It took Dick Tighe 60 seasons and 576 games to get here.
The St. Edmond football program's wait was nearly as long: 59 years, 531 trips to the field.
Fittingly and finally, Tighe and the Gaels will now cross the championship round's threshold together.
St. Edmond defeated Van Meter, 35-14, in a Class 1A state semifinal Saturday afternoon. It was the UNI-Dome debut for the Gaels and the first semifinal victory for Tighe in five career appearances - a perfectly-scripted scenario that ended literally decades of frustration and heartache.
Instead of being overwhelmed, St. Edmond rose to the occasion. Behind a 21-point fourth quarter flurry filled with bruising runs, timely passes and trademark defensive stops, Tighe's squad soared to new heights.
If patience is a virtue, consider the 83-year-old veteran and his Gaels the most righteous of them all.
''It was everything I expected it to be,'' Tighe said of the breakthrough win. ''I'm just so happy for these kids and our fans. It was incredible to see how many people came to watch us play, and I'm glad we were able to come through for them.
''I'm just tickled for our school. We're in the finals. No one is ever going to be able to take that away from our supporters and our program. The championship game. Pretty darn amazing.''
A perfect 13-0 for the first time ever. Mighty Iowa City Regina up next, with a title on the line.
Not bad for a team returning just four starters this season and unranked in early September.
''There is just something about this group,'' Tighe said. ''They're very close-knit. There isn't a hint of jealousy or individualism. They truly like each other, which seems simple but is actually very important when you're talking about team chemistry.
''Now don't get me wrong: there is plenty of talent here, and the boys work hard. But you can't underestimate the importance of intangibles, either. These kids know and accept their roles. The pieces all fit. You've heard of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, well, we have that going for us here.''
First came the boys basketball championship in 2000, followed by state runner-up seasons on the hardwood in 2004, '06, '08 and '12. Baseball champions in 2009. Track in 2009 and '11. Tennis in 2013.
Now football joins the finals fray in what could be the St. Edmond athletic department's signature moment in a century filled with them so far.
''You want the fellas to feel like it's just another game once you get to the Dome - to try and settle into the situation and not get too wrapped up in everything going on around you,'' Tighe said. ''We adjusted pretty well and pretty quickly given we were first-timers at the dance. It's a lot different than sitting up in the stands, where we've all been at one time or another.
''At the same time, the team should embrace it and hold on to these memories. You just never know when you'll get here - or when you'll be back.''
Tighe paused and smiled, knowing he was speaking from experience. After six full decades on the outside looking in, he'll never have to wonder again. Neither will the Gaels.
They have each other to thank for that.
Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at email@example.com