Humphrey St. Francis has put together one of the most impressive performances this year in D2 football, earning a No. 1 seed in the playoffs with an unbeaten 8-0 record.
Thursday night, HSF will host 16-seed Wausau. The Vikings were one of the last teams to qualify for the playoffs and bring a 3-5 record into the 6 p.m. contest in Humphrey.
Tuesday afternoon as coach Eric Kessler and his group prepared for the postseason, there was a buzz on the practice field. St. Francis has qualified for the playoffs in 24 straight seasons and has won at least one postseason game every year since 2007.
Those last 11 years include runner-up trophies in 2008 and 2012 and state championships in 2009 and 2015.
"We're excited on the year we've had and excited to be in the playoffs," Kessler said. "We've got a really tough first round draw. Wausa is a very good team.
"They beat the number-four seed last Thursday, so they're playing their best football. They've got a lot of weapons offensively, it presents a big challenge offensively."
St. Francis has made quick work of most opponents since Week 1 when the team went on the road to Wynot and came away with to 80-36 victory.
Thus far this season, the Flyers have defeated Wynot, Clarkson/Leigh, Giltner, Winside, Elgin Public/Pope John, Riverside and Plainview.
"I like how we're playing overall, we've played well, for the most part, each game," Kessler said. "I think we're getting better every week. I like the way we're trending and I like how we're preparing each and every week. We're excited to play, and hopefully we play well."
The Flyers are no strangers to the playoffs, putting together a history that includes the second most playoff appearances in the state of Nebraska, only four behind Omaha Creighton Prep.
Wausa will be making its eighth-ever trip to the playoffs seeking a third playoff victory.
Although the Vikings finished below .500, they finished the regular season with a win over 4-seed Randolph.
Staring quarterback Ghatlin Hegge has had an impressive year, one Kessler believes will earn the Wausa signal caller an all-state selection.
Hegge completed 89 of his 159 pass attempts for 1397 yards and 16 touchdowns.
"They do a lot of different things formationwise and have some good athletes," Kessler said. "Defensively, we'll have a challenge to keep those guys at bay because they do some nice things offensively.
"That's been a big focus of this week and then we have to continue to execute offensively. We've done some good things offensively this year. They've got some good athletes, so execution, being sharp and taking care of the football will be important."
While some undefeated team might get complacent, staying focused hasn't been a problem for St. Francis.
"We're focused one game at a time," Kessler said. "We've seen them on film (and) we know how good they are. The win they had last Thursday kind of opened some eyes.
"They beat Randolph, who is a four seed. We'll have to play good football to continue. You can't have any bad games or you're done. We're planning on playing a good clean football game, and we're excited to have an opportunity to continue our season."
There hasn't been one stand out player for the Flyers according to their head coach. It's been contributions from several players the whole way through, even including the second team, which has challenged the starter all year long.
"It's been such a team effort," Kessler said. "I think our second team has really been giving us some good looks in practice. That has made our first team better.
"Our older guys or continuing to get better, and they kind of have that look in their eyes that they know that it's getting towards the end of the year where we need to be playing our best football. I like our sense of urgency and the edge we're playing with."
With a win on Thursday, Humphrey St. Francis will move on to face the winner of Hartington-Newcastle vs Clarkson/Leigh.
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com