With all due respect to Harvard-Yale, Hampton-Phoebus has always been The Game around these parts. It's been the one guaranteed draw every year at Darling Stadium.
But when these teams met on Oct. 22 with first place on the line, virtually all of the 9,400 fans who crammed into the bleachers that night knew they'd be doing it again. Five weeks later. In the Eastern Region Division 5 championship game.
And it happened.
Phoebus made quick and easy work of Great Bridge for a 35-6 win in Friday night's semifinals. And Hampton eliminated Norcom in an efficient 24-0 win.
So Round 2 is 7:30 p.m., Friday, at Darling Stadium. Get there early.
"Yeah, we thought we'd be playing them again," Phoebus coach Stan Sexton said. "They're a really good football team. I felt both of us would be tested at some point, but I thought we were both good enough to be facing off again in the regional championship."
Winning the Eastern Region title is not only a big step, it's often the toughest one.
Of the last 21 Division 5 champions, 15 have come from the Eastern Region. Hampton and Phoebus have won five each.
Friday night's game will mark the seventh time the Peninsula District powers have met in the postseason. In four of the previous six, the team that won the regular-season game also won in the playoffs. But twice, in 2003 and '05, the regular-season loser got revenge.
Here's a recap of the previous six playoff games.
Nov. 20, 1998: Hampton 28, Phoebus 6 (Eastern final)
A month following a tough 10-7 win, the Crabbers dominated behind Mack Jones' 105 yards and Marques Hagans' two touchdowns. Phoebus' running game was held to a minus-9 yards and five first downs. Two weeks later, the Crabbers won their fourth consecutive state championship.
Nov. 23, 2001: Phoebus 46, Hampton 15 (Eastern final)
For the first time in the rivalry's history, the Phantoms won back-to-back games. They had cruised 27-7 in the regular-season game, and the rematch was no match. Phoebus led 26-0 in the second quarter and rolled behind Travis McCright's 123 yards.
Two weeks later, the Phantoms won their first of back-to-back state championships.
Nov. 21, 2003: Phoebus 24, Hampton 20 (Eastern semifinals)
Five weeks earlier, Hampton had ended Phoebus' 31-game winning streak with a 23-7 win. But in the one that really mattered, Elan Lewis rushed for 190 yards and scored the winning touchdown on fourth-and-goal with 6:35 remaining. Hampton coach Mike Smith missed the game after undergoing emergency gallbladder surgery.
A week later, the Phantoms lost to Indian River in the final.
Nov. 26, 2004: Hampton 26, Phoebus 21 (Eastern final)
Talk about a crazy game. The Crabbers scored the game's first 20 points; the Phantoms answered with three unanswered touchdowns to take a 21-20 lead at halftime. Tyrod Taylor scored the game winner for the Crabbers on a 12-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
The following week, Hampton lost to Meadowbrook in the state semifinals.
Nov. 25, 2005: Hampton 29, Phoebus 7 (Eastern final)
Five weeks earlier, the Phantoms had won 12-6 in a game Smith still disputes. An apparent touchdown by Taylor on a punt return in the final minutes was nullified by a penalty. In the rematch, the Crabbers rolled behind Taylor's 307 total yards and three touchdowns.
Hampton went on to beat Stone Bridge for its 17th state championship.
Nov. 16, 2007: Phoebus 21, Hampton 6 (Eastern semifinals)
After posting its first shutout of the series in October, Phoebus was just as dominant in November. The Crabbers took a brief 6-0 lead on Tron Martinez's touchdown, but Tajh Boyd threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another.
Phoebus ended up losing two weeks later in the state semifinals to Stone Bridge — which remains their last loss.