It's where dreams drift to on warm, late-summer nights as exhausted players slip into sleep after a grueling two-a-day.
It punctuates the grizzle of Coach's voice when he reaches into his bag of motivation as his team heaves for air through their fifth-too-many gasser.
It's the Super Bowl for high schoolers, the destination every minute of work, every bead of sweat is devoted to reaching. For the vast majority of players, it's the only reason to participate in a brutal, time- and attention-starved sport.
In Michigan, sixteen teams boast at least a four-game winning streak, survivors of the MHSAA Playoffs, where eight champions who have battled through a treacherous field will be crowned by Saturday night. Seven of those squads are aiming for a perfect 14-0; and two match-ups (Divisions 2 and 8) pit a pair of 13-0 teams.
GSN takes a closer look at Divisions 1-4 in part one of a two part series.
Division 1 – Saturday, 1 p.m.
A bookend game as Rockford (12-1) and Lake Orion (12-1) face off to finish the season they began with a rematch.
Rockford prevailed 17-7 in the game that was played at Eastern Michigan's Rynearson Stadium in late August. On an even bigger stage, Lake Orion gets a shot at redemption.
GSN saw Rockford disrupt and dismantle Livonia Stevenson last weekend with a defense that allowed only three opponents to score more than 20 points all season. And its offense isn't doing too shabby in the playoffs, averaging 38 points a game.
But Lake Orion might have the tools it takes to knock off the Rams. The Dragons have five shutouts overall, two in the playoffs, and plenty of motivation to show they're the better team when it really counts — at the end of the season.
Pick: Lake Orion 24 – Rockford 21. The Dragons get revenge.
Division 2 – Friday, 1 p.m.
Juggernaut Muskegon (13-0) might have been a bit overconfident after trouncing Lowell two weeks ago; they trailed Davison by 16 in the division finals last Saturday with under five minutes to go in the game. The Big Reds, somehow, recovered two onside kicks and scored three times to escape with a win.
They face Warren De La Salle (13-0), a talented team with a dynamic set of twins (Jiimy and John Martinez) and a speedy defense, in a repeat of 2006's title game, when Muskegon nipped the Piolts, 32-30.
Pick: Muskegon 35 – Warren De La Salle 21. Big Reds turn it up.
Division 3 – Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
East Grand Rapids (12-1) hopes to ride its star running back, Joe Glendening, who had two touchdowns last week and heaped seven — yes, seven, to go with 398 yards — on Mt. Pleasant two weeks ago, to a third-straight state title.
The Pioneers face a stacked Inkster (12-1) team that boasts numerous student-athletes who look to earn college scholarships, headlined by junior quarterback Devin Gardner and senior safety/wide receiver Cameron Gordon. Inskter beat its first two playoff opponents by a combined score of 102-0.
Pick: Inkster 35 – East Grand Rapids 27. The Vikings flex their muscles.
Division 4 – Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Junior quarterback A.J. Westendorp runs and guns a quick-strike Holland Christian (13-0) offense. The Maroons put up scores of 56, 61 twice and 84 in regular season games and has continued to slice defenses in the playoffs.
If they're to outscore Holland Christian, Detroit Country Day (11-2) will look to MSU commit Bennie Fowler and a talented Yellowjacket offense in its own right. Motivation for DCD also comes from a loss to Marine City in last season's Division 4 finale.
Pick: Holland Christian 42 – Detroit Country Day 24. Maroons are just too much.
A look at Divisions 5-8 is coming soon