The City League football champion likely will be the winner of tonight's Bishop Carroll-Heights game. It's the opener, sure, but in the past 10 years, they've combined to win eight league championships.
Both open the season ranked in the state's top 10.
There's no doubt the credit for success goes to the coaches — Carroll's Alan Schuckman and Heights' Rick Wheeler — who have built consistent winners.
But step back from the giddiness of the present. Take a moment to remember 1991.
Rankings were nonexistent. Playing for a state title existed only in the players' dreams as Carroll and Heights each finished 3-6.
Heights didn't have a single playoff berth before Wheeler was hired in 1999. It only had two winning seasons from 1961 to 1998, when it went 79-260-1.
Before Schuckman was hired in 1995, Carroll had a nine-year span that included seven losing seasons and a 22-59 record.
"I guess I love challenges," Schuckman said with a laugh when recalling why he had applied for the job.
But Carroll quarterback Tyler Nance, whose uncle, Jim, has been an Eagles assistant for 16 seasons, knows only winning at Carroll.
"Friday night was always about going to watch Carroll football games," Nance said. "They were always a great football team and fun to watch."
Quite a 180-degree turn, huh?
Schuckman, in his 16th season, is 119-35 with eight playoff appearances and an appearance in the 2007 Class 5A title game.
Wheeler, in his 12th season, is 78-33 with five playoff appearances and a spot in the 6A title game in 2009.
"They started from scratch right there, and just gradually built it up," said Dusty Trail, a 16-year Carroll assistant. "They've done a heck of a job."
"In both cases, they've built programs from the ground up," said City League athletic director Bill Faflick, who has been in the league for more than 25 years.
Both programs have had talented athletes, but current players credit Schuckman and Wheeler, along with their coaching staffs. The players' belief in their coaches is one reason they work hard.
"You don't want to disappoint him," Heights senior Evan Wessel said of Wheeler. "I don't think anyone wants to disappoint Coach or anything like that."
"We definitely do not want to disappoint the coaches," Nance said."... When they yell at you about not doing something, you don't see it as them putting you down, but it's something that you have to learn."
Wheeler and Schuckman, who met while playing at Butler Community College in the mid-1980s and text or talk to each other every week, built their programs in similar fashion.
They put in ridiculous hours during the season and the offseason, focusing on instilling discipline and motivating their players to accept the way they do things.
The success of previous teams helps the coaches keep current players on point.
"Hopefully when you look at a Heights team... you see carryover from year to year," Wheeler said. "That comes from development. Developing philosophies, the systems that are put into your program."
For Schuckman, a Carroll graduate, he challenges his players to be better people, not just athletes, than when they arrived.
"You know, I had a vision, and they believed in it," said Schuckman, whose only losing season was his first before winning two straight City League titles."... The pieces fell into place, and it fell into place pretty quick."
Consistency clearly is a part of Wheeler and Schuckman's success. Consistency in rules, consistency in coaching.
They are entrenched in their school communities. Wheeler is Heights' athletic director, Schuckman is an assistant principal.
"I think the relationship is one of respect," Schuckman said. "We both have complex jobs.... I know the pressure that he's under."
Tonight that pressure is to win a game. One that could decide a champion.