Kris Cassie's message got through Friday.
"The message is to continue to overcome," said Cassie, Sandwich's football coach. "We always talk about the next 200 feet. At halftime, we were losing, the next 200 feet we had to get through was the second half. The kids continue to believe."
Believe it, folks. Sandwich is 3-0.
The Indians remained unbeaten in resilient fashion Friday. Rallying on the road, Sandwich scored 20 unanswered points to top Manteno 28-20 in the Interstate Eight.
Sandwich is off to its best start since the 2011 quarterfinal team started 4-0.
"It feels really good," Cassie said. "We faced a decent amount of adversity last week. They continued to do what we asked of them, which is trust the process and execute."
Dylan Baumbach went over 100 yards for the third straight game, 151 yards on 24 carries. Sean Smith ran for three touchdowns, his 3-yard TD in the third quarter pushing Sandwich ahead 16-14.
Wyatt Murphy caught a 7-yard TD from Mike Frieders in the fourth quarter. Jimmy Roop all but sealed the win, intercepting a screen pass and taking it 55 yards for a 28-14 lead.
"Jimmy's pick-six didn't quite seal it, but that was huge," Cassie said. "Coach [Chad ] Anderson has worked with Jimmy diligently about reading the screen, and he timed it perfectly and took in the score."
The Indians, with 27 healthy kids – eight guys playing both ways – proved the stronger team as the game wore on.
"They just keep grinding," Cassie said. "We've told them that every day is going to be a grind. We are having them show up two mornings a week to lift, they have film sessions, we're constantly messaging them in Hudl, they are busy all the time. They are definitely putting in the hours."
Sandwich's first conference game was its stiffest test thusfar. Cassie was hardly surprised.
Anthony Lopez's 76-yard TD run had given Manteno a 14-8 halftime lead. Sandwich outgained Manteno 317-220, but committed nine penalties for 96 yards. Wyatt Murphy had seven tackles and two sacks, giving him seven sacks on the young season.
"We told them a game like that one was coming," Cassie said. "When you get in the Interstate Eight, there is no week off over. It's just a good conference."
It gets no easier this week, with a 1-2 Wilmington team coached by Hall of Famer Jeff Reents coming to Sandwich.
"They are typically 8-1 or 9-0 during the season," Cassie said. "It's a program that he has established a culture of dominance in. You have to bring your best against a Jeff Reents-coached team. I expect the most physical game we have played all year."