When Brookstone needed a break most, the schedule obliged.
After playing games in eight consecutive weeks, the Cougars (8-2) finally got a Friday off last week during the seeding process for the Class A playoffs. Now, rested and rejuvenated, the team is back at it, preparing at a feverish pace for its first-round matchup against First Presbyterian on Friday at home.
"The off week helped," Brookstone coach Brad Dehem said on Monday. "We needed a break. We had some guys that were banged up, so that was a welcome break for us."
And, while Dehem said the team is maintaining its same routine as it enters the playoffs, there is a noticeable sense of urgency in the way the team is preparing.
Coaches have raised the bar in practice, pushing the team and asking for more out of its players. Dehem said that he hopes their sense of urgency will be reciprocated by the athletes.
"We want to keep the same routine," he said. "Things work better because of that. At the same time, we're crossing every 't' and dotting every 'i.' We are very conscientious of everything we see on film."
Inside linebacker Grant Janke said that the coaches' urgency is noticeable.
"The coaches have picked it up, no question," he said, noting that the team learned early in the season -- in close losses to talented opponents -- that it had the ability to hang with some of the best teams. Now, he said, the Cougars know what it takes to take it to the next level.
The next level is certainly what Brookstone is shooting for.
It is a team with a reputation of premature exits from the state playoffs. Despite losing no more than four games since 2004, the Cougars have only advanced past the second round once (in 2007). Dehem said that is a reputation the team is trying to shed.
"This is a good team," he said. "But I'm not sure a lot of teams think of Brookstone as a real contender on the state level. We have high expectations for the playoffs, here, and we want to make a statement of where Brookstone is in the state. The only way to convince them is to win in the playoffs.
"We can't talk about it; we have to show it."
The team did a good job of handling its business throughout the regular season. It lost just two games by a total of seven points. Since its second loss, Brookstone has averaged 38 points per game, a vast improvement over its first four games.
"We had growing pains, but the kids really started to grasp the concepts midseason," Dehem said. "Now we're a lot more balanced and consistent. That's a key to success."
Wide receiver Tim Kennedy said the offense has improved on its execution and, specifically, on line.
"The line is one of the most important part," he said. "Without them, we never would have gotten going."
Having the same kind of success against First Presbyterian (6-4) will, by no means, come easily, said Dehem, who was an assistant coach for the Vikings before his previous coaching job at Wesleyan.
"They are extremely well coached," he said. "Everything we're doing to prepare, we know they're doing the same thing."
If the Cougars are to change their reputation on a statewide scale, though, a solid performance on Friday is a must. And no matter what the Vikings bring to the table, Dehem said that's something he expects from his team.
"We're a confident team right now," he said. "We have high expectations."