PUEBLO — Ahead of Saturday's showdown for the Class 2A football state championship game, Delta and Sterling arrived in Pueblo on Friday to tour the Neta and Eddie DeRose Thunderbowl and participate in their last practice of the year.
It's the culmination of a season's worth of work and Friday marked the final day that the teams could soak up the perks of playing at CSU-Pueblo before turning their focus entirely to Saturday's game.
"It's been a good experience for our guys," Sterling coach Rob Busmente said. "We're trying to continue on with the themes we've been trying to hit on all season as far as the main focuses and goals of the week."
Both Busmente and Delta coach Ben Johnson know, however, that this is not like any other week. While both teams are accustomed to travel for games, the stakes are much higher this time around. This week brought a mixture of snowy weather and needed adjustments for the Thanksgiving holiday, but all things considered it sounds like each squad is ready for the tall task awaiting them.
"This is the first time we've had the whole week off for Thanksgiving," Johnson said. "That was relaxing. We stayed true to our normal practices, we just bumped them up a big earlier in the day, 1:00 like a normal game day. I think the kids are excited."
It has been some time since either team played in a state championship game. Sterling last played in one back in 2004 and lost to Rifle 7-6. It has been nearly 40 years since the Panthers made their way to a championship game, but suffered a loss to Lamar.
That came just a year after Delta won the only state football game in program history. They're hoping they can climb to the top of the mountain again, but this week is about more than just vying for a specific trophy.
"It's another opportunity to hang out with the family we've created over the last four years," Delta senior Gauge Lockhart said. "Actually, it's been my entire life that I've played football with these boys."
On paper these two teams appear very similar. Where last year's title game between La Junta and Platte Valley was dominated with two talented rushing attacks, Delta and Sterling have no problem taking to the air.
Each side knows it's important to stay within themselves and lean on what has made each team successful in 2019.
"We have to keep ourselves and our teammates in check," Sterling quarterback Brock Shalla said. "We have to treat everything normal and just be ready to play tomorrow."
Both teams got a practice under their belt at the Thunderbowl and remain in Pueblo overnight. Come Saturday morning, they'll gear up and under the hospitality of the Friends of Football group in Pueblo, take to the field in an attempt to bring home a state title.
Kickoff for Saturday's 2A state championship game is set for 1 p.m. and will be available on the NFHS Network.