There was nothing hush-hush around the Gilbert football team. It was an open dialogue with a straightforward solution:
Beat Westwood and there might be a playoff spot waiting for the Tigers when they wake up Saturday morning.
It won't be officially known until then, but the whooping and hollering heard Friday night was that of a Gilbert team with every reason to believe its punched a postseason pass after a 35-21 victory at Westwood.
According to the Tribune's projected playoff pairings, the Tigers will enter the 5A-I playoffs as the No. 15 seed and face No. 2 Basha.
A vastly different scene on the Warriors side of the field, where the Warriors must sweat out the final announcement. But according to the Tribune's projected rankings, the Warriors will also get in as the No. 16 seed, which earns them a date with top-seeded Hamilton in the first round.
Gilbert (5-6) was No. 19 before the game started. Westwood (5-6) was No. 14, so both knew they needed wins to concretely stay alive, and it was the Tigers who played the part offensively.
Behind a bigger offensive line and a physical-speed combination in the backfield was unstoppable. Tanner Hall didn't play football until his freshman year at Gilbert, but he's made up for lost time quickly.
With mostly runs up the middle into the teeth of Westwood's defense, Hall dragged Warriors with him on nearly every run. He had 197 yards and four touchdowns on the night, as six of his 20 carries went for at least 15 yards.
"That was our goal, to be a playoff team and become contenders," he said. "We want to be practicing another couple of weeks."
There's a good chance they will be.
The Tigers put up 400 yards of rushing on Westwood, and on the few times Gilbert threw, it succeeded.
A couple halfback passes worked wonders in leading to a last-second field goal before halftime that gave Gilbert a 22-14 lead.
Drew Stankiewicz caught a 37-yard touchdown pass and Young Tanner threw for 140 yards and ran for a 53-yard touchdown.
"They ran all over us and there wasn't much we could do about it," Westwood coach Greg Mendez said of Gilbert's size advantage.
"Their record doesn't do them justice, and we just couldn't tackle."
The Warriors hung around for three quarters and got a big night from Valencio Gray in all three facets of the game. Juan Zazueta threw touchdown passes to Billy Sueing and Hayden Clark.
But the Warriors had to punt on three consecutive possessions to start the second half, when they only trailed by one possession.
That's when Gilbert took the ball and ran away with it.
"We didn't do anything tonight we hadn't worked on extensively during the week," Tigers coach Dan Dunn said.
He wouldn't say whether the weekly regiment included a mini playoff-bound celebration.