Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

October 25, 2012

Return to postseason was goal all along for Pirates

Randy Huggler
Effingham Daily News

TOLEDO — So far, it’s already been a milestone season for the Cumberland football team.

The next mission, making the 2013 campaign a memorable one.

The Pirates are in the postseason for a second straight year, and the seventh time in the past nine seasons.

Coach Todd Butler’s team, 6-3 on the season, begins its postseason journey at 1 p.m. Saturday, on the road against Carrollton in the opening round of the IHSA Class 1A playoffs.

“Before we were regularly going to the playoffs, just getting there was the goal. But that’s not the way it is here any more,” Butler said. “We feel like this prorgram has progressed to the point that we have higher goals. We’ve been to the Sweet 16, and we were there last year.

“The obvious next step for our program is getting the Sweet 16 and beyond. These kids want more,” Butler said.

On paper, the Pirates would appear to be a huge underdog, and their task made even more difficult by the bus trip that Butler said should approach three hours.

His 6-3 team is a No. 14 seed in its half of the bracket, taking on a No. 3 seed that is 8-1 and posted four consecutive shutouts — five in six games — during the regular season. The Cavaliers outscored their foes by a combined 330-56, winning by such margins as 51-0 and 48-0. The Hawks are ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press Class 1A poll.

“When you get to the playoffs, whether you’re playing a 1-seed or a 16-seed, you’d better bring your ‘A’ game because you’re going to be facing a tough opponent,” Butler said. “Our three losses (Casey-Westfield, East Richland and Paris) came against quality teams, and I think those games have prepared us for what lies ahead.”

Many of the Pirates players will have recent history to draw upon. Last year, Cumberland entered as a No. 11 seed, then upset No. 6 Winchester 12-0 in the opening round before exiting after a 20-6 loss to Brown County in the second round.

“The kids that were there, that was a valuable experience for them,” Butler said. “Hopefully they learned some things from that experience that will help them this Saturday, and hopefully beyond.”

It’s already been a milestone year, as the Pirates celebrated 50 years of varsity football by welcoming back the 1962 team during Week 7’s home game against Edwards County.

This year, the Pirates’ three losses have come against Paris (19-13 in the season-opener when Cumberland led for much of the night), Casey-Westfield (unbeaten, ranked No. 3 in Class 2A), and East Richland (a playoff-bound team that beat the Pirates 13-12 in last week’s regular-season finale).

“We’ve gotten great leadership from our 10 seniors,” Butler said. “They’ve been around the program for a while now and they were there with us last season when we went to the playoffs. They’ve done a tremendous job leading the way for our younger players.”