But Friday night, facing perhaps the best Class AAA team in the state, everything fell apart in fourth quarter.
With two fourth-quarter touchdown passes from quarterback Damion Terry to running back Delton Williams, Erie Cathedral Prep defeated West Allegheny, 27-13, in the PIAA quarterfinals at Erie's Veterans Stadium.
A team that few expected to advance far in the WPIAL playoffs, let alone win the Class AAA title couldn't quite latch onto a berth in the PIAA semifinals.
"They're very talented, you tip your hat to them," West Allegheny coach Bob Palko said of Cathedral Prep.
"There's nothing you can do about it. They had a better recruiting year than Pitt -- I don't know what to tell you."
Using its multi-pronged wildcat rushing attack and largely relying on the legs of sophomore running back Chayse Dillon and his 51 yards, West Allegheny held a 10-6 lead at halftime.
Less than two minutes into the second half, however, things began to unravel for the Indians.
An aggressive rush from Cathedral Prep caused a blocked punt that gave the Ramblers (13-0) the ball at the Indians 1 and led to a touchdown from Williams on the next play.
"We've had some great special teams play the last few weeks, but the blocked punt, [we] talked about it several times this week," Cathedral Prep coach Mike Mischler said.
"I thought [the special-teams coach] was a little nuts with what he wanted to do with it, but we got through there. It was a huge, huge play."
West Allegheny tied it six minutes later with a field goal, but, in the first minute of the fourth quarter, Terry lobbed a pass to the back of the end zone that was hauled in by his fellow Michigan State commit Williams, returning the Ramblers to the lead, this time at 20-13.
On Cathedral Prep's next drive, Terry again found Williams, this time on a 35-yard touchdown pass, one that put the game largely out of reach for the run-oriented Indians.
"Since freshman year, that's been my main guy," Terry said of his connection with Williams.
"He's been one of the best receivers on the team and our best runner.
"With the ball in his hands, he's just a playmaker."
In the second half, the Ramblers outgained the Indians by a 268-59 margin, including a 97-28 advantage in rushing yards.
Terry finished with 365 total yards and three touchdown passes, with Williams adding 140 total yards and three touchdowns.
For Palko and his team, a sting of disappointment comes with the loss, but after a 12-win campaign from a roster built around few seniors, there remains a feeling of success. All with an eye to the future.
"You saw a good football team here," Palko said.
"We came up and battled, but just came up short."
Craig Meyer: email@example.com and Twitter: @craig_a_meyer.