NMCC won a hard-fought 34-26 contest over Dexter to reach the sectional game, while the Dragons dispatched Potosi for their district title.
The game that will be played on Wednesday at 7 p.m., is a far cry from the 2004 season for NMCC. That season was head coach Arlen Pixley's first at the helm of the Eagles and the team finished 1-9.
While the excitement of winning his first district title as a head coach is a landmark personal achievement, understanding the depths his program had to recover from is fulfilling.
"It was painful to go 1-9," said Pixley. "We had a good group of kids, they worked hard and kind of set a foundation for us. These seniors were a part of that bunch. It was not a good time for our program, us as coaches and for the fans. It has been a long drawn out process and these kids now do not want a repeat of a few years ago."
Besides the 1-9 season, the Eagles were 2-8 in 2002 and the program had the looks of one that was in disarray.
"I took over a program that I knew was close to being in the dirt," said Pixley. "I told a lot people that I was crazy to take it over. I didn't have a vision for the future, I just wanted to put all of our heads together and just grind it out. We preached discipline, hard work and being in the best shape than anybody on the field. All of our success this season has been contributed to the hard work that has been put into place by the coaches and the kids."
The Eagles were a program that was rolling in the mid-to-late '90's under the direction of head coach Ron Jones.
NMCC won its first district title in 1989 and from 1993 until 2001 the Eagles had eight district titles, two appearances in the quarterfinals and finished second in Class 3 for the 2001 season.
"All of our kids have seen the school have championships growing up," said Pixley, "they know what it is like. We had a good group of kids go through and just school the younger kids on what it takes to be a champion."
Pixley conceded that he and his assistants John Jones, Travis Day and Dempsey Craft have worked hard to restore the program, but the majority of the credit should go to his players.
"The kids sat down and decided to get the program back to the championship days," said Pixley. "Give them some credit, they have succeeded and we are not done yet. This is where we want to be. We wanted to win the conference and district and get in the playoffs."
Pixley's first district title as a head coach came against his brother, Aaron, who is the head coach at Dexter. Pixley stated that his brother was a part of the rebuilding at NMCC.
"Aaron was there and he helped build some of that foundation that is starting pay off," said Pixley. "We tried to instill a program that started off with hard work and discipline. Aaron taught that here and is doing a great job of teaching the same concepts over at Dexter. We have got to get the kids in early and make them work. The kids have responded well. We have not had anybody quit because of the workload. We have been on them from the first day of practice to get them ready for (the district game against Dexter)."