Northern Championship meeting a long time in the making for Damonte Ranch, Manogue

Reno, Nev. (KOLO) - If you've paid attention this season, seeing Damonte Ranch and Manogue in the Northern final shouldn't be a surprise.

"This is a matchup that we've been waiting for, especially against Manogue," said Damonte Ranch senior quarterback Cade McNamara.

And not just because they're the two best teams. The foundation for this meeting was laid over four years ago - when a talented middle school squad was broken up.

"We know they kind of betrayed us," said Damonte Ranch wide receiver Jake Polson. "They went to Manogue after we were all on the same 8th grade team. But I think it's motivation for us to play them."

A handful of Miners used to be mustangs, including Manogue's heart and soul on offense, running back Peyton Dixon.

"It's just another team, another opponent, wearing another jersey," said Dixon. "Of course they're the team, the school I was supposed to go to. But it's nothing more, nothing less, just another regional football team."

Right. Another Mustang turned Miner puts it differently.

"I didn't really enjoy Damonte in my youth days," said Ronald Nieto, a senior Manogue defensive lineman. "So I'm kinda excited to face against them. That's kinda why I came here."

Of course, these two already got to square off this season. A 63-28 beatdown by Damonte seven weeks ago.

"We had a lot of egos, a lot of selfish guys on the team," said Dixon. "But after getting a butt whopping like that, we definitely got to look in the mirror and realize who we were."

"Unfortunately as a team, we just didn't play well," said Manogue head coach Ernie Howren. "The credit has to go to Damonte - they're a good football team. They beat us up in that game."

And the Mustangs would love to do the same again - but it won't come as easy.

"It's a new game, it's later on in the year," said Mustangs head coach Shawn Dupris. "People improve. Just play the game as if it were another opponent we hadn't seen."

"We can't expect the same thing, these same scores, "said McNamara. "We have to still come out and do our thing. We have to play fast and mean right from the get."

"We know we're the better team," said Polson. "But we still gotta go out there and compete and know they're gonna come out fired up since we beat them already."

Friday's winner is a regional champ, but this year - this game means more.

"This game has been talked about for the last four years, ever since they left," said McNamara. "It's time to get settled."