The Oconomowoc football team knows how to navigate the postseason. Last year's team reached Level 3 and showed it can contend deep into the postseason. This year's team earned a fourth seed in its Division 1 bracket and will host fifth-seeded Middleton at 7 p.m. Oct. 21.
Middleton, part of the Big 8 Conference, is a familiar foe to the Raccoons. The two teams have met five times since 1997, with Oconomowoc winning just once, coming in 2013 in a 27-24 Level 2 win.
Oconomowoc suffered its first loss in nearly two years in Week 8 to Wisconsin Lutheran but responded with a 55-21 victory in Week 9 at West Bend West. OHS split the final Wisconsin Little Ten title with Wisco, but now bigger goals are in mind.
Against Middleton, Oconomowoc defensive lineman Adam Brockway realizes what the team has to do to stay alive in its bracket, which includes three other state-ranked teams (Oconomowoc was eighth in the latest state coaches poll).
"What we have to do as a team is focus on doing our individual jobs," Brockway said. "The D-line has to do what they do and just focus on doing that and don't worry what the linebackers are doing. The (defensive backs) will do their job, linebackers do their job, linemen do their job, and I think that's the way we have to get it done."
Jake Ploch, who starts at center, has been part of an offense that averages 43.3 points per game in 2016.
"In some ways we're just looking at it as another game," Ploch said. "But in other ways, especially the seniors, we're looking at it as a win-or-go-home situation. We're taking it a lot more seriously. But we're still doing the same routine. We're not switching anything up. It's practice as usual."
The defense has given up 31.3 points a game but has come through in critical late-game moments this year to win tight games that included two overtime thrillers.
"I think that comes along with trust," Brockway said. "We focus on that a lot with trusting each other. As a D-lineman I have to trust that the linebackers behind me are going to fill holes. I have to trust the defensive backs will defend the pass or fill on the run when they need to. I have to just get off the ball, get into my guy, read my key and not worry about if the linebacker is going to make the tackle."
Oconomowoc finished the regular season 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the WLT.
"We like to play football the way we know how to play football," Brockway said. "That's just what we focus on. We just focus for us. We play for us. It doesn't matter what other teams think about it. We just have to go out there, do our jobs and get things done. However it ends up, we've just got to give it our best."
The loss to Wisconsin Lutheran certainly stung, but the team may use it as motivation to improve.
"If it affected us at all, it was a positive effect," Brockway said. "It's making us focus more and realize we can't sit around and be complacent. We have to get after teams. I think it was a good learning experience to go off."
"I feel like at first it was a little scary, but then the guys got together, we started talking and we realized it's not all that of a bad thing," Ploch said. "It kind of woke us up from our daily routine of going to practice every day. We're not taking anything for granted, working hard and pushing ourselves."
Oconomowoc's bracket includes, in order of seed Sun Prairie, Badger, Verona, OHS, Middleton, Arrowhead, Madison West and Madison La Follette.
"With the postseason, we've got to let everything go," Ploch said. "It's a new start, new season. We've got to take it week by week and get the job done."