KIMBERLY (WLUK) -- During its four straight state championship seasons Kimberly was a dominant football team, having won 56 straight games, 53 of which were by two possessions or more.
This season has been somewhat different for the Papermakers. Sure, they haven't lost, as their state-record winning streak is up to 68 games, but not all the wins have been in a convincing fashion.
Unlike the previous four seasons, Kimberly has had to work harder this season as it has won four of its 12 games this season by seven points or one possession. And all those games were decided in the final minutes with Kimberly scoring a touchdown.
Maybe the dominance isn't always there, but the wins are as Kimberly prepares this week for a Level 4 playoff game against rival Appleton North, a team Kimberly beat earlier this season, 38-31.
Running back D. J. Stewart has scored three touchdowns late in the fourth quarter to key wins and he said winning close games is all about playing a full 48 minutes.
"I feel like we come out and play four quarters of straight football, whereas there might 30 seconds on the clock for other teams and they might think the game is already done," Stewart said. "If you have that mentality with 30 seconds left on the clock, however long is left on there, to be able and come out and never think the game is going to be done, there's always plays to be made. You always have to make plays like that."
Quarterback Alec Rosner threw a last-minute touchdown pass in the first meeting against North this season and said success down the stretch is not a mistake.
"We played some great teams, some great opponents this year and to just come through in all those games is a credit to our work and preparation we did all the way back in summer, getting up at five-thirty in the morning, out here grinding with all of my teammates," Rosner said.
Papermakers coach Steve Jones would prefer more blowout wins, but a win's a win. He said winning close games shows something to him.
"I think it says our kids are resilient and they're tough, they're determined,," Jones said. "That's the hallmark of this group and I think it's going to carry on past football.
"When they're done with football I think they're a group that is going to show a lot of grit and a lot of toughness in their lives and I think it's a great quality they have."
The Papermakers hope this year's team isn't done with football for two more weeks.
KIMBERLY'S CLOSE CALLS
(wins by one possession)
- Fond du Lac: 35-28 (Week 1)
- Neenah: 15-8 (Week 6)
- Appleton North: 38-31 (Week 7)
- Fond du Lac: 28-21 (Level 3)
- Fond du Lac: 32-29 (Level 3)
- Appleton North: 35-28 (Week 5)
- Arrowhead: 49-42 (state title game)
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay