Daniel Kuzjak and his teammates know the feeling well.
It was this time last season when Western Albemarle, having already been beaten once by Monticello in the regular season, got a chance for revenge in the Region II playoffs.
Unfortunately for Western, Monticello won that game as well, ending the Warriors season and providing all the offseason motivation they needed.
"The entire year during the offseason, during weight room, summer workouts we went through, we had their name written on the board because they knocked us out and we've had that taste in our mouth for the entire year of what it felt like," Kuzjak explained.
Now the shoe is on the other foot.
Western easily dispatched the Mustangs in the regular season, 28-0, and will welcome their rivals in a Region II semifinal Friday night.
Kuzjak knows what kind of focus Monticello will bring into the rematch because he was in the same spot last season.
"Especially after that second game last year. We know what kind of fire they're going to bring with the importance of this game."
Both teams came into that regular season meeting a perfect 5-0 but it was Western who remained perfect, using a dominant defensive effort that included holding Monticello to just 48 yards on the ground and two interception returns for touchdowns.
"I thought we played with a lot of intensity that night. Our kids came over, they were focused and they played hard," Western coach Ed Redmond said.
"That game especially our defense played well. Stopped the run. They have a pretty outstanding running back. Once we stopped that and they had to throw, our athletes back there are pretty good so they made it happen," senior lineman Patrick Greer added.
The Warriors say that will be a focus of the rematch as well: stopping T.J. Tillery and forcing Jhalil Mosley and his multitude of weapons against the staunch Western secondary, a matchup that was won decisively by Western the first time around.
"That's what we've done all year. Stop the run and make them throw because we feel our athletes in the secondary can play with anyone," Kuzjak said.
Western isn't being fooled into thinking the first game will be any indicator of what the rematch will be like. The Warrior coaches have drilled the team on the notion that they'll be facing a much-improved Mustang squad.
"Certainly it's going to be a challenge," Redmond said. "We've looked at the first game, we've learned from the first game. But they're so different now. They've improved and they're a really hot football team so we're trying to focus on the present."
"Yeah anytime you play a team early in the year and then meet them again in the playoffs you're thinking about that first game and going back to memories from that first game but our coaches have prepped us all week and told us this is a different team than we saw that first week," Kuzjak added. 'So we're not taking anything for granted or thinking it's going to be an easy game."
"Win or go home," Greer said. "If we lose, me and the rest of the seniors will never be playing high school football again and I feel like this year's team has a special bond that I've never really experienced. I really think we have an opportunity to do something special and again, since they did end our season last year that kind of gives us an extra edge."
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