CHESAPEAKE, Va. - It's the most enthralling enclosure in Hampton Roads high school sports.
"It's a very surreal feeling," said Oscar Smith quarterback Shon Mitchell, speaking about his team's trademark entrance. "It gets you amped and jacked-up before the game."
Prior to each home football game, the Oscar Smith Tigers exit their cage to enter the field. But not this weekend.
Even though the Tigers will be "home", there will be no cage.
"Now it's only a 30 minute drive," Tigers' defensive back/wide receiver Khalik Perry said about the proximity of Saturday's state title game. "You have to come. There's no excuse."
Saturday at Hampton University, just 25 miles north of its Chesapeake campus, Oscar Smith will take on Westfield - out of Fairfax County - for Virginia's Group 6A championship.
"I always tell the kids: 'You want to start when it's hot and end when it's cold," said Tigers head coach Bill Dee, in his first season with Smith. "That's been our goal the whole time."
Since the start of last season, Oscar Smith has won every game - regular season and playoffs - it's played against teams from the Commonwealth. Except one. Last year's 6A title game against Westfield - a seven point loss in triple overtime.
"I left thinking I could have made one more play and we could've won," Perry recalled.
"Coming into the beginning of the season, we still had a bitter, sour taste in our mouths," Mitchell explained. "We want to get that taste out."
A victory would give the Tigers revenge. It would also give them their third state title and first since 2011.
"You see two banners of state champions, you see the legacy of what being a Smith player is and that's winning state championships," Mitchell pointed out. "That's the ultimate goal for us."
"That would mean everything," admitted Perry. "That's how I want to end my career - with a state championship ring."
There won't be an enclosure Saturday, but there will be bars - bars to be raised. The Oscar Smith seniors won't have that cage from which to depart, but they can exit their high school careers with a state championship - and enter Tiger lore.