By Kurt Ritzman
Assistant Sports Editor
A little more than a year ago, the Central DeWitt football team faced a disappointing bus ride home from Center Point after losing its final regular-season game to Center Point-Urbana 10-9.
That loss kept the Sabers out of playoffs.
On Friday, the Sabers ended their season with another long bus ride after a loss, but this was very different circumstances. Central DeWitt advanced to the Class 3A state quarterfinals and was the first team to challenge No. 1 Decorah, ultimately falling 21-14.
"It's incredible to think about how far we've come," Central DeWitt senior Mitch Green said.
“Last year, us juniors, we took it to heart what the seniors told us,” senior Chris Keitel said. “That’s the same thing I told the juniors this year, ‘Come off of what we started and keep going.’ They gave us that message last year. As a senior group, we got together over the summer and we made it one of our goals to keep this going and make something out of it. That’s what we did. We gave it our all and we fought and made it to the quarterfinals. I guess that’s just where our road ends.”
This season didn’t start off well for Central DeWitt either. Under first-year head coach Mike Miller, the Sabers lost their first two games and three of their first five. During their six-game winning streak before losing to Decorah, the Sabers avenged one of those losses and advanced further in the postseason than two of the three teams that beat them.
“In life you have choices to make,” Miller said. “You can feel sorry for yourself and think everyone is against you or you can rise up to the challenge. These kids really rose up to the challenge.”
After the loss, Keitel delivered a message to his teammates.
"I brought all the seniors, all the juniors and some of the sophomores together and I said, 'Thanks guys. It's been a hell of a ride. I owe it all to you guys, and I wouldn't trade this for anything,' " he said. "I wouldn't give this season up for anything, regardless of win or lose. It's something I will never forget. It's the memories that were made along the way. I love each and every one of those guys. They made it a magical season for me."
Central DeWitt is losing 15 seniors from this team, but they hope they helped the program take a step in the right direction.
"I think this is honestly the best group of seniors anyone could ask for," junior Jake Feldpausch said. "They're always there for you, always pushing you. They lead by example.
“It’s our first year with the offense, but the (seniors) really showed us how to run it. Below us, people have been taking notes. It’s going to keep going forward.”
The Sabers end their season by being the fourth Central DeWitt team to make the quarterfinals since 1999. Decorah continues will face Williams-burg in the semifinals.
“I’m curious to see what’s going to happen from here on out,” Keitel said.