This is where the Monticello football team expected to be, entering the second Friday in November -- getting ready for a playoff game at home.
But a month ago, things weren't going as planned for the Mustangs.
After a 4-0 start, Monticello dropped a pair of games in the span of a week -- a 28-0 shutout loss at home to Western Albemarle on September 29, followed by a 28-7 loss at Charlottesville six days later.
When his team got off the bus back at Monticello immediately after the loss at CHS, coach Rodney Redd took his players to the game field for a team meeting that he says turned the Mustangs' season around.
"After that point in the season, I've had the best month of coaching I've ever had," Redd said Thursday. "My staff feels the same way. And it's just been a joy to sit over here and watch them play football on Friday nights."
The Mustangs haven't lost since that team meeting. They outscored their opponents 145-61 during their season-ending four-game winning streak, and they enter Friday's Region II, Division 3 quarterfinal game against Fauquier County as the No. 3 seed in the bracket.
According to junior Josh Malm, the Mustangs have had a playoff approach to each game since the CHS loss. Malm says the Mustangs talked about needing to win out during that team meeting in early October.
"We kind of realized that it's not as easy as we thought, and it never is," he said. "So we definitely came together and realized that, and took it from there."
"Just take it week-by-week, and come back and give it your all, and that's all you can do," said senior John Hensley. "I'm feeling pretty good about this week. We had a great week in practice, and it's really coming together."
The Mustangs have advanced to the Region II semifinals in each of the past two seasons. And Hensley isn't the only one at Monticello who is confident they can do it again.
"It just feels natural," Redd said. "We have some guys that have been in big games before. We have some young guys that now have a season under their belt. And it just seems to all be coming together. They kind of have known to turn it on when they need to. And that's good, because this is the right time of the year."
"Oh, it's fun. Even though it's a tradition, no one expects it. It's always fun to be here," said Malm. "A lot of teams aren't playing. So it's like coach was saying -- if you're not doing what you're supposed to, we'll be packing up. And we don't want to do that; we want to keep playing."
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