It started with an announcement that this game was "Countin' on the Mountain."
The first half became "The thrill on the hill." The final 24 minutes was "Be prepared to be hit, when you face SPitt."
South Pittsburg survived an erratic first half before dropping the gloves and the hammer on the previously unbeaten Signal Mountain Eagles. The Pirates dotted this exclamation-point win with a touchdown pass midway through the final quarter on the way to a 48-20 win over the first-year Eagles.
We'll call that final South Pittsburg score -- a perfectly thrown pass that capped a near-perfect night for quarterback Terrell Robinson -- one to grow on for the young Eagles.
"Don't you say anything about the points," Signal Mountain coach Bill Price told his team after the game, "because it's our job to stop them."
One thing that will be difficult to stop is the momentum of this rivalry in the years to come.
Amid roughly 5,000 of their closest friends, neighbors and classmates, two high school football teams with the same dreams of a district championship stood toe-to-toe. Each of these teams will be playing meaningful games in November, and each of the future games between these teams will have meaning.
Champions are made -- both in a given season and over the long haul -- in games like this, just as rivalries are born on nights such as this one.
"Oh, yes, I can see this being the type of game that could grow into a big rivalry," South Pittsburg coach Vic Grider said. "Both of these communities really support these teams, and there will almost always be some playoff implications involved.
"This can be the type of game everyone could look forward to every year."
These Pirates arrived at the Eagles Nest angry. Be it the traffic on the ride down Interstate 24 or the hovering threat of rain or whether they weren't real happy with their pregame meal, who knows?
Mainly, though, the Pirates pulled into the parking lot at Signal Mountain angry that these Eagles, who soared out of the gate with four consecutive wins, had the nerve and vigor to challenge what South Pittsburg -- the coaches, the players, even the community -- believes belongs to them. And after four physical quarters, they left little doubt that the District 6-A title will head to the Brooks/Fuqua Gym on the South Pittsburg campus.
For these Pirates, though, they will need to clear some extra room on the mantle because the 6-A trophy is but one of the items destined for the glass case this winter. They are fast and aggressive and surely rank among the area's top Class A teams of this decade before year's end.
And this is the type of springboard -- and intense setting with playoff implications at hand -- that can allow Grider & Co. to prepare for bigger games with the season hanging on the line.
"We settled down and started to play," Grider said of the second-half transformation. "It was tough (in the first half), but we made some adjustments and made some big plays."
These Eagles have carried themselves like no other first-year program in recent memory. Until Friday night, they had scored frequently, moved purposefully and executed efficiently with a similar confidence and swagger that Price has displayed from the start of this program less than two years ago.
Sure, feelings may be raw on the mountain this morning after the Pirates' second-half eruption that included three long touchdown runs and a series of highlight-reel-worthy defensive hits that energized the raucous Pirates faithful who filled the visitors' stands and lined the sideline sometimes two-to-three deep.
It's Signal's first loss, but sometimes one setback can lead to steps forward.
"I think we played awfully well in the first half," said Price, who took his team to intermission down just 14-7, "but we did take advantage of some chances we had early. They're a great team, and we'll get better from this.
"I think this is going to be an intense rivalry for years to come, and we're going to look forward to seeing them again I can promise you that."
And we'll look forward to seeing it.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...