Westminster Catawba's senior football players are 0-4 against Concord, N.C.'s First Assembly.
"Heck,'' offensive lineman Andrew Duvall said Thursday afternoon before boarding the school's activity bus for practice at Charlotte's North Mecklenburg High School, "We're thinking we should have beaten them the last time we played. We had some injuries and still were in the game trailing 13-0 with a minute left in the third quarter.''
It ended up 34-0 shutout and put a halt to the Indians' winning their conference and was their only loss this season in front of possibly the biggest home crowd the school has had.
But that was then and tonight is now. And at 7:3O, the Indians and Eagles will tee the ball up and battle one more time, but on this night at North Mecklenburg, for the NCISAA Division II state championship.
Westminster Catawba is healthier than at any time this season, and several players said the key is to be just as physical as the bigger and talented Eagles.
"Redemption, that's what we want,'' senior running back Josh Parker said. "We feel like we can beat them and with everyone playing this time around, I like our chances.''
And so does Indians coach Dan Devine, who has led his team to an 11-1 record and one step further in the playoffs. Devine is entangled in an enjoyable circle that is near completing a full rotation.
Devine was head coach at Hickory Grove (N.C.) two seasons before coming to Westminster Catawba as Ben McGarity's replacement. His first season at Hickory Grove, Devine's team lost to First Assembly in the state semifinals.
Last year Hickory Grove lost to Westminster Catawba in the same round. So that makes tonight's game a little more special, if that's possible, because like his players, Devine can break an unwelcomed string tethering him to the Eagles.
But as Devine said, it's going to take a big effort by his team. First Assembly is coached by former Carolina Panthers defensive back Mike Minter and has several Division I prospects.
"His team plays like he did in the pros; fast and wide open,'' Devine said. "They will spread the field and look for openings. That's what we have to stop and to do that, we have to control the ball.
"We have to keep it moving and put it in the end zone. We need long scoring drives that eat up the clock and keep the football away from them.''
And with his players at full speed, Devine is confident his team can carry out this assignment.
In this season's earlier meeting, Duvall went out before the half with an ankle injury; Parker was gone midway through the third quarter with a concussion; fullback and the team's best defensive cover man, Cameron Atkins, was injured and never left the sideline.
"It hurt to stand and watch because I wanted to be out there protecting my quarterback and running backs,'' Duvall said. "It will be different this time. They are physical, and we are going to be more physical than them. We've going to slap them upside the head early and let them know we came ready to play.''
Ready is a keyword at Westminster Catawba this week, with more time spent studying film to learn every tendency the Eagles have. Thursday afternoon was a break from the norm. The bus was sitting outside the locker room about 10 feet away.
The players were sitting in front of their lockers or on the floor laughing and joking before loading up and heading to North Mecklenburg.
And Parker, who has run for 1,458 yards, has 250 more on pass receptions and has scored 18 touchdowns, looking healthier than ever.
"This might be the biggest game ever at this school,'' Parker said. "And I don't ever remember being this excited. But 0-4? That's history. Our thoughts are on going up there and winning.''