GRUNDY CENTER - It's been a lifetime since the Grundy Center football team has played a snap in the postseason.
For most of its players, anyway.
The Spartans (6-3) will play their first playoff game since 1994 tonight when they host Don Bosco (7-2) at 7 p.m. in the first round of Class A postseason action.
T-R FILE PHOTO
Dylan Lyman of Grundy Center breaks through the line during the Spartans’ season opener against AGWSR. Grundy Center hosts a state playoff game tonight against Don Bosco.
"Everyone thought that we had the reputation of being bad every year and we couldn't really do it," said Grundy Center senior Nathan Schmadeke, who was 5 months old during the Spartans' last playoff appearance, "but our coaches believed in us and set us up well to succeed."
In the intervening years, Grundy Center posted a record of 46-99, with just three winning seasons in the bunch along with a pair of winless years in 1999 and 2000.
"It's just a big stepping stone for our program and getting things back to where they should be," said third-year head coach Brandon Krusey, who played at perennial powerhouse Aplington-Parkersburg and previously coached North Tama to five playoff appearances in seven seasons.
"We're excited, it's going to be a great time, it's going to be a great week. Hopefully we can represent this town and bring some pride back."
One of the priorities for Krusey will simply explaining the magnitude and intensity of playoff football.
"I think right now they're just a little lost. Once we knew we were in, I tried to answer some questions and try to give them a decent feeling of what things are going to be like," Krusey said. "I'm trying to prepare them ahead of time.
"Some of us have been in this thing before and it's good to have that experience."
Although being a bit in the dark isn't the worst thing in the world, either.
"It's not horrible to not know. There's going to be a lot of people around, a lot of excitment," Krusey said. "I think the eyes will open wide with that different feeling when you step on the field during one of those games."
The Spartans have won five contests in a row while the Dons have taken five of their previous six.
Don Bosco sports a balanced and deep offensive attack.
Quarterback Jake Hogan has completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 974 yards and 14 touchdowns, though he has thrown 10 interceptions.
Four Dons have carried the ball at least 50 times on the year with Carson Barron rushing for a team-high 442 yards. Hogan has 330, Jake Phillips 265 and Tyler Backes 249.
Brandt Becker and Austin Demuth are Hogan's primary targets with 22 and 27 catches, respectively. Twelve of Becker's grabs have gone for scores, which is good for 11th in the state and first in Class A.
The Spartans' ground game is led by Cody Cole, who has 675 yards and six scores on the season along with a 6.8 yards-per-carry mark. Connor Noteboom also has six rushing touchdowns.
Through the air, Schmadeke is quarterback Joel Rust's go-to receiver with 28 catches, 440 yards and six TDs.
Rush has 887 yards passing, 11 scores and seven interceptions thrown on the season.
Dylan Lyman has 70 tackles to pace the Spartans on defense while Schmadeke has snagged six picks for a program that hopes to turn postseason play from a generational event to a yearly tradition.
"A lot of people have been saying congratulations," said Schmadeke, "and it's really important to all of us."