SPRINGVILLE — Deb Vaughn spent a rainy morning last week buying supplies, then put them to use after lunch.
History was being made by her beloved Springville Orioles, and she had to show her appreciation.
“This is beyond awesome,” said Vaughn, a 1977 graduate of the school and mother of five children – plus a foster daughter — who went through the same school between 1995 and 2011.
“I am so excited, I can hardly stand it.”
Springville will make its first football playoff appearance Wednesday, when it hosts Janesville in an eight-man first-round game at Allison Field. Across the street, a large banner is hung from Vaughn’s garage.
The playoffs were instituted by the Iowa High School Athletic Association in 1972. It took 40 years for the Orioles to qualify, so pardon this community of just over 1,000 in eastern Linn County for its giddiness.
“It’s fantastic. There’s a lot of excitement here,” said Kyle Koeppen, the school’s athletics director. “We’re making this a big deal. We’re going to have a big pep rally and tailgater before the game.”
Kickoff is 7 p.m.
The school is four years removed from its last stint of glory — the girls’ basketball team won a state championship in 2008, then followed that up with a runner-up finish in 2009.
“That was big, but in some ways this is bigger,” Vaughn said. “That girls’ basketball team, you knew ahead of time that they were going to be really good.
“This has been so unexpected.”
The Orioles were 2-7 last year in Joe Martin’s first season, then flipped that record to 7-2 this fall.
Martin, 29, played for Craig Jelinek at Cedar Rapids Prairie. Before that, he played Babe Ruth baseball with Koeppen when the boys were teenagers.
And when Koeppen stepped into an administration role at Springville, he helped hire his old acquaintance as a PE teacher. Then, eventually, as a coach.
“I told him at the time that I envisioned this job as a stepping stone,” Martin said. “I thought I would be here a couple years, then move on to a bigger school.”
That has changed.
“No, it’s not a stepping stone any more,” Martin said. “Absolutely, no. I love it here.”
The Orioles started 5-0, including a 49-48 overtime win over Lansing Kee. They lost their sixth game, to Preston, then clinched their first playoff berth with a dominating performance in a 42-6 win at West Central in Week 8.
“To go to Lansing Kee and West Central and win up there, those were two huge wins for our program,” Martin said. “Two long road trips, against teams that are very good on their home field.”
Midland edged the Orioles, 30-29, in their regular-season finale Friday.
“We’d have loved to have won that game, but the big objective was to get out of there injury-free,” Martin said.
The Orioles don’t appear destined to be a one-year wonder. There’s a handful of senior stars like Jake Hulett and Drake Coonrod. But the bulk of contributing players are juniors and sophomores, including leading rusher Elias Nissen and quarterback Sam Scriver.
Numbers are good: 33 boys in grades 9-12, enough for a varsity team and a JV squad that went 6-1.
“Everybody has bought into this system, and we’ve been working hard toward this goal,” Hulett said.
Martin said the Orioles were overly emotional at times in the Midland game, and sent the following message to his team as it prepares for its historic foray into postseason play:
Breathe. Relax. Enjoy.
“It’s a football game,” Martin said. “No more than that. If we lose, it’s not the end of the world. Go out and play.”