When the 2011 middle school football season opened, Dennis Carraway carried on with his Columbia Middle School team about how it was going to have a memorable, undefeated season.
Whether or not the Raiders believed their coach at the time, they took the message to heart.
On Tuesday evening, Columbia Middle capped an unbeaten season with a 28-14 victory over visiting Evans Middle.
"The kids were focused from day one," Carraway said. "We said it as a joke at the beginning, that we'd go undefeated. I promised them T-shirts and all of that.
"They really just came through," he added. "I'm so proud of them, every single one of them. They're just great kids."
Both the Raiders and Knights came into Tuesday's clash with matching 5-0 records.
But it was Columbia Middle that set the tone early, creating havoc with its speed and tenacity on defense.
The Raiders opened by forcing a pair of three-and-outs, then produced a sack on a fake punt play on the third Knights series.
Later in the first half, they sacked Evans Middle quarterback Nick Patterson and recovered the subsequent fumble. To finish off the half, Columbia Middle's Kamaran Williams returned an interception all the way to the Evans Middle 1-yard line.
Evans Middle didn't score until midway through the fourth quarter.
"We've had a good defense all season," defensive end Ben Jean said. "It's gone pretty well, but this game was probably our best."
It wasn't just the defense dominating in the first half.
Robert Clay opened the scoring with a 90-yard punt return just minutes in.
"All I did was (catch) the ball, saw where my blocking was and just ran where my blocking was," said Clay, the team's feature running back who also had a short touchdown run.
He took the ball to the far left side on the punt return. Once he found some space on the sideline, "I knew I was fixing to leave them," he said with a smile.
Quarterback Joseph Cornett's 17-yard touchdown run and 24-yard touchdown pass to Williams, who also plays tight end, capped a 28-0 first half.
Evans Middle opened the second half with one of two interceptions by Brandon Rosier, but lost another fumble on the next series.
The Knights defense held the Raiders scoreless in the second half while making a late charge of their own.
After Rosier's second interception, Patterson found Derrick Mims on a 27-yard touchdown pass for Evans Middle's first score with four minutes to go.
Later, on Evans Middle's final drive, Rosier pulled in a long reception to set up B.J. Berry's 25-yard touchdown reception from Patterson.
"I told them in the last huddle, 'You're not going to win this game; we don't have enough time,'" Knights head coach Blake Crewe said. "'But we're not going to give up. We're going to score as many points (as we can), and we're going to go down fighting.'
"And they did," he noted. "I was proud of them."
The Columbia Area Youth Football Association, of which numerous players on both teams are members, awarded the teams with championship and runner-up trophies.