Will the lasting legacy of this year’s St. Philip football team be Legacy Field?
That’s the goal as St. Philip starts on its ‘Road to Greenville.’
For most of the high school football teams starting the playoffs this week, they are all taking the first step toward what they hope is the ‘Road to Ford Field.’ Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions, is also the host of the MHSAA State Football Championships.
However, for 8-Man football, that road takes a slight detour. With fewer teams in the field, the 8-Man state finals will be played a week earlier than the rest of the state finals. And instead of Detroit, the game will be at Legacy Field at Greenville High School.
But, no matter the location, or how they get there, if the Tigers make it to Greenville it will mean they will be playing for the school’s first state title in football in 30 years.
“We have definitely thought about winning a state title. But we want to focus on one game at a time and we have to play Portland St. Patrick first before we worry about anything else,” said St. Philip senior Brayden Darr. “But as a team, we have talked about getting to Legacy Field and seeing what we could do once we got there. We want to go after those rings and that thought has been in the back of our minds all season.”
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Being the No. 2 team in the state in its division, St. Philip is allowed to think about such things. Yes, the Tigers have to concentrate on Portland St. Patrick in the first week of the postseason, which it will play Friday at C.W. Post Field. But every St. Philip player and coach knows winning that game isn’t the goal at this point.
When you have just finished an undefeated regular season and you have beaten the one team that has knocked you out of the playoffs in each of the last two years in Lawrence, your goals become bigger. Figuring out a road map to get to Greenville is the goal of the 2015 postseason for Tiger coach David Downey.
“Maybe before the season started, there was a thought we could get to the state championship game. But once the season started, it has always been one game at a time – especially in the playoffs,” Downey said. “We are playing Portland and you can’t look past them because they are a really good team. And if you do start looking past them and start thinking about playing Lawrence again, then things just won’t work out for you.
“But yes, we definitely have a better road to a possible state finals game this year than we have had in the past. Everybody we could potentially face, we have already played.”
And, Downey, could add – have beaten.
St. Philip beat Portland St. Patrick two weeks ago, 45-20. The Tigers also beat possible second-round opponents Lawrence and Waldron during the regular season. A potential third-round opponent could be Morrice, which St. Philip beat, 65-32. Or, the Tigers could see Deckerville in the third round, which St. Philip faced in a scrimmage in the preseason and played well against. St. Philip would not see the No. 1-ranked team in 8-Man football, Powers North Central, until possibly the state finals game.
“We are familiar with all the teams we could go up against and I like our chances,” Downey said.
But St. Philip has been in this situation before and it hasn’t ended up in Greenville on the final day of the 8-Man football season. Two seasons ago, the Tigers had an undefeated regular season and lost to Lawrence in the second round. Last year, the Tigers went 8-1 on the season and lost in the second round.
In both of those seasons, St. Philip suffered key injuries and ended up losing to Lawrence, which went on to win the state title in Greenville in 2014.
This season, the Tigers are healthy and have knocked off Lawrence in the process already.
“We have a really good team, and at 9-0 we feel pretty confident going in to the playoffs,” said St. Philip senior David Downey, son of the head coach. “But it is a whole different story in the playoffs, so we need to keep our focus and keep playing hard so our dreams of maybe getting to the finals can stay alive.”
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If St. Philip does make a deep run, it will be doing something that hasn’t been done at the school in a long time. The Tigers last won a state title in football in 1985. And that isn’t lost on the coaches, the community and even the players, who weren’t even alive then.
“The kids were talking about it the other day. It’s been 30 years. Coach (Jack) Brown, Coach (Marc) Pessetti and myself were all on that coaching staff on Mike Hume’s team in 1985 when they won it all,” Coach Downey said. “We still have film, watch it every now and then, and some of the old players still come around. It would be really good to win it again 30 years later.”
Those players on the 1985 team all have left a legacy at St. Philip.
This 2015 group wants to do the same. And if they get to Greenville’s Legacy Field, they just might.
“Ever since we got to high school, us seniors, we have always talked about wanting to leave our mark,” Darr said. “We want to leave our legacy on the football program and now we have a chance to do that and we don’t want to mess that up.”