It didn't look good for the proud, tradition-laden McQueen program five weeks into the season.
The Lancers were 1-4 after dropping their first two High Desert league games. They were ranked 10th in offense in the 11-team Division I North region and for the first time in a long time a playoff spot was not a foregone conclusion.
But with a couple lineup changes -- some forced by injury -- McQueen now finds itself back a familiar spot. The Lancers are in tonight's regional semifinals against Damonte Ranch and one win from playing for another North championship.
The turnaround cannot be attributed to one player. But an increased workload for junior running back Lucas Weber jump started the McQueen run game and got the entire offense going. The Lancers won four of their next five games.
"It's been good," Weber said of the past five weeks. "I think I've proven my spot to the coaches. But I've had a lot of help from my line and fullback.
"It was pretty shocking when we kept losing because we knew we were a good team. After every loss we were expecting to turn the page, and we weren't losing by a lot. It was tough to lose but it wasn't demoralizing. We just fixed a couple things."
Weber's role in the Lancers' turnaround is impossible to overlook.
The speedy back had 39 carries for 327 yards and two touchdowns through the first five games. Weber then had 114 carries for 988 yards and 12 touchdowns in the next five games, including 171 yards and a pair of touchdowns in last week's first-round victory over Sierra league champion Galena.
Weber's production during that span represented 40 percent of the Lancers' offense.
"Lucas has really stepped up his game and done great things for us," McQueen coach Jim Snelling said.
Weber's rise was aided by a knee injury to Matt Strebel. When Strebel went down, Weber slid over from wingback to halfback. And when Strebel became healthy again he took over as fullback while Kalaneti Peni focused on a new role as middle linebacker.
"He had to carry the bulk of the load there for a while," Snelling said of Weber. "We weren't being successful early with what we were doing and moved some people around. ... During that time, it gave Lucas more time and more carries and I think he got more comfortable with what we were doing."
McQueen averaged 47 points in the past five games after it averaged fewer than 19 points in its first five.
"It's the same offense but we're using different running styles now," Weber said. "We're always been a running team and when we do run it consistently we're a very good team."
"Obviously, looking at our stats we're more of a running team than a passing team," Snelling said. "But we're going to have some touchdown passes, usually off play action. It's one of those things where we've always been a run-first team and with the group we have things year, I think it plays into our strengths. I think we'll continue to do that.
"We really felt like our playoffs started the week we played Hug (with two weeks left in the regular season). What we've done the last five weeks shows great resilience by our kids. It would have been real easy for kids not to show the kind of character we expect out of them when we were 1-4. Be kept believing in ourselves and believing we were going to do what was needed to be successful."