Dec. 1—"Knowing that we're going to state, I mean, it's just the greatest feeling ever. We're going to go out there, have a good practice week and give it our all."
Those were the words from senior Max Bachali ahead of the Bishop LeBlond Golden Eagles' biggest game of the season.
LeBlond will take on a familiar opponent that resides 21 miles north in the North Andrew Cardinals, this time in Columbia, Missouri, for a chance at a 8-man state championship.
These two teams met once this season back in Week 2, where the undefeated Cardinals got the best of LeBlond with a 64-36 victory.
Although it wasn't the best showing from the Golden Eagles, they believe this time around it may come down to who has the ball last.
"We're just a different team overall. That was a Week 2 performance right there, and we're ten weeks now past that, so we've grown," said quarterback Landon Gardner. "They've probably grown, so it'll definitely be a different game then it was in week two."
The beginning of this season was an up-and-down roller coaster for LeBlond.
In its first five games, the Golden Eagles were out in front of three teams who were ranked in the top five in the state, resulting in an early and underwhelming 2-3 record.
Since those early tests, the team has rattled off eight straight wins and buried any talk of the team not reaching its goal of playing in the biggest game of the year.
"It showed us what it takes to play later into the year, and I think that's what's changed for us is the physicality we bring," head coach Chuck Davis said. "Especially at the line of scrimmage now, is a lot different than it was week two."
It's been a outstanding showing, with LeBlond putting an impressive 378 total points on the board in the past two months, while only giving up 116 total points.
For some teams, it's hard to pinpoint what all needs to be changed to get back on a winning slate, but LeBlond was able to figure it out early.
"It took a lot of work. I mean, I feel like in the first five weeks of practice, we kind of weren't focused that much," Bachali said. "I mean, we look like a whole new team. Now, we practice differently, we play better, we're stronger, faster, we really think we have a shot."
A sense of pride has followed this team since its last loss on Sept. 23, as they've not only climbed out of the hole they were in, but have built something memorable and successful on top of it.
"We earned everything, and so that's what makes us proud. You know, any coach will tell you, you got to build a culture where kids care about each other, where they play together," coach Tony Dudik said. "They don't care who does what. When they look back, they say, 'hey, I was a part of something special, I gave the best that I could.'"
Bishop LeBlond and North Andrew will kickoff at 7 p.m. today at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri.
Calvin Silvers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.