With unseasonably warm weather in Charlottesville Tuesday afternoon, it felt more like early October at football practice at St. Anne's-Belfield School than days before the state title game.
But the Saints only have a few days left before their season will come to an end. And with a win Friday night at home against Trinity Episcopal, STAB will end the year as VISAA Division II champions.
"We're pretty fired up, man," senior running back Jake Allen said Tuesday. "I mean, we've been waiting for this all season, and now it's here. And we're just going to come out, leave a boom."
"It's surreal, just knowing we come out every day and practice really hard, and come together as a team," said junior receiver Jalen Harrison. "To work, to one goal, and it's here now. And we've just got to fulfill our task, and keep it going strong."
STAB will enter Friday night's state title game riding an eight-game winning streak that began when the Saints beat Trinity 54-14 in Charlottesville on Sept. 19. They've outscored their opponents by an average of 47-11 over the course of that winning streak, including a 40-24 win at home against Nansemond Suffolk in the state semifinals.
With basically every starter back from last year's state semifinal team, STAB coach John Blake knew his team had the potential for a state title run since last summer.
"We all kind of had that in the back of our heads, that we would love to be in this spot right now," Blake said Tuesday. "And now the fact that we are, I think we're all kind of, it took us over the weekend probably to realize, "Hey, we've made it this far." To me, that's pretty cool. But we've got a job to do."
Trinity has gone 6-1 since that September loss at STAB, including last week's state semifinal win at Bishop Sullivan Catholic - the only team to beat the Saints this season. The Titans will put their own three-game losing streak on the line on Friday night.
"They are so much better than the day they played us," Blake conceded Tuesday.
But Blake's players also realize that their number one goal for the season is now a win away. And Harrison says the Saints are "very relaxed" heading into Friday.
"Just sticking to what we've done all year," Harrison explained. "And just going by Coach Blake. Coach Blake pushes us down the right path. And just going by all of our core values and core plays, it just keeps us going."
"By Friday, we'll be good to go," said Blake. "I think right now, we're just trying to make sure that everybody has calm nerves, and recognizes where we are, and try to have some fun with this week. The thing I tried telling them yesterday is that the hard work is done. We've gotten to this point. So now we just need to relax, and play."