Head coach Tim Mendoza didn't need to give his East Bay Outlaws semi-pro football team a pep talk prior to kickoff Saturday for its season finale against the Oakland Vipers.
The Golden Coast Football League standings said enough.
Facing a win-or-go-home situation, the Outlaws responded with their best defensive performance of the season, shutting out the Vipers 17-0 to secure one of the league's two remaining playoff spots.
We slowed things down in the second half, said Mendoza. I think we got a little sloppy, but we did a good job holding them down, and we were able to stay with our game plan. I am really glad we were able to do that and get the shutout.
Despite going 1-4 in the first five weeks of the season, the Outlaws won four of their final five games and hold high hopes heading into tomorrow's playoff game against the No. 2 seed Norcal Lawmen.
It was hard focus, staying on track and knowing we have a good bunch of players, said linebacker and team co-owner B.J. Johnson. It's also our attitude our winning attitude. If you play hard and you play together and you have a good coaching staff, then things will come together.
After giving up an average of 37 points per game during the first four weeks of the season, the Outlaw defense banded together, holding teams to 14 points or less in each of its last five games. And after shutting out the Vipers a week ago, the unit is bursting with optimism heading into the playoffs.
On the other side of the ball, according to Mendoza, the Outlaw offensive line has grown into its own, opening the field for the team's top two playmakers, quarterback Alex Amin and receiver Will Thompson. I think the guys just buckled up their straps and got on their horses, said Mendoza. Everybody to a man decided, Let's go after it, let's go get it,' and that's what they did.
Although the team is peaking at the right time, the Outlaws have a tall order in front of them. The Lawmen terrorized the Outlaws 41-0 during their week-four match-up in the regular season.
The Outlaws take on the Lawmen at 6 p.m. Saturday night at Heritage High School.