CEDAR HILL -- When the Dallas Mavericks won their championship, head coach Rick Carlisle compared it to becoming a "made man" in the NBA.
They don't have a name for it in Texas high school football, but it is special. Cedar Hill head coach Joey McGuire got his in 2006.
"Playing 16 games, number one, is such a grind," said McGuire, while holding a championship ring from the '06 season. "And to be able to go undefeated in the State of Texas, at the 5A level, is pretty incredible."
Cedar Hill shouldn't even be in the 5A Division II Championship Game -- at least, at first glance. The other three teams competing for 5A state championships have a combined one loss. Cedar Hill has four.
They began the season 1-3, but those first four games were brutal.
First was a win against Denton Guyer, which is playing in the 4A Division I championship game. Then came losses against Miami's Booker T Washington (which won a state title) and losses to DeSoto and Allen, who just played each other in the 5A Division II semi-finals.
"I understood that we went through that for a reason," safety RJ Jones said, "and that was to learn and get better, so we wouldn't have to go through that later on in the season."
Quarterback Damion Hobbs said the 1-3 start created a lot of doubters.
"I won't say people gave up on us, but it was a lot of doubt," Hobbs said. "We kept everything up between us. No matter what anybody said, no matter what the papers wrote about us, we kept each other up and we kept it going, because we knew what we were working toward at the end."
On Saturday, Cedar Hill will play one of the top programs in Texas. Katy is playing in the state title game for the 10th time in the last 16 years, and they've won five championships during that stretch.
It's going to be tough for the Longhorns, but, as evidenced by that bumpy early stretch, this season isn't about easy.