Thursday's win - 20-16 over NYA, was the Saints' first win since September 2016, but it may be the first step in a resurrection of a a program in need of rejuvenation.
Legendary football coach Don Dose had several options for football events on Thursday night.
He could've gone to watch Mankato State play their season-opener against Southwest Minnesota State.
There was also an option to watch the Minnesota Gophers whomp on New Mexico State.
But instead, he chose to head to St. James Field and watch the Saints play Norwood Youth America on Thursday night under the lights.
He and a rowdy crowd of donned in red and black apparel watched the Saints win their first game since September 16, 2016, as they beat N.Y.A 20-16.
Trouble hit the Saints early on when newly-minted starter Derrick Halvorson, two plays into St. James' opening drive, threw a 53-yard pick-six to linebacker Joey Pieper to put N.Y.A. up eight, after a two-point conversion.
The groans of the Saints faithful told a familiar story; that they had seen this script before.
The Saints give up an early lead. The Saints struggle to get back in the game. The Saints lose at the sound of the final horn.
However, this game was different. The culture of this team was different. This team abided by a mantra that their new head coach preached to them at every OTA, practice, and intra-squad scrimmages.
"I told the boys, bad things are going to happen, but how you respond is what matters," said Jon Wilson.
Halvorson responded to his interception by nickel-and-diming the NYA defense for the remainder of the game.
Thanks to his 6'3, hard-to-tackle wideout Parker Jones, the duo gained 98 of Jones' 169 receiving yards through screen passes and check-down passes.
On an eight-minute, 13-play drive, Halvorson marched the Saints down the field with a 13-yard touchdown to Daevon Anderson on a wheel route to put the Saints within 1.
As the offense seemed to right the ship, the newly-revamped defense by defensive coordinator Ross Wargula, kept N.Y.A. off-track all game.
Noah Sykes and Frank Suarez anchored the red-and-black's overwhelming pass rush that made quarterback Tom Hoernemann skittish throughout the contest.
Sykes was excellent in the pass rush, generating 3 TFL's including a sack, while Suarez had three hurries on the NYA quarterback.
With 8:44 left in the second quarter, Jacob Brey bounced off his lead blocker for a four-yard touchdown to give the Saints a 14-8 lead.
The Saints' methodical and rhythmic offensive pace forced N.Y.A. to burn their timeouts which caused their late-minute second-half drive to time out as they marched down to the goal line.
As the home team marched into the second half with a 14-8 lead, the third quarter was nondescript with the Saints and N.Y.A. trading a succession of three-and-outs.
N.Y.A. chipped away at the Saints stout defense on the legs of running back Tim Kalkes, who ran for 76 of his 95 rushing yards in the second half.
The Ravens' defense took a blow in the fourth quarter when Jacob Brey sat out a few plays after suffering a few cramps in his legs.
N.Y.A. turned to Kalkes who rattled back-to-back first down runs on the opposite side of the field.
With their best pursuit linebacker out, Norwood's march down the field would be defined by two disputable plays.
On a 4th and 13 with 9:14 left, Hoernermann evaded a heavy four-man rush to scramble to the Saints' 24-yard line for a first down, although the Saints sideline argued his knee hit the ground a yard short of the marker.
Two plays later, Hoenermann evaded the grasp of Michael Suarez and slipped into the end zone for Norwood's only offensive TD.
With the score knotted up at 14, controversy struck again on the two-point conversion when Hoenermann found wideout Bryce Holman at the goal line.
The Saints argued that neither Holman nor the ball broke the plane - but referees awarded N.Y.A. the tie-breaking two-point conversion.
"I think those two plays could've sunk any team on any day," said coach Wilson. "But this team battled back."
Halvorson, who finished the game 20-27 throwing for 241 yards, connected with Cole Durheim on a 21-yard pass to move them into N.Y.A. territory.
Coupled with the stagnation of the run game (48 total rushing yards), the Saints faced a monumental 4th and inches situation with 7:25 left in the game.
With his team on the precipice of victory, the junior signal-caller moved the chains on a nail-bitingly close QB sneak.
When the referee motioned for the first down, the crowd erupted in a roar that could deafen the billowing train that chugs through downtown St. James.
That roar was surpassed moments later when Kobe Mohwinkel dashed and dove into the left pylon to give the Saints the late-game lead.
Mohwinkel's touchdown flipped the familiar script of St. James football on its head.
The Saints sideline was an unusual sight - jubilant hugs between teammates, players pumping up the raucous crowd and most importantly, and a prevailing sense of victory.
The true celebration was actualized when Parker Jones picked off a wayward Tom Hoenermann hail mary attempt to seal the 20-16 victory.
When asked how it felt to end the team's near two-year slump, coach Wilson simply replied, "It feels great, they earned it."
The Saints will look to take the momentum into Friday's matchup as they go on the road to face Martin County West (0-1), the last team they beat before Thursday’s win.
Halvorson (20-27, 241 yds, 1/1 TD-INT)
Brey 19 yds, 14 att., 1 TD)
Mohwinkel (11 yds, 5 att, 1 TD)
Halvorson (12 yds, 10 att.)
T. Johnson (6 yds, 1 att.)
P. Jones (167 yds, 9 rec.)
D. Anderson (29 yds, 3 rec, TD)
Durheim (23 yds, 2 rec.)
Mohwinkel (15 yds, 2 rec.)
Kulseth (12 rec, 1 rec)
Brey (-5 yds, 2 rec.)
Brey (11 TOT, 3 solo, 3 TFL)
M. Suarez (8 TOT, 2 solo, 0 TFL)
Sykes (6 TOT, 4 solo, 3 TFL)
Halvorson (6 TOT, 1 solo, 1 TFL)
F. Suarez (6 TOT, 2 solo, 1 TFL)
Durheim (7 TOT, 5 solo)
T. Johnson (6 TOT, 2 solo, 1 TFL)
P. Jones (3 TOT, 3 solo, 1 INT)
Carlson (2 TOT)
Kulseth (2 TOT, 1 solo)
Rodriguez (2 TOT)
D. Anderson (1 TOT)
Morales-Banda (1 TOT)
L. Anderson (1 TOT, 1 solo)
Engelking (1 TOT)
Avalos (1 TOT)
Aguilar (1 TOT)