LEWISTOWN - In case you thought the Old Iron Kettle game had lost some juice, this year's Indian Valley and Lewistown football teams showed that certainly isn't the case.
Just ask every player that will wake up sore and tired this morning if the game didn't have some extra physicality and hard hits each time the ball was put in play.
And the players that are a little bit hoarse? That is because they were ready to be at each other's throats after seemingly every play.
Oh, then there are the Lewistown coaches who cooked up a new offensive formation and set of plays just in time for their cross-county rival.
"We were just trying to get them off guard a little bit with a few different things," Lewistown coach Allen Muir said. "It was a little wrinkle for Indian Valley."
And why did Lewistown's starting quarterback gut it out with a shoulder injury?
Because of the what the kettle means.
Still think it is just a trophy?
Then why did many of the Indian Valley players sport a mohawk hairstyle beneath their helmets?
Just ask freshly-coiffed Warrior Nick Myers - who seemingly had the kettle fused to his right hand after the game.
"It feels really good right now (to hold the kettle)," he said grinning from ear to ear. "It just shows that we're the dominant team in Mifflin County. It's a tradition. Every year we get mohawks for the Lewistown game."
It's about tradition that lives on through the kettle itself. Each team that earns the right to hold it gets its name etched right into the side of it for all to remember.
If the kettle game is just another game, then why was Tom Shearer soaked from having a drink cooler dumped on his head after the game - and thrilled to be so?
Because of what the kettle means.
"They got me," he said. "But that's okay. I'll take that anytime."
The kettle game brings a lot of pressure for each side. The team that has it wants to keep it. The team that doesn't wants to win it back. And it shouldn't be any other way.
"It's a lot of pressure to keep it," Shearer said. "They want it bad and that's the way it should be. It just makes it sweeter when it's that much of a rivalry. When you're fortunate enough to get it, you take it."
There's no doubt that it will be that way for a long time because of what that fairly normal-looking black and gold kettle means to each player and coach that is lucky enough to win it.
It means victory and bragging rights - a three-year run in the game now for Indian Valley. But don't think for one minute that Lewistown will just let it be four straight next year.
If Indian Valley wants to keep it, it will have to earn it.
Just the way it did this year.
Just the way it should be.
Brian Cox is a Sentinel sports reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.