It's not about the No. 1 national ranking for the Don Bosco football team. It's not about the 43 straight wins. With the playoffs beginning this week for the Ironmen, they have their attention focused squarely on something else.
"We just to finish this season off the right way," Bosco sophomore running back Jabrill Peppers said. "We got three weeks to finish it out, get it in the back of our heads that we are going to finish this thing right."
Finishing the season right would result in the Ironmen capturing their sixth straight Non-Public Group 4 title and their eighth championship in the past 10 years. Don Bosco (8-0) begins its playoff run in the semifinals Friday night when it hosts Paramus Catholic at 7 p.m. in Ramsey, N.J. The Ironmen are the top seed in the bracket.
"Losing is not an option for us," Peppers said. "We just work too hard to consider taking a loss. Our work ethic is too great and we love each other too much to consider losing."
There are at least two and up to three games left in Bosco's season, with a Thanksgiving game against St. Joseph (Montvale) and this weekend's playoff game being the definite games. If Bosco can defeat Paramus for the second time this season, it advances them to the Non-Public Group 4 title game early in December.
To this point, Don Bosco has played like the elite team it was predicted to be at the beginning of the year. Wins over nationally ranked foes like Mission Viejo (Calif.) and St. Edward (Ohio) along with wins against tough squads like Manatee (Fla.) and rival Bergen Catholic have proved the Ironmen's dominance.
"I think we have lived up to the hype," Bosco coach Greg Toal said. "We've been in a couple of tough games but they seem to find a way to win at the end in some big games. Beating Mission, Bergen, St. Edward, those were some good games."
By finishing the season strong, Bosco will make sure that no one forgets about those quality wins from earlier in the season. As Toal said, a team is only as good as its last game, so were the Ironmen to slip up at some point, it would become the story of their season—not what they have done in the past.
The coach hopes to see his team continue to stay focused on a daily basis and not look too far down the road, taking the games one game at a time. He's preaching to his team about the work that will be necessary to finish the season as they hope. The message is resonating with his team.
"We just want to be the best, we want to show everybody why we have this thing going at Bosco," Peppers said. "Why we are this brotherhood, why we are so good. A lot of teams have way more talent than us, that's a no-brainer, but it's how you work with those talents. No talent with hard work is a shame but talent with no hard work is a tragedy. That's our motto."
The playoffs bring with them a certain excitement, a certain added adrenaline to all the games. Peppers and his team are confident in their abilities and ready to add another historic chapter to the already stories Don Bosco legacy.
"We know we can do it," Peppers said. "We're going to be a forced to be reckoned with. We have to show everyone on the field that when we play, it' something special."