For several reasons, West Allis Central football coach Keith Ringelberg felt good about his team's approach to its season finale on Oct. 14 against Wauwatosa East.
The Bulldogs did not have an emotional letdown after their tough loss to Sussex Hamilton the previous week, which had all but erased their WIAA playoff hopes.
They also did not take last-place Tosa East lightly and perhaps come out flat.
They simply jumped on the Red Raiders from the start, maintained control and posted an encouraging 43-16 victory, which gave them hope for the future.
Central went 4-5 overall, including 3-4 in the Greater Metro Conference, which sent four of its eight members to the WIAA playoffs beginning this week.
"We put ourselves right there with teams like Menomonee Falls and Sussex Hamilton," Ringelberg said. "We're not to the top level (of Brookfield Central and Marquette) yet, but we need to get more guys out, so people will have to compete to keep their jobs."
Central will not have to worry about the GMC next season, though, as it moves to the Woodland Conference, which is solid but not as formidable from top to bottom year in and year out as the Greater Metro.
The Bulldogs, who won three of their past five games, started against Tosa East with a long, sustained, methodical drive that ended with a 13-yard pass from quarterback Griffin Johnson to Jared Welsch for a touchdown.
Central added a safety later in the first period when a snap sailed over the East punter's head and into the end zone for a 9-0 advantage.
The Bulldogs scored three times in the second quarter, highlighted by a 1-yard plunge by defensive lineman Brandon Ezell. Glenn Martin ran in from 7 yards out, and Xavier Mullins caught a 32-yard pass from Johnson for the other touchdowns to help Central go up 30-8 at the half.
In the third period, Johnson ran in from 10 yards and threw a 15-yard pass to Welsch for another score.
Johnson put together another solid game with 14-of-21 passing for 183 yards and three touchdowns and 82 yards and one score on the ground. Martin added 78 yards rushing to help the Bulldogs tally 212 yards on the ground and average 5.4 per carry.
Mullins and Welsch each caught five passes for 56 yards and combined for three touchdowns.
"We were nervous about this game," Ringelberg admitted. "Tosa East was winless but had played well at times, so there is some capability, and we knew they would be hungry. We just tried to keep the kids focused. On offense, we ran and threw well. We played a good, complete game. This was a great way for our seniors to go out."
Actually, Central is not done yet. The Bulldogs chose to play a 10th game and will travel to Rock Island, Illinois, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20.