will look back and realize they made a lot of history in this little town," said coach Derek Avery, a former three-sport athlete at Sandwich who never experienced this kind of success when he was growing up. The team went nine seasons in a row and 15 of 16 years without fielding a winner.
"When we made our first playoff appearance in 1985, I was in junior high school. We were 3-6 in most years and I remember an 0-9 season. We had some rough years. We made the playoff in 2002 and 2008 but we never won a playoff game, not until this year. We've gone from rock bottom to sky high."
Last Saturday, Sandwich recorded the greatest victory in school history before the largest crowd every to witness a game on the home field. The Indians stunned traditional state power Geneseo 10-7 on junior kicker Matthew Saitta's 32-yard field goal on the last snap.
"The whole week was gut-wrenching," Avery said. "We had to beat a powerhouse Geneseo team with great tradition. People had heard about Geneseo but they didn't know about them. I had seen their size and speed in the first round against Plano and I knew we had our hands full. We just thought we have come a long way in our program to play a team with the power and tradition of Geneseo."
Tied at 7, Sandwich gained possession at Geneseo's 40 with 2:45 to play. On third-and-eight from the 38, junior P.J. Crotty caught a screen pass from quarterback Justin Wegner and ran 16 yards for a first down. Two plays later, Sandwich was at the 15 and Saitta was called upon for the game-winning kick.
"We were willing to take a shot for the win with no time left," Avery said. "Saitta has made three field goals over 30 yards this year. He has range from 35-40 yards--but he is a soccer player who is playing his first year of football as a junior."
It wasn't pretty but the kick was good and Sandwich was on its way to making history. Saitta's kick hit the top of the right upright and glanced over the crossbar. "I thought he has pushed it right," Avery said. But bedlam prevailed.
"We thought we had a chance to be pretty good this year," Avery said. "I thought it was a special group, a great senior class with great leaders. I felt we could contend in the conference but I didn't know if anyone thought we could beat Geneseo (a school that had a 52-game winning streak in the 1960s, won three state championships in the 1970s and another in the 1980s, most of it achieved under the guidance of legendary coach Bob Reade, who posted the second highest winning percentage in state history)."
Against Mendota, Sandwich will be behind the proverbial eight-ball. The team's best player, senior Connor Voss, who has rushed for more than 1,000 yards, broke his leg with five minutes to play against Geneseo and is lost for the remainder of the season.
The offense has scored 294 points while the defense has allowed 122, including a 34-14 loss to Wilmington in the last game of the regular season.
Without Voss, the offense will be led by Wegner, Crotty, fullback Tim Schmitt, 6-3, 280-pound left tackle Colton Mueller, 6-2, 265-pound right tackle Sam Caldwell and 175-pound guard Matt Chalfin and 170-pound center Troy Reddoch.
The defense is anchored by 5-9, 210-pound noseman Tyler Crane, 180-pound tackle Nolan Gipe, end Jeremy Anderson, Chalfin, Reddoch, linebacker Seth McDonald, Crotty and Wegner at cornerback and Ryan Hook and Derrick Risley at safety.
"We don't get big kids. We have small but tough kids who work hard," Avery concluded. "This will be the type of season where kids who walk in the hallways will be persuaded to come out for football in the future."