By Todd Thomas
Defender Contributing Reporter
The Marshall Commandoes will clash with the Austin Tigers in the first round of the IHSA State playoffs Saturday at Lane Tech Stadium on the North Side.
Austin was undefeated in the regular season, going 8-0 in the Chicago Second-City Conference. They recorded six shutouts and outscored opponents 374-54. The statistics are impressive, but the conference they play in doesn’t get a lot of respect, said Austin head coach Terry Carter.
“It’s not whether you’re in the Illini conference or the Chicago Conference. To me it’s how you prepare your kids –it’s about coaching and getting the kids to believe what you’re trying to sell,” Carter said.
Regardless of what conference you play in, however, not losing a single game takes skill, but more importantly focus, as the season wears on.
“The kids worked hard and we as coaches just try to keep them focused,” Carter said. “We told them to not overlook any team and that if you pay attention and are students of the game good things will happen.”
Good things also happened for Marshall in 2012 – their inaugural season in the Illini Conference. The two games they lost were against the more experienced teams of Brooks and Harper, so the season was successful said head coach Jarvis Lewis-Bey.
“The season went pretty much as we expected,” Lewis-Bey said. “We finished 6-2, and our only losses came to the first and second place teams in our conference, so the guys beat everybody else in the city – I don’t have any problem with that.”
The playoff game Saturday could be seen as a battle between two West Side teams, but Lewis-Bey said he teaches his players to not put too much stock in the next opponent, just go out and play the game as usual.
“We always tell the players don’t worry about who we’re playing, just play whoever shows up. I didn’t get them into the hype of who we might be playing because we knew we were going to be in the playoffs and that’s all we needed to know,” he said.
But coach Carter said that his Tigers are excited about the game against Marshall, especially because they know many of them from youth football.
“Our kids are looking forward to it, we know a lot of their kids over there and some players on Austin that played with Marshall kids in the Trojan grammar school football program. They’re excited about playing Marshall,” said Carter.
Respect for west side football could increase regardless of who wins the contest. But coach Carter said he already knows that there is talent on the West Side from what he’s seen in youth football over the years.
“People think there’s no real football on the west side of town, but we won at the grammar school level citywide so this can happen on the high school level too. I always said what you put in is what you get out,” he said.
The one thing missing from this first-round matchup is playing the game at a traditional west side stadium like Hanson, or Rockne.
“I would have loved for the game to have been played on the West Side instead of going all the way up north to Lane to play the game,” said Lewis-Bey. “We’ve got two stadiums on the West Side where we could have had a great west side crowd come out to support both teams.”