The Central High School football team is thrilled to be back in the WIAA playoffs for the first time in four years.
The Red Raiders put the finishing touch on earning a spot in the Division 2 bracket with a 34-32 win over Tomah last week.
The reward is a first-round playoff game Friday night against top-seeded Menomonie (9-0), which was rarely challenged in winning the Big Rivers Conference.
Central coach Tony Servais said the mental approach of the last week was as important as the tactical one.
"The first hit of the game is going to tell us a lot," Servais said. "That will tell us if we are ready for this game."
The Mustangs will be physical and present a long list of issues for the Red Raiders, who won four of their last five games but had a 41-0 loss to Onalaska two weeks ago.
Servais said this Menomonie team isn't as big as past versions but will be every bit as physical.
Central has had its most success with its passing game, and it will have to find a way to move the ball with the pass behind quarterback Johnny Davis, who has 2,072 passing yards and 18 TD passes.
"We aren't going to be able to go out there and throw it 49 times and win," Servais said. "We have to continue to work on the balance that we have been building."
Davis has put together a strong connection with senior Greg Kohler, who has 49 catches for 704 yards and 11 touchdowns. They will have to connect for a chance to beat the Mustangs.
"They play a lot of man defense, and we practice against man a lot," Kohler said. "We have a lot of routes and combinations of routes that can get us open.
"We have things that can work, but we have to do our jobs to make them work."
One problem that will present itself to Central's defense is Menomonie's rushing game.
The Red Raiders allow 194.7 rushing yards per game, and the Mustangs will unleash Justin Evans on them. Evans has rushed 204 times for 1,459 yards and 23 touchdowns this season.