But with 15 starters back from a playoff team, head coach Todd Fox said the Senecas embraced the expecations a little different this season than past years.
Then Calvert was ravaged by injuries at the peak point of its schedule and fell to 1-3 after four games.
But yet here the Senecas (8-3) are, rematching with St. Paul (11-0) in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. Division VII Region 26 second-round game at Don Paul Stadium in Fremont.
“We pressed forward those three weeks through injuries, and there were different games where maybe things didn’t go right,” Fox said. “It taught us a lot about embracing those expectations we had set — but it also prepared us to respond the right way to adverse situations.
“Even last week’s game can kind of be a good synopsis of our season to how we responded,” he added. “We had a lot of adversity last week, and each and every time we never changed course.”
In the first round last week, Calvert made the 104-mile trip to Edgerton and won a 50-43 shootout. The Senecas fumbled seven times and lost five of them, and trailed 43-42 with under three minutes to play before rallying to win.
In Week 2, the Senecas lost 20-6 at Pandora-Gilboa (9-2) — which faces McComb (9-2) in the other Region 26 game on Friday, another regular season rematch.
Then came the 23-7 loss to St. Paul at home in Week 3, and that was followed by a 10-0 shutout loss vs. Oak Harbor (5-5) in Week 4.
Calvert played the last two setbacks without returning quarterback Park Hemminger, who is 94-of-167 passing for 1,452 yards and 14 TDs to just three interceptions entering Friday’s game.
Hemminger was 9-of-19 for 144 yards and 3 TDs in last week’s win.
“St. Paul is a completely different team, they are fine-tuned better where they were already good,” Fox said. “And we had some question marks and feel we’ve gotten better with those.
“Offensively I think both teams are better, as they’ve expanded their passing game a whole lot,” he added. “For us, Park is healthier, and a lot of people will say, ‘they didn’t have their QB when they played them,’ but it didn’t matter. It’s still a St. Paul team that causes problems.”
Calvert running back Austin Jones has ran 215 times for 1,894 yards and 28 TDs in 11 games this season. He ran 19 times for 56 yards in the first meeting against St. Paul, but over his last seven games — Jones’ lowest output is 157 yards and 2 TDs vs. Margaretta.
Jones ran 23 times for 252 yards and 4 TDs last week, and peaked with a 30-carry, 353-yard and 6 TDs performance vs. Fremont St. Joseph in Week 6.
Hemminger’s top target include Robby Paul (30 catches, 422 yards, 7 TDs) and Nic Somodi (26 catches, 420 yards, 4 TDs).
But all the offensive numbers aside, Fox, a 1991 Willard graduate, is well aware of what his team will be facing defensively this week against the Flyers.
St. Paul is allowing 184 yards and six points per game through 11 weeks.
“I think that part is sometimes forgotten about them,” Fox said. “Their offense is outstanding and they score a lot of points. They’re not flashy or fancy, but keep coming at you the right way. Just very good and well-balanced.
“But to me, the forgotten piece is the defense and Coach (Larry) Fisher,” he added. “They are fast and all over the field. They are multi-front and everywhere at once it seems. That’s the part that puts us in biggest bind. Defensively, they just give you so much and are so quick. We have to be ready to go.”