CEDAR FALLS - After six decades of coaching and numerous exciting moments, St. Edmond head coach Dick Tighe was left a bit speechless here Saturday afternoon.
His fourth-ranked Gaels had just punched their first-ever berth into the state football championship round, which gave Tighe a long-awaited berth in the finals.
The 83-year-old leader owns an Iowa-best 413 wins. He's been honored in every which way individually, and has been carried off the field for his achievements as a coach.
On Saturday, he walked down the UNI-Dome hallway to a group of friends and family members waiting to embrace him.
This is what it's all about.
"We know this means so much for Coach Tighe, but he won't really take any credit for it," said senior co-captain Vinnie Harvey, who ran for 123 yards and scored four touchdowns in St. Edmond's 35-14 victory over Van Meter.
"This is something special, as has been the whole season for us.
"It's great to finally get him to the finals."
Tighe has reached the semifinal round on a handful of occasions, but had yet to clear that final hurdle -until Saturday.
As he has done all year, though, Tighe shied away from the attention.
Those crowding the staircase didn't.
Tighe has turned a dormant program into a regular playoff contender. In the last 10 seasons under his guidance, the Gaels have gone 74-25.
None of those wins were as big as Saturday's victory.
A lackluster third quarter only led to a dramatic and memorable fourth, as St. Edmond outscored Van Meter 21-0, sealing the win with a T.J. O'Tool interception return for a touchdown.
O'Tool, who gained 178 yards on the ground, read his defender coming out on a screen and picked off a Brandon Brittain pass. Thirty-nine yards later the Gaels were on their way to the finals.
"It was just my guy I was assigned to," O'Tool said. "I looked up at the scoreboard on my way down the sidelines just to make sure nobody was coming up from behind."
There wasn't anything for O'Tool to worry about; he was in the clear, as was St. Edmond.
Tighe, who has felt the heartache of missed opportunities over the years, only spent a few precious moments with his son, Spencer head coach Jim Tighe, and grandson before taking off his hat, wiping his forehead and thinking about the next one: Iowa City Regina.
"Wow," Tighe said. "I know we are going to enjoy this one, but it's hard not to think about (the state finals and Regina). They are good; they are big and they can throw it and run it.
"It's going to be a great test."
A great test indeed, but if the past is any proof, Tighe will find an answer to the ultimate question as well.