It's been a few seasons, so the feeling is extra special for coach Michael Parmentier and his Civic Memorial football team.
The Eagles (7-2) will experience the Illinois high school playoffs for the first time since 2016 when they host Murphysboro (7-2) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the Class 4A bracket.
"It's been really big for us because the last few years we struggled," Parmentier said. "To get back in is awesome."
Civic Memorial's last season in the playoffs was its first season under Parmentier. Its seven wins are the most it has had in a season since 2015.
Even though Parmentier and his staff had high expectations this year, even he didn't expect a share of the Mississippi Valley Conference title.
"These guys really work hard in practice and it's been showing in the games," Parmentier said. "We got that big win at Triad and that really gave us a lot of confidence. We feel like we're playing our best football now."
After a loss at Highland, Parmentier and the coaches had a simple challenge for his players.
"They beat us in every single way that we can be beaten," Parmentier said. "But we told our kids that it's one of two ways, we come out fighting or it'll be over quick. They came out with a great attitude and worked hard and didn't let that deter the rest of the season for us."
Leading the charge for the Eagles has been senior quarterback Noah Turbyfill, who has thrown for 1,508 yards and 14 touchdowns and also scored five times on the ground.
"He's been huge this year," Parmentier said. "He is such a competitor. He thinks he can make every play and most of the time he does. He came in with a great attitude and great effort. This year he's really been throwing the ball well."
Parmentier hasn't had a chance to look at his first-round opponent too closely, but he knows he will have his hands full.
"I know (Murphysboro coach) Gary Carter, who coached with my brother at Wood River. I'm sure they're a wing-T team and that they do it really well," Parmentier said. "We're happy to be at home and we're looking forward to a good atmosphere and a good game."
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS TO SQUARE OFF IN CLASS 5A
Cahokia coach John Clay doesn't know a lot about his first-round opponent, but he knows he's got his work cut out for him.
Cahokia (7-2) will host Highland (6-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
"It's a tough draw and it should be a good game," Clay said. "That's a good program."
The two co-conference champions will be meeting for the first time since a regular-season matchup in 2016, which the Comanches won 25-24.
Though Highland coach Jim Warnecke doesn't know a lot about Cahokia yet, he's more concerned with his team.
"It's about us more so than who we pulled," Warnecke said. "We've got to do our job and play accordingly and prepare for our opponent whoever that may be. We're going to do it to the best of our ability."
Led by junior running back Logan Chandler, who has rushed for 1,316 yards and scored 18 times, the Bulldogs rattled off five consecutive wins to claim a share of the Mississippi Valley Conference championship.
Cahokia's Chris Bradley has thrown for 1,713 yards and 16 scores while maintaining a nearly 68 completion percentage.
"Our quarterback is having a heck of a season," Clay said. "He's accurate doesn't turn the ball over and commands the offense. He's done a really good job this year."
Both teams have goals that go beyond the first round, but both coaches are firmly focused on their first-round opponents.
"We've got to win that first-round game before we talk about the second round," Clay said.
COLUMBIA'S DEFENSE READY FOR PLAYOFFS
Columbia's high-flying offense has stolen headlines and rewritten record books.
But the Eagles' best-kept secret has been their defense.
Columbia (9-0) will host Roxana (5-4) in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
"At this stage of the game, all the teams are good," Columbia coach Scott Horner said. "You've got to respect the fact that they're in the playoffs. They're hot and they're playing with a lot of confidence."
The Columbia defense has only given up 45 points all year and has pitched four shutouts.
"We've stayed healthy all year and that's a key factor," Horner said. "We've got a lot of athleticism on the defensive side of the ball and that's been the key. When you can hold you're opponents to just 45 points in nine games, you're doing something right."
The regular-season finale against Jerseyville was a test and Horner was pleased with how his team fared against the Panthers.
"I know Jerseyville has a 2-6 record, but in my mind, they were probably the best 2-6 team in the state," Horner said. "They hung with teams all the way to the wire."
Leading that ferocious defense has been Eli Wagner with his 87 total tackles and three sacks. He also has two interceptions for the Eagles.
While his defense has played lights out all year, Horner knows that it doesn't matter anymore.
"None of that stuff matters," Horner said. "It's all about what's in front of us and what's going to happen on Monday-Thursday in practice and being ready to go on game day."