Evart barely missed playoff spot this season

EVART — If Evart’s football team had finished at 5-4, it appears the Wildcats would have qualified for the Division 8 playoffs.

But at 4-5, Evart had to reflect on other accomplishments throughout the season, including a 17-7 win over then No. 1-ranked Beal City.

The Wildcats were 1-4 in the Highland Conference, but their only league win was a big one. They also had non-league victories over White Cloud, Tri-Unity Christian and Baldwin.

“As far as our team, our coaching staff and our kids’ standpoint, I felt that we underachieved a little bit,” Coach Pat Craven said. “We had loftier goals for ourselves than what we were able to accomplish. I know a majority of our league opponents picked us to finish down toward the bottom of the league.”

Defensively, it was a strong season for the Wildcats.

“Our speed and quickness proved to be really strong,” Craven said. “We had a very solid defensive season and surprised a lot of teams this year in the Highland Conference. One more win would have gotten us into the I playoffs and that would have been nice.”

There were “multiple” games, Craven noted, the Wildcats might have been within a play here or there for a victory.

“There’s things we have to work on to get better at,” Craven said. “We have control over a lot of those things. We just identify those things in the offseason and work to correct them.”

The win over Beal City was obviously memorable.

“At the end of the day, it’s one game,” Craven said. “It was a big game and a big win. It gave our kids a lot of confidence in their abilities and what they’re capable of. The next step is to be more consistent so we can take those roller coaster highs and continue to ride them and stay at a high level and not dip back down.”

No. 1 quarterback Trevin Ladd missed five games stemming from an automobile accident. Robbie Tapling filled in place.

“Robbie did a great job for us,” Craven said. “Obviously no team wants to lose their starting quarterback. We had to change our game plan when Trevin went down. We weren’t able to throw as much. We relied on our defense and our defense did well for us and kept us in a lot of games.

“No one feels sorry for us. Everyone deals with injuries. The best teams adapt and move forward.”

Evart will lose some key seniors.

“If we can replace those kids, we return a lot of our speed and almost our entire offensive and defensive line,” Craven said. “We have a nice feel about ourselves going into the offseason. We have to put in the necessary work.”

Looking at the 2016 schedule, the nonleague opponents,   Baldwin, Tri-Unity Christian, White Cloud and Harrison, will stay the same.

“We are trying to expand our league from a football standpoint to fix some of the nonleague scheduling,” Craven. “That’s a least two, maybe three years away.”