For the past nine months Glenbard West and Wheaton Warrenville South have built toward the latest Game of the Millennium.
They have only a handful of days to come down from it.
Sunday's season-opening showdown in Wheaton boasted a little bit of everything: a nationally televised audience on ESPN2, packed stands on a perfect day and, most important, the highly anticipated continuation of a blistering football rivalry.
Both sides are hoping the Hilltoppers' 21-7 victory leaves one final legacy: a brief memory.
"This isn't the state championship, we didn't win a national title or anything like that," said Glenbard West coach Chat Hetlet. "We won one game. They know that. We'll appreciate it today and tomorrow's Monday. They're going to be in English class at eight o'clock tomorrow morning and all this great thing is going to be by the wayside and we're on to Willowbrook. On to the next game."
That's not to diminish the significance of Glenbard West's victory, not after WW South won the last five meetings, including the last two seasons in the playoffs.
WW South claimed a legendary double-overtime win in the Class 7A championship game two years ago and then beat Glenbard West in last year's quarterfinals en route to a second straight 7A title.
As established football powers in DuPage County, this matchup obviously means much to both sides. It certainly matters greatly to the players.
For the experienced players, though, they recognize this game for what it is. They know it's just an important first step in a season-long process.
"We'll be all right," said Glenbard West third-year starting lineman Johnny Caspers. "We'll just focus up and get the job done. We'll celebrate tonight and move on. We'll get back to business."
In a short week the Hilltoppers need to do so with a sense of urgency. Playing an unheard of Sunday game leaves only scant preparation time for Willowbrook, although Glenbard West will have the advantage of playing at home on Saturday.
WW South, on the other hand, plays on Friday. Not only does that leave an extremely short week, but the Tigers also face the daunting task of traveling to Park Ridge to play Maine South -- the three-time defending Class 8A champion and the consensus No. 1 team in the state.
With the nationally ranked Hawks coming up so quickly, WW South has no time to waste in recovering from its first loss in 26 games.
"We're definitely not going to slow down from here," said Tigers running back Dan Vitale. "There's only one direction, and that's forward for the Tigers. I think we'll definitely be ready for Maine South."
As the ESPN crew rolls out of town, two teams with high expectations go their separate ways in hopes of eventually reaching the 7A final in Champaign.
Sunday merely represented the first step toward that goal. It's an important step, but a first step nonetheless.
"We know what's going on," said Glenbard West senior linebacker Andrew Larkin. "We're not going to look past the next game or anyone after that."