St. Edward's head coach Tom Lombardo, along with many of his assistant coaches, dressed in raincoats Monday as their players practiced in sweats. As a group, they sang the Christmas Carol "Let It Snow." It was a stark difference from the team we highlighted in the preseason. But it wasn't just the absence of sunshine and the addition of a chorus that's changed for this team.
"We learned how to finish, I think. That was the key," said coach Lombardo.
The Eagles dropped their first two games of the season to Mentor and Cass Tech, respectively.
"When we lost those two, we went to Coach Lombardo and strictly said 'Don't worry. We'll be back,'" said senior quarterback Garrett Dzuro.
Fast forward to the frigid temperatures, they are 10-3 for the season and headed to the state final, where they will take on Colrain. St. Edward last won a state title in 2015, which was the second of back-to-back titles.
"You dream this when you come here. You come here for a state championship. Things are just falling into place but you know we got one more week," Dzuro said.
Despite taking on a Colrain, a team that is undefeated on the season, the Eagles are confident they can be successful Friday night.
"We work very hard. We take film very seriously. We take the little things seriously, and I think that is what gives us that edge," said senior linebacker Teon Smith.
While playing late in the season may mean they have to practice in low temperatures, it's a sacrifice they are more than willing to make.
"If we got to come out in cold weather like this and practice that is what we are going to do," Smith said.
With the sound of song echoing on the field, it's clear these players are planning on tackling their opponent the same way they endure the weather, which is together.
Smith added, "The thing I like about this team is we are a brotherhood. We are close. We love each other. We respect each other. We fight for each other."