The first game was played in the heat of summer, two Fridays before Labor Day.
The semifinals were played Saturday, five days before Thanksgiving.
What a long, fun trip it's been.
Here's a big-time shout-out to our five area teams who took their shots at going to the Dome on Saturday.
Two won, three lost. But all five deserve our praise, congratulations and a hardy pat on the back.
And an extra piece of pie on Thursday.
Well played, gentlemen.
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS
It was a perfect day for football around the state and our area teams certainly covered the state --- North, South, East and West.
In Harrisonville, the Helias Crusaders were seeking revenge, not to mention a trip to the Class 4 state championship game.
They got both.
On Aug. 24, the Wildcats edged the Crusaders 38-37 in a wild overtime affair. On Saturday, it was another wild one, just no overtime.
Helias 17, Harrisonville 7.
The Crusaders made the plays they had to make to win this one, on offense, defense and special teams.
Helias' first touchdown came on 4th-and-20, a 30-yard strike from Wyatt Porter to Cole Distler in the first half. Garrett Buschjost's touchdown in the game's final minute sealed it.
Defensively, the Crusaders forced three turnovers --- one a fumble recovery in the end zone --- and gave up seven points --- not 38. Enough said.
And until Buschjost's late touchdown, Anthony Woodruff's 40-yard field goal was the difference.
Now, the Crusaders are one win away from the school's third state football championship. But standing in the way is Webb City, which has seemingly ended Helias' season every year since 1998 --- the last time Helias won a state championship.
Webb City is the two-time defending state champion and is seeking its state-record 11th title. To be sure, this will be no easy task.
But there might be just a touch of magic in the air surrounding Helias these days --- Phil Pitts was an all-state player for that 1998 team; he's now the head coach.
Game time is 11 a.m. Saturday.
Not too far from Harrisonsville is Holden, a team that entered the game with two losses. The Eagles left the game with three.
Blair Oaks 46, Holden 32.
The Falcons have obviously had better days on defense, but the offense was certainly good enough.
Quarterback Daniel Castillo and running backs Derek Otto and Eli Roberts were a three-headed monster --- again. They've done it all season and they did it again on this day, with help from another great effort from a stout offensive line.
Last year, the dream of the Dome fell one win short for the Falcons. Not this year.
Up next is Lamar, the defending Class 2 state champion, at 2:15 p.m. Saturday. And just like Helias, Blair Oaks faces a tall task.
Lamar leveled Caruthersville 69-12 in Saturday's other semifinal and --- get this --- has won its last five games by a combined 325-54.
That's an average margin of victory of 65-11 against, supposedly, some of the best Class 2 teams in the state. Wow.
Still ... Dream Green.
Moniteau County teams California and Tipton entered the day a combined 26-0.
The mark is now 26-2, as both the Pintos and Cardinals ran into buzzsaws.
In Maryville, the Spoofhounds were in control from start to finish in a 42-7 win over California, which was without its top playmaker, Anthony Price.
Tipton's roadblock and nemesis through the years did it again Saturday, as Valle Catholic rolled to a 43-18 win in Ste. Genevieve. This ends the careers of several great seniors, including the one and only Dallas Peoples.
Salisbury's shot at glory ended with a 48-0 loss to Penney.
These were tough ends to great seasons. But never forget the journey and the great memories created along the way --- and the same goes for the Southern Boone soccer team, which had a fabulous season end with a 1-0 loss in the Class 1 championship game to defending champion Springfield Catholic.
You should all be proud.
For the players returning next season, preparation for the 2013 starts soon.
We'll see you in August.