Whether trying to make sense of a first-round playoff ouster or a losing season, nonconference neighbors Rampart and Liberty didn't allow themselves much time to dwell last winter. They sent off their seniors and fixated on one date: Aug. 25, 2017.
The Rams will travel just 3 miles down the road to face the Lancers in the area's football season opener and The Gazette's Game of the Week on Friday night.
"I expect from Rampart what I expect from everyone - that they're going to want to come out and punch us in the face," Liberty senior wide receiver Matt Lively said.
Rampart senior running back Jackson Beale did nothing to dispel that notion.
"We're looking to destroy them," Beale said.
Last year in the season's first game, the Rams did just that, winning 42-12. Beale rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, finishing with 113 yards on 16 carries.
Rampart went on to win its first league title in 15 years while Liberty's season never got off the ground (3-7, 1-4 4A Foothills).
Rampart lost 1,000-yard rusher Xavier Bishop-Falau, among others, but last year's quarterback Keion Cross has another year of experience.
This isn't the same Liberty team either, Lively said. They have better depth and a strong senior class, and this time, they're focused.
"Last year we had a little team drama that kind of exploded in our faces a couple of days before the game," he said. "This year we've kept it all on lock, so there are no surprises."
"It was not a fun game. Everyone wanted to be done with the game," teammate Nick Gossage added.
"We have a huge chip on our shoulder. We're not trying to get blown out like we were last year."
It will still be a tall order for the Lancers to upset the Rams for just the second time in program history.
Coach Marc Sites has been preparing his team all summer for the "big and physical" Rams.
"The line of scrimmage will be a key for us," Sites said. "We'll have to minimize our mistakes and play good, sound, fundamental, clean football."
On the other side, Rampart is preparing for an opponent that will take to the air early and often at D-20 Stadium. They're also expecting a tougher opener as they begin their 4A Pikes Peak title defense.
"When CHSAA destroyed the leagues, we kind of lost some of those rivalries," Rampart coach Rob Royer said. "To be able to keep Liberty as one of those in-district rivalries has been really good for the kids."