With less than a day before the semi-state, Linton-Stockton High School honored its own Thursday evening, fervent fans filling the high school gym in a sea of blue and red, backing Miner football.
"They're all really cute," enthused proud mom Chantel Eaton. "My son's number 19 -- Beau Eaton -- and he's cutest of all."
With loud screams, chants and cheers, Linton showed its appreciation for the team that's given the city a thrilling undefeated run.
Now, with the school's second semi-state appearance in as many years, back-to-back has become a matter of fact.
"I think it's great we get to go two years in a row," said junior Micaela Hazelwood, who danced and bounced in the Miner mascot costume. "This year, the outcome's going to be a lot different."
Indeed, if a city's dreams could take shape, there might be, simply enough, one more red banner with white letters, hung near the rafters as proof of what 50 young men -- and one young woman, groundbreaking kicker Dyllane Deischer -- can do.
For now, it's a space to fill -- a space reserved for a semi-state win, and a space so many Miner teams have endeavored to claim.
Winning regionals, after all, has become a habit, with six wins -- 1986, 1997, 1998, 2004, 2008 and 2011 -- already bedecking a similar banner.
That's testament to the extraordinary skills Linton's squad exhibits. Many on the undefeated team are veterans of one semi-state game already, no mean feat for teenagers.
They've also proven to be groundbreakers, with Deischer the first female high school football player to play at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Now, they want the win -- one denied them last year by Indianapolis Scecina. Fittingly enough, their old foe's squaring off against them again.
This year, however, the Miners promise poetic justice, certain that things will turn out differently.
"They think they can come down here and beat us," observed senior lineman Ethan Lannan. "They're flat out wrong -- and we're going to make it a long, long ride back to Indy."
School officials and lifelong Miner fans concurred, promising the home field advantage will win the day.
"We're on offense this year, and they're on defense," Linton-Stockton School Trustee Ralph Witty observed. "Last year, they beat us. This year, I'm not so sure they can even stay with us. They're on our turf this time."
Even the littlest Miner fans concurred. Jimmie K. Wright, 4, named for his late grandfather and former Linton mayor, clapped his hands happily, standing alongside the court in a red Miner helmet.
"It's amazing," said his proud mom Keshia Buskirk. "Hopefully, this time they'll take it all the way."
His cousin, City Councilman Jathan Wright, has backed the squad all season.
"They've been great for the community, and they're a great bunch of kids," he observed.
And from the lunch counters to the city council sessions, the surging Miner squad's become the talk of the town.
They came out in droves Thursday, filling the stands and applauding as the squad's seniors spoke, then cheering as players engaged in a tug-of-war with parents, cheerleaders and fans.
A quiz emceed by Shauna Kendall was a tale of two Todds -- pitting Todd Walton against Todd Landis as the two men vied for top honors in team trivia. The crowd helped out, some shouting answers which were honored memories in a storied history.
From free blue cowbells distributed by Linton Family Pharmacy to the proud pronouncements of Linton Mayor John Wilkes, the city's thick with football fans.
"The papers asked me what I thought," Wilkes said Monday. "And I told them to meet me at Lucas Oil Stadium" for the state finals, held a week from today. "We're going."
Wilkes is proud of the team, whom he said excel on and off the field.
"They're not just good football players. Many also excel academically at school, and I see quite a few of them at church as well,"Wilkes said.
City Councilman Fred Markle concurred.
"This is the best chance we've ever had to go all the way to the state," he said.
In the end, however, tonight all comes down to the boys -- and girl -- of fall, local heroes who carry the ball in their hands, and a city's dreams of glory on their shoulders.
With so much said in praise of his squad, Jackson Bohnert, the 6-foot-3 senior lineman, proved himself a player of few words. However, like Friday's game, his team promised those words will count.
"Everything else has been said already," Bohnert observed as the crowd cheered. "Everything, except let's go, team!"