St. Cloud Apollo hasn’t hosted a playoff game since 2003.
That streak will come to an end Tuesday when the Eagles host Sauk Rapids at 7 p.m. in a Section 8-5A playoff game. Apollo (3-5) is riding a three-game winning streak into the playoffs. The third-seeded Eagles beat the sixth-seeded Storm 9-6 back on Oct. 5.
“We’re very excited about this,” Apollo head coach Justin Skaalerud said. “It didn’t look like we’d be sitting in this position when we started out 0-5. But the players didn’t look back. They kept coming back to practice every day and working hard. We’ve been fortunate to win three in a row.”
Skaalerud, who took over the program three years ago and has gone 4-22, believes Apollo hasn’t had a three-game winning streak since the mid-1990s. He also said Apollo hasn’t won a playoff game since that time.
Apollo beat Fergus Falls 27-20 Wednesday night to finish the regular season. Skaalerud said there were more Apollo students at the game than the Otters had, despite the game being in Fergus Falls.
“I pointed that out to our kids before the game started,” he said. “For our students to travel two hours, to come to the game in the rain and for Fergus to be playing for a CLC title – our kids were really excited about that. We hope we can give everybody our first playoff win in a while (Tuesday).”
Skaalerud credited the play of running backs Kyle Rosenthal and Derek Alexander for helping turn things around.
“When we started running the ball, that’s when our turnaround happened,” he said. “Derek had over 100 yards against Sauk Rapids, Kyle had 122 the next week and then they both had nice games (Thursday). We’re a pass-first team, but if we can run it and keep that balance going, I think we’ll keep winning.”
Skaalerud admitted it won’t be easy to beat Sauk Rapids for a second time.
“They’re moving the ball a lot better now. The threw the ball really well against Bemidji and they can always run it,” he said. “Sauk Rapids had a chance to win the game against us earlier, but we made a goal-line stand. We know they’re going to come in with a bad taste in their mouths from that game.”
If Apollo wins it will travel to take on second-seeded Sartell (6-2) on Oct. 27. No. 4 seed St. Cloud Tech (3-5) is host to No. 5 Alexandria (1-7) at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the other Section 8-5A first-round game. The winner of that game advances to take on Moorhead (8-0) on Oct. 27.
Section 8-4A with Rocori and Little Falls, Section 6-A with Royalton and Section 6-2A with Pierz and Holdingford all didn’t have complete playoff pairings due to teams playing Thursday night games. Those pairings should be finalized today.