Xavier College Preparatory has never reached the postseason in football.
The Saints should have made it in 2014, but an obscure Desert Valley League rule prevented them from a third-place tie in the league and the automatic playoff berth that would've come with it.
This, however, may be the year Xavier Prep finally breaks through. It may depend on whether the Saints can beat La Quinta High this week and force a tie for second place in the new Desert Empire League. It's also possible that the Saints could get in even with a loss, though it's anyone's guess considering no one knows just how the final week of the regular season will unfold.
There are a few reasons for optimism at Xavier Prep. The Saints (4-5, 2-2 DEL) debuted at No. 10 on the CIF-SS Division 12 poll on Oct. 22 and are currently ranked fifth in the division, according to Calpreps.com, a website that crunches numbers and assists the CIF with its polls.
The high CalPreps ranking is in large part due to Xavier's schedule strength, which is rated the toughest in the division. There is a belief among some area coaches that the rankings are more important than a second or third place league finish, considering those no longer guarantee a playoff spot anyway.
"It's nice to be in Week 10 and be in this conversation," Saints head coach James Dockery said. "We're going to give it our best shot against La Quinta and do everything we can within our control to get into the playoffs."
If Xavier Prep beats La Quinta, it would force a tie for second place in the Desert Empire League. Matching that with a top 10 ranking in both the CIF and CalPrep polls would appear to ensure a postseason berth.
Beating the Blackhawks won't be easy, though. La Quinta has reached the postseason 22 consecutive years and a loss by the Blackhawks on Friday could put that in jeopardy.
Even with a loss, though, the Saints may still retain a spot in both rankings due to the strength of schedule, but they would fall into either fourth place in the DEL or a three-way tie for third.
"Since our freshman year, probably, we've said that we wanted to go to the playoffs," senior safety Tommy Branconier said. "I think this year is our best chance to do it.
"Just knowing that it's in our power has been motivating."
Senior receiver Juan Lua added, "There's a chip on our shoulders to do this."
That desire to be the first team in school history to reach the postseason exists because of how the 2014 team missed out on a chance to become the first.
Under the old CIF-SS playoff format, the top three teams from each league were guaranteed playoff spots. The Saints had won a coin flip prior to the final game of the regular season that would have given them the league's third postseason spot if they were to beat rival Palm Desert and force a three-way tie for third with the Aztecs and Cathedral City.
So, understanding that to be the case, the Saints rallied from a second-half deficit to beat Palm Desert in overtime of what has to be considered the biggest and most memorable win in program history. Fans rushed the field, players crowd surfed and history appeared to have been made.
That is, until the following day, when Mark Campbell, Xavier Prep's athletic director, discovered that the league rules stated that if a team were to win by overtime it would not count the same as a victory won in regulation.
That meant that Xavier went from what appeared to be an automatic playoff berth to out of the third-place tie within a matter of a few hours.
Players and coaches were devastated.
Now a new coaching staff and a different set of players have a chance to remedy that.
And they say they're putting everything they have into doing just that.
"We deserve this," Branconier said. "We've worked for it and we want to make the most of this opportunity that we have."