It all began two years ago for the Priory football team. It was the last game of the 2011 season and the Panthers were thumped badly by rival Pinewood.
Priory coach Doug Sargent left that game with a simple, but determined goal.
"We really weren't in shape in the fourth quarter of that game," Sargent recalled. "In that last loss to Pinewood we got beat up. We had a lot of injuries in that one."
Sargent knew something had to change if his team was going to be competitive in the Mission Trail Athletic League eight-man conference. So, he gathered together a staff that included a fitness instructor plus a strength and conditioning coach, and set out to get his team in the best shape possible.
"We have a hill out back that we call Championship Hill," Sargent explained. "We run that every Monday for an hour, up and down. We do sit ups and push ups. Since we started doing that, we haven't lost."
Priory stretched its two-year winning streak to 16 games on Friday with a 56-22 victory over, appropriately enough, visiting Pinewood. Priory wrapped up the Panther Bowl Cup (both schools have Panthers as their mascots) and captured the MTAL title with a 7-0 mark (9-0 overall).
Pinewood finished 5-2 and 6-2 and was clearly not in the kind of shape that Priory exhibited.
"We're in better shape," Sargent said. "We all bought into that . . . that's the bottom line -- strength and conditioning."
Priory showed its speed and strength during the afternoon game in Portola Valley and put up enough points during a 28-6 first half to win the game.
Senior James McDaniel scored three touchdowns in the first half on runs of seven, 56 and eight yards. He had 116 rushing yards on 13 carries at intermission. He added 123 on 15 hauls in the second half, scoring once on a 55-yard run to cap his standout career with 239 yards and four TDs on 28 carries.
"James McDaniel always plays well against Pinewood," Sargent said.
Senior quarterback Will Latta hooked up with senior wide receiver Tom Latta for a three-yard TD play in the first half to help put the Panthers in position to win.
Will Latta added a 28-yard scoring run in the second half, senior Charlie Tidmarsh scored on a 19-yard run and 6-foot-2, 247-pound defensive lineman Garrett Weber made the most of his brief backfield duty by bulling his way for a 36-yard scoring run to give Priory a 34-6 advantage on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Priory gained 443 total yards and held Pinewood to 271. Matthew Murphy ran 65 yards for a score and Wilson Fields caught a 64-yard scoring pass from Kevin Tracy for Pinewood's highlights.
No sooner had Fields scored, that McDaniel turned Priory's next play from scrimmage into a 55-yard TD of his own for the final winning margin.
A short while later, two Priory players grabbed a big orange water tub and tried to douse Sargent, who eluded the cold bath for the most part. Maybe next year.
Sargent, however, loses 11 seniors of his championship team.
"That's going to hurt," he said.
Heading off with back-to-back titles are seniors David Reichert, Alex Klein, Aaron Reis, Christian Wookey, Austin Mirabella, David Theis, Brandon Zarringhalam, the Latta boys, Tidmarsh and McDaniel. Sixteen straight victories. That's the legacy they leave behind.