With each passing week, talk of a perfect regular season continues to build for Bartlett.
The Hawks took a big step toward achieving that goal last Friday by going on the road and knocking off Neuqua Valley 31-28. It proved to be the toughest test of the year for Bartlett, which needed a 42-yard touchdown pass with 1:14 left to take the lead and an interception in the end zone as time expired to improve to 7-0.
There's no rest for the weary this week as the Hawks welcome undefeated Thornton in a non-conference showdown on Saturday at Millennium Field, so it's no surprise that talk of a perfect season remain tempered for the moment.
"I think the kids all know Thornton is ranked higher than we are," Bartlett Meaney said. "It is definitely one game at a time right now."
Actually, the Hawks were ranked No. 4 in last week's Class 8A state poll while the Wildcats occupied the No. 10 spot. The Chicago Sun-Times does have Thornton ranked No. 7 and Bartlett No. 8, but any dispute over those rankings can be decided Saturday.
With a ninth straight trip to the playoffs already secure and at least a share of their first Upstate Eight Conference title since 2003 already clinched, finishing the regular season without a loss is just about the only unfinished business the Hawks can take care of in the next two weeks before the playoffs begin. They take on East Aurora in Week 9.
However, Bartlett isn't content to rest on its regular-season accomplishments, and Meaney knows there is plenty of work to be done if his team is going to enjoy a lengthy playoff stay. One of the biggest areas of concern is the ground attack after the Hawks mustered only 87 rushing yards on 30 carries against Neuqua.
"We've got to improve our running game because there's some things falling apart there," Meaney said. "Either we're not running to the hole or we're not maintaining our blocks. We are playing good competition so it's tough to run, but we're going to really focus on getting the run game kick started."