You could see it in the eyes and hear it in the voices of quarterback Paul Kempe and offensive lineman Zach Conlan earlier this week.
There's a fierce determination by the Ursuline Fighting Irish to bring home a third consecutive Division V state championship when they face the Coldwater Cavaliers at 11 a.m. today at Fawcett Stadium in Canton. More than just winning the title is the goal to be considered one of the best overall teams in Ohio.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that the 14-0 Irish will accomplish those goals. Led by a talented senior class of 10 players, the Irish are better than most Division I teams. There isn't much they can't do offensively, and the defense is better than advertised.
It must be comforting for Irish coach Dan Reardon to be able to call running back Akise Teague's number. All Teague has done this season is rush for 2,223 yards and score 32 rushing touchdowns. He has 31 receptions for 748 yards and seven touchdowns.
Kempe has thrown for 1,298 yards and eight touchdowns. He could be the focal point of the offense, if needed, but he's satisfied handing the ball off to Teague and letting a huge offensive line do its thing.
It's hard to conceive of a way in which the Cavaliers (11-3) can pull off the upset. The feeling in Coldwater prior to the season was that the next two years would give the Cavaliers their best chance to reach the state championship game. The junior and sophomore classes are brimming with talent, including sophomore quarterback Austin Bruns.
But Coldwater kids are known for their resiliency and ability to come up big at playoff time. Remember, this is a program that defeated Cardinal Mooney twice in state title games.
The problem for the Cavaliers is that Bruns, who passed for 2,477 yards and 24 touchdowns, injured a knee in the second playoff game. He sat out the next two games and might not be able to go today.
Backup quarterback Ethan Bettinger runs the ball better than Bruns, according to Cavaliers coach Chip Otten, but he's not as efficient as Bruns in the passing game. The Cavaliers run a pass-oriented offense with plenty of motion. It takes a gifted quarterback to manage it all, and apparently Bruns is a special talent.
Without Bruns, what are already long odds for the Cavaliers would become even longer. Their only hope might be for the Irish to commit many turnovers, which was a problem in last week's win over Lima Central Catholic.
The Irish have too much working in their favor. They have plenty of playoff experience to go along with talent across the board.
A win today would place the Irish near the top for the best ever runs by an area team. It doesn't get much better than winning three state titles in as many years.
The Cavaliers won't be able to slow down Teague, who plays bigger than his 175 pounds. The Irish will score early and often, making it an easier task for their defense.
When the game is over, the Irish will again be the Division V state champion. If they win in impressive fashion, Kempe and Conlan might get their wish, which is to say they played on one of the best teams anywhere in Ohio.