There were two ways to handle it: The tactful way, and the brutally honest way. True to his character, Kecoughtan coach Scott Woodlief chose the latter.
"I told them, if we lose to Bethel, you have three games left in the season," Woodlief said. "Next week, if you lose to Heritage, you've got two games left. They know. I put it on the line."
Translation: With three losses already, there is no room for error in the playoff picture. And the Warriors played like a desperate team in a 20-14 win over the Bruins on Friday night at Darling Stadium.
Kecoughtan (4-3, 3-3 Peninsula District) scored all of its points in the game's first 17 minutes, by which point it led 20-0. From there, the Warriors did just about nothing offensively, but their defense shut down the PD's best passing game.
Bethel quarterback Frank Brown threw for 257 yards, but he completed 10-of-36 passes and was intercepted four times. He was also sacked four times and continuously forced out of the pocket.
Bethel made it 20-14 on Brown's 8-yard touchdown pass to Willie Davis with 1:06 remaining. Jordan Shover executed a near-perfect onside kick, but the Warriors recovered to run out the clock.
"The kids stepped up," Woodlief said. "Really big win for us. We beat a really good football team."
Adrian Pope put Kecoughtan ahead for good on a 32-yard touchdown run with 4:16 left in the first quarter. Robert Kirby then kicked his first of two field goals, this one from 25 yards, to make it 10-0 on the second play of the second quarter.
Then came the crusher: a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown by Pope, who finished with 145 all-purpose yards. That made it 17-0 with 9:36 left in the first half.
"I read it at the last minute," said Pope, who finished with 93 yards on 26 carries. "I saw a lane, and I cut to the lane. I saw it and I was going in."
Kecoughtan had one first down and 48 total yards after halftime. But with the way the Warriors' defense was playing, it was enough.
"They were really on it in the second half," Pope said of Bethel's defense. "It was hard to get in the hole. But we finished and made it through."
The Bruins (5-2, 4-2) came in tied for sixth in the VHSL's Eastern Region Division 6 ratings. The loss won't help.
Kecoughtan came in 11th, four full points below the cutoff. Making the program's first playoff appearance since 2002 remains an uphill climb, but at least after Friday's win the Warriors are still in it.
"I read about it, and they kept saying it around the locker room," Hollis said of the playoff talk. "But it was just a football game. We had to come out and win. It's Homecoming, and that's what we needed."
KECOUGHTAN 20, BETHEL 14
KEC: Pope 32 run (Kirby kick), 4:16
KEC: Kirby FG 25, 11:15
KEC: Pope 52 punt return (Kirby kick), 9:36.
KEC: Kirby FG 38, 6:56
BET: Proctor 89 pass from Brown (Shover kick), 2:57.
BET: W. Davis 8 pass from Brown (Shover kick), 1:06.