Usually when a coach sees his players coming at him with a Gatorade bucket after a big win, he starts running away to avoid the cold bath.
Not James Dockery. When the third-year Saints coach spotted two players with the telltale orange bucket, he took one fast step and then stopped, stood still and braced himself. Splash! That icy shower is what making the playoffs feels like.
Dockery and the Saints knocked off La Quinta 14-7 on Friday, all but officially putting themselves into the postseason for the first time in school history.
"It's elation right now. It's just crazy," Dockery said. "Something told me to come back here and try to take this team to somewhere they've never been, and I like challenges and I got the right group of guys. Our guys never wavered. They believe in themselves. They're confident. They're smart. They're resilient. They're just some beautiful kids."
It won't be official until they see their name in the Division 12 bracket when it is revealed Sunday, but the win over La Quinta lands the Saints (5-5 overall and 3-2 in the Desert Empire League) into a tie for second place with the Blackhawks. And due to their high standing in the division, they are almost a shoo-in to get one of the 16 playoff spots.
"It's kind of just surreal in thinking about where we came from last year," said quarterback Brad McClure, referencing a 2-8 season that saw them go 1-5 in the Desert Valley League. "And we regrouped from last year and came together and grew up together, and we grew together as a group like one unit."
A low-scoring game was knotted at 7-7 when McClure hit Trevor Anderson for a 40-yard touchdown pass with about four minutes remaining in the game.
The Saints stopped La Quinta, got the ball back and tried a 40-yard-field goal to ice it with a minute left, but it came up short.
That gave La Quinta one last shot with the ball starting at their 20, but the third play of the drive, a long Christian Egson pass, was picked off by Juan Lua. Three kneel-downs later and the Saints were in celebration mode with the school's first trip to the playoffs.
"I kind of feel on top of the world, not gonna lie," said senior Tommy Branconier. "We earned this. We believed since the beginning that we could do this. Now we're excited to go to the playoffs and just take over. It's our first time, but we're ready to take over."
On the other side, it was a tough loss for La Quinta. They will be biting their fingernails Sunday as they await word on whether they made the Division 8 playoffs. Despite the loss, they do finish in a tie for second place in the league which will help, but they weren't ranked as highly in their division as Xavier Prep was, so it's not a sure thing.
Both teams finished with identical 5-5, 3-2 records.
Not helping the La Quinta cause in this one was the absence of talented two-way player Marcus McAvoy, who injured his knee in last week's game and found out this week that he had a torn ACL. He is the top rusher on the team and a standout defensive player as well.