When the 2013 high school football season began, the Louisville Wildcats were among the most powerful teams in 3A.
After getting eliminated from the playoffs in 2012, it was quickly evident the Cats had the power to make a run at the state championship.
"It mainly comes from how long we've been working together," said senior receiver Dalton Hudspeth. "It's been four years strait, five for some of us, because we came over here in the spring in middle school."
Hudspeth and Desmond Goss were part of a corps of senior receivers catching passes from quarterback Wyatt Roberts. By September, the Wildcats had knocked off powers from all over the state. Columbus, Philadelphia, Noxubee County and Wilkinson County all fell at the hands of Head Coach M.C. Miller's complete team.
"Mixed emotions, you know, on one hand, it's like 'Wow we're finally here in the last game,'" said Roberts. "And on the other, it's like... you don't really want it to be done."
Roberts and the offense were unstoppable in the playoffs, but when they met Hazlehurst in the championship game, it was defensive tackle Malik Slaughter's deflection of a two-point conversion pass that secured a perfect season and a state crown for Louisville.
Back in Meridian, the Lamar Raiders were a different story, a team that had huge holes to fill on offense when 2013 began.
"We've got a corps group of about 15 or 16 starters back and we know what they can do," said Head Coach Mac Barnes in August. "That's what we're trying to find is guys that can play on Friday night."
An injury forced the Raiders to bring in freshman quarterback Davis Harrison in the first game of the season, but Lamar put together an improbable 7-1 start, including a victory over much bigger Northeast Lauderdale High School.
The Raiders defeated Heritage Academy to advance to the M.A.I.S. Division 2, AAA Championship.
"All year as you look at things, I really felt if we got there, it would be Mag Heights, and they didn't disappoint anybody," said Barnes before the title game. "They're one of the top five private school teams in the state."
And on a cold night in November, the Raiders overcame an ugly first half to bring coach Barnes his third title as Lamar head coach.