HOUSTON – When North Shore looks nearly flawless on gameday it's not by mistake.
And it is not easy.
"These kids lift five days a week and they are constantly in the weight room," North Shore coach Jon Kay said. "Then they will transition into the meeting room, on the board or video. Then to the field focusing on individual drills, ones vs twos and then special teams block and all the way through. There is so much that goes into it.
"Hopefully our kids are doing the things to make it look easy on gameday but we are always striving to make Monday through Friday more difficult than Saturday."
That method has worked to perfection.
North Shore is in the State Semifinals for a third consecutive season – the last two winning the Class 6A Division I State Championship over Duncanville. But this year, due to COVID-19, has made this journey much different than years' past.
"This year has been a year like none other in more ways than just football," Kay said. "I don't know if a lot of the things in the past have compared to what has had to be done this year.
"As far as the road to get here I think every year is different."
What is different is this is the final year for Dematrius Davis and Shadrach Banks.
The two have become the faces of North Shore football since they were freshmen. Davis and Banks became one of the toughest duos to defend in the state as sophomores. As juniors, Davis unveiled his stellar running ability, while Banks missed the majority of the season with an injury.
Now, as seniors, the duo is once again putting up big numbers and showing that senior leadership throughout the process.
"I think they both came into this year comfortable in their roles as leaders and embracing what that role meant," Kay said. "I think that's paid huge dividends to the success of this team."
Through their leadership and especially their work ethic, Kay says other players – such as a Ta'von Griffin, Caleb Flagg, Jacoby Davis, Josh Garrett and Darius Clark – have had great examples to follow as they have developed through the year.
"This is Texas, everybody has great players but it is those great high school players that make the difference that are at home watching or out here playing," Kay said. "Those kids have been a huge part of that."
They will play a pivotal role as North Shore faces Austin Westlake, the reigning 6A Division II State Champions, in the Class 6A Division I State Semifinals this weekend.
Led by Cade Klubnik at quarterback, who has passed for 3,099 yards and 32 touchdowns, the Chaps enter this game a perfect 12-0.
"It's an incredibly well-coached, incredibly athletic football team," Kay said about Westlake. "They've absolutely dominated everybody that they've played this year. There's no mystery to their success, those kids are coming to work every day.
"They are winning games in ridiculous fashion and just so impressive to watch them on video. We got everything we want this week. It's going to be a clash of the titans and we're looking forward to it."
Defensively for the Chaps, Nick Morris and Hayden Bray lead the charge upfront as the duo has combined for 24 sacks. Morris is also second on the team in tackles with 75, only two back of Brady Lamme's 77 tackles.
The last time these two programs met this late in the playoffs came in 2015 – in the 6A Division I State Championship game.
North Shore won that 21-14 in overtime inside NRG Stadium for what was then the program's second-ever state title.
"These kids weren't around in 2015 the last time we faced Westlake," Kay said. "So, this is new to them, but they definitely know who Austin Westlake is."
Standing awaiting the winner of North Shore-Austin Westlake on the other side will be either Southlake Carroll or Duncanville.
"When you play 6A Division I football you know every week you're going to come up against it," Kay said. "We know how strong this Region III has been over the last few years you have to learn to embrace the challenge of playing great programs."
When it comes to this time of year, which North Shore has gotten used to playing during – not usually in January though – Kay said the biggest key to success is handling the moment.
"Our kids have done a really good job of doing that in the past," he said. "We're going to see what kind of maturity this group has because you're going to have to take a punch in the face when you play this team.
"I think these thoughts of going in there and blowing somebody out by 50 are pie in the sky fantasy. You're going to have to go in there earn it, trade punches and I think the team that handles the ups and downs that come with a game of this magnitude has the best chances of winning."