GOOSE LAKE — Following Friday's 28-14 loss to Camanche, the disappointment was evident on the face of Northeast freshman Gavin Kramer.
"We needed something to humble us," Kramer said. "We needed something to bring us down and make us put our heads down and work."
Though humbled by the loss, there's plenty for the Rebels to be pleased with this season, no denying the turnaround the Rebels have seen under head coach Mark Lee. In his third season as head coach, Lee has the Rebels at 4-3 — their first four-win season since 2010 — and qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
"Last offseason, I really thought about what I had for personnel and what we had in personnel coming up for the future and to design an offense that is going to help that and get guys in space," Lee said. "The coaching staff and I got together and got essentially what we're running offensively and worked on it in open gyms over the summer and in the fall."
The Rebels close the regular season at home against Monticello on Friday night, a chance to capture at least a share of a district title.
After that come the playoffs, and the Rebels are ready for the opportunity.
"We play really well together, we work really hard," Kramer said. "I think we can make a deep run. We've got guys at every position who are extremely talented at what they do."
There is talent up and down the Northeast roster.
Senior Cade Hughes leads the team with 49 tackles — eight for loss — and has 603 receiving yards and two touchdown grabs. Senior Carter Pataska has 33 tackles — three for loss and a sack — and four rushing touchdowns. Sophomore Clayton Meyermann has 43 tackles, including one for loss.
Then there's Kramer.
The freshman has completed 62% of his passes for 1,206 yards and eight scores — with just two interceptions — and has added 626 yards and 12 scores on the ground. His 20 total touchdowns is second in the district.
"It was tough to adjust to the speed of the game at the varsity level but I just have guys around me that gave me the confidence that I have and they just help me get better every day," Kramer said. "This is a great group that I've got."
Along with the stats, Kramer — who transferred in from Easton Valley over the summer — appears to already have poise and an innate playmaking ability. He showcased that in one play in the fourth quarter of last Friday's contest. Under pressure, Kramer eluded the grasp of two defenders, avoided another defender and made a completion along the sidelines for a positive play.
That's something the coaching staff is very excited to see develop moving forward.
"He's definitely exceeding our expectations," Lee said. "He came into the district late so he wasn't even with us in summer workouts. He's done a phenomenal job, Gavin has. The fight in him, he wants to win, you can see that, and he's a playmaker.
"We do have the tools, we've just got to get calmed down and go to work."