But in Atlee's first-ever game in the 5A North Region football playoffs last November, the fans were quickly shown that nothing ever comes easy.
After a disappointing regular season, the Raiders had to hit the road as a #10 seed, going to Stafford County to face #7 seeded Mountain View on a chilly Friday evening. And while we look back at that game now on this Fourth of July, there was just as many fireworks in the final three minutes of that November night as you'll see on America's Birthday.
Though the football season didn't advance as far as the Raiders hoped, they can take credit for winning two of our RVA Sports Network Top 10 Games of the year gone by.
Here's how RVA Sports Network wrapped up coverage of a classic high school football game as seen in the pages of the Herald Progress:
It would have been wholly appropriate for fans at Mountain View High School in Stafford Friday to receive video game controllers as a halftime gift, for they were about to be transported into Madden '16.
Down 14-7 at the break, and desperate to find some defense with their season on the line, the Atlee Raiders concentrated on their strength, as their offense went toe to toe with the homestanding Wildcats, setting the stage for a finish for the ages in a 38-35 upset victory in the first round of the 5A North Region playoffs.
The tenth-seeded Raiders (7-4) won their fourth straight game doing what they do best: airing out the football and using their talented receiving corps to light up the scoreboard. Quarterback Rasharrd Harris threw for 295 of his 418 yards in the second half, throwing four of his five touchdown passes during that time.
Atlee wasted no time, tying the game on the first offensive play of the third quarter, as Harris lasered a ball to his right nine yards to Cole Blackman, who turned, broke a tackle, and tore down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown for a 14-14 tie. But Tre Coghill, who became a focal point for Mountain View's efforts, took the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to the Atlee 15.
Moments later, the Wildcats assumed the lead again on a two-yard run by Jamil Collison-Cofie for a 21-14 lead. The penalty flag, Atlee's actual worst enemy all night, cost Chris Green a 56-yard scamper to the one yard line as a chop block infraction negated the play.
Later, a Blackman punt return to the Mountain View went off the boards thanks to a hold. The Raiders would drive, but settle for a 23-yard Ethan Ratke field goal to cut the deficit to 21-17 with 3:33 left in the third.
"In practice, I play the referee, and what I've come to realize is I've got to call plays tighter," said Atlee head coach Roscoe Johnson, visibly surprised to see the statistic sheet that read 17 penalties for 254 yards. "We're in a new region, and we'll need to get used to how things are called."
As they opened the third with a score, the Raiders closed it with one as well, as Harris found a wide open J.J. Givens, whose Wildcat defender had fallen onto the turf, for a 70-yard touchdown to give Atlee its first lead at 24-21. The lead held, thanks in part to a defensive stand, stopping Mountain View short of a first and goal by one yard at the three with 6:02 remaining, until a frantic final three-minute stretch that left even veteran fans of high school football reeling from the action.
The Wildcats began the fury with a 42-yard drive in just 2:16, as quarterback Ahmad Tweedy hit Coghill over the middle in stride for an 18-yard touchdown and Mountain View surged ahead 28-24. Jebril Murray grabbed a short kickoff, giving Atlee the ball at their 45.
It was time for Harris to Blackman again, this time crossing the middle of the field on a short pattern, doing the rest with his feet, finding the sideline, joined by Givens who threw a key block just before the goal line for a 55-yard touchdown pitch and catch. In 20 seconds, Atlee had seized a 31-28 lead.
The Wildcats weren't done. A three-play, 66-yard drive was highlighted by Tweedy throwing long to Coghill, who beat double coverage for a 47-yard score with just 51 seconds left. Mountain View led 35-31, and their fans seemed confident of victory. Atlee had three timeouts, and three reliable weapons ready for one more round.
The Raiders began at their 35, needing 65 yards in 45 seconds. On third down, a screen to Givens earned ten yards and a first down. Out of a timeout, Harris took a deep shot to Justin Hall, and in an ironic moment, it was Mountain View's sixth and final penalty of the night, pass interference, that put Atlee in Mountain View territory at the 40 with :21 remaining.
Harris looked to Givens again, the South Carolina commit using his athleticism to turn a short pass into a 26-yard gain to the 14. Timeout was called with eleven seconds left. The play was called, the stage was set.
"I knew what the play was, I knew he (Blackman) had a corner route," Johnson said of the play call. "I knew if Justin (Hall) crossed the face of the front side safety, I knew he'd slow him down a little bit, and Blackman faked one way and was wide open."
The problem was, when Harris released the ball to the right back corner of the end zone, there was too much air. Blackman jumped with his defender, grabbed the ball, leaving the only question whether a foot was in the end zone.
The referee signaled touchdown. Raider Nation erupted, as Wildcat Nation descended into shock at just 6.6 seconds left.
Mountain View had one play from their 20 yard line, but Mason Cooper sacked Tweedy to send the Raiders to a second round game Friday in Leesburg against unbeaten defending 5A North Region champion Tuscarora.
"Where we are in the Richmond area, there's good football. We respect Tuscarora, but we don't fear them, and that's what I tell our kids about anything," Johnson said.
Blackman had five receptions for 177 yards and three scores, Givens six for 211 and two. The teams combined for 1,050 total yards, 603 of them in the breathtaking second half.
Relive the game thanks to KG Media and our radio call on WHAN by going to the video on YouTube below!