It never seems wise to completely count Salesianum out, but after a crushing 34-7 loss to Middletown in week 6, it seemed like a championship ceiling for the Sals might have to wait until 2019.
Senior defensive end Logan Bushweller wasn't having anything of a second-rate season by the 7-time state champion's standards.
"From that Middletown game, we knew we had to flip a switch. We were at a crossroads in our season. At that point we were 4-2, we had just taken a loss to Episcopal (Academy) as well. We realized if we want to make a run for this, we needed to pick our stuff up right now."
Ultimately, they flipped the script against the Cavaliers from that 27-point loss into a 49-25 victory two weeks ago in the quarterfinals.
(VIDEOS: Highlights of Salesianum's playoff victories over Middletown and Hodgson)
There's a lot that goes into the rapid intensification of the Sals' storm that resembled a hurricane hitting the Gulf Stream.
Head Coach Bill DiNardo started with the play at the quarterback position, where they got healthy just before that first Middletown encounter.
"Gabe Puzzangara has done a fantastic job for us. He was hurt early in the season (Dylan Mooney) was filling for him early in the season and doing a great job. The Middletown game was the first game back for him as a full-time starter, and he struggled a little bit and was rusty, but he continued to improve as the season moved along."
Puzzangara threw two touchdowns in that Middletown game, but another part of the offense that exploded in the second-half was the running game, in particular Saint Mark's-transfer Andrew Watkins, who scored all three touchdowns in the win over then-undefeated Hodgson last week.
"He has good speed," according to DiNardo. "He's not very big, he's very short and squat to the ground, but he's deceptively fast. He runs a legitimate 4.6 (40-yard dash). He's very powerful, he can take some hits, and if he can hit a seam, he can break plays."
A lot of attention is rightfully going to a Sussex Central team that has posted 7 shutouts during the regular season, including an explosive Dover team they also blanked in the second-half for a comeback last week. That said, Salesianum opened the season with 2 of their 3 shutouts of the season, adding one against rival Saint Mark's in week 10.
Bushweller thinks their defense shouldn't be overlooked.
"We've had some shutouts this year, we've had some good games. We held Middletown to 25 points in the quarterfinals and they've put up 40 in about every game. They have a great passer in Drew Fry and some great receivers, so we definitely believe that Sussex Central has a great defense, but we also believe we have a great defense."
As for pedigree, Bushweller will bring that into Saturday's championship tilt.
"My dad played in the state championship game in his high school career, and that was the highlight of his high school football career. He tells me about it all the time, and every time he tells me about it, I get more excited, every day we get, and I get more excited. It's the biggest stage in high school football in Delaware, and I can't wait to compete for a championship."
They will compete against a Sussex Central team, perhaps a year before many people thought the Sals would be there, but DiNardo isn't taking the late-season run for granted.
"We're going to enjoy this because this is not something that happens every single year. I've learned throughout my career that just because we have a young team that we're going to be back, so we're going to try to take care of our business this year."
That business takes place Saturday at 1 p.m. inside Delaware Stadium, you can hear the game on 101.7FM WDEL beginning with the Players Only Pre-Game show at Noon.
SALS NOTES: DiNardo and Sussex Central head coach John Wells locked heads in the 2006 state title game, won 34-17 by the Sals, the second of back-to-back titles for the Sals, and the first of three-straight championship game losses for the Golden Knights... This will be DiNardo's 7th state championship game, he's 4-2, including wins in 05, 06, 09, and 13.