This is what Eagan football coach Nick Johnson spent the past four years telling his players would happen.

He took over a struggling program in 2019, fully believing that he could help the Wildcats get back to respectability. Friday, they received a large helping of validation for the hard work and dedication put in during leaner times.

Eagan, which hadn't had a winning record since 2014 and had three winless seasons in a four-year span, was rewarded for finishing above .500 for the regular season with its first home playoff game in eight years by virtue of garnering the No. 4 seed in one of the four brackets for the Class 6A playoffs.

The Wildcats (5-3) picked up a No. 4 seed after upsetting Shakopee 23-21 in their regular-season finale Thursday.

"We knew that game was important," Johnson said. "Now, we get our first home playoff game since 2014."

Trying to put what had become a losing tradition in the past, Johnson said it was a matter of getting the players to buy in.

"These seniors, they've been here for four years, putting in the time and the work and going through the losing," Johnson said. "This is great for them."

Eagan started the season 1-3, but Johnson said he saw positivity despite the losses. After a shellacking from Rosemount, the Wildcats beat Park of Cottage Grove decisively, followed by close losses to Woodbury and East Ridge. Those tight results morphed into victories as Eagan won its last four games of the regular season.

"I knew we were better than our record, and I kept telling the guys that," Johnson said. "We're better, we're better. And then we started winning."

The varsity players gathered in the coach's office Friday to find out where they landed in the seeding process. They knew they had a No. 4 seed, but they didn't know who they were scheduled to face. "They're excited. We're playing really well right now," Johnson said.

Eagan will host fifth seed Forest Lake, another team that had a breakout season, in the first round next Friday. The Rangers (6-2) began the season with five straight victories before losing two of their final three games.

Not surprisingly, Maple Grove, Rosemount, Stillwater and Eden Prairie received the four No. 1 seeds. Defending state champion Lakeville South, Prior Lake, Champlin Park and Centennial picked up No. 2 seeds,

There were few surprises In the smaller classes, which are seeded in a more traditional manner, by section. In Class 5A, four of the top five teams in the state rankings — No. 1 Mankato West (Section 2), No. 2 St. Thomas Academy (3), No. 3 Elk River (7) and No. 5 Mahtomedi (4) — are No. 1 seeds in their sections. Also getting No. 1 seeds were Rochester Mayo (1), Armstrong (5), Spring Lake Park (6) and Sauk Rapids-Rice (Section 8).