Hold on to your shorts, fans, the football game of the year is coming to a high school field near you. How big? In a word — GINORMOUS.

Hold on to your shorts, fans, the football game of the year is coming to a high school field near you.

How big?

In a word — GINORMOUS.

In the biggest game since their last winning season in 1992, the South Whidbey Falcons have a shot at the Cascade Conference title.

To say South Whidbey is an underdog against Archbishop Thomas Murphy from Everett is an understatement. ATM has won the state crown twice and was second at state last year.

For some, the scenario is something like this:

Friday night, the undefeated ATM Wildcats will descend on Waterman Field and walk off with the league championship trophy before a dejected Falcon squad and hundreds of disappointed fans. It will be ATM’s 38th consecutive victory, not having lost in the league since 2001.

At least, that’s the conventional wisdom.

But even following last week’s 19-0 drubbing by Cedarcrest — the Falcons’ only loss of the season — Wildcat coach Rick Stubrud isn’t taking anything for granted.

“You’ve had a tremendous year and we expect the players to be angry; they will want to show everyone what they can do,” Stubrud said.

“South Whidbey will be focused, aggressive and ready to rock. We know that.”

South Whidbey is tied for second place at 7-1 with Cedarcrest. Should the Falcons win, all three teams will reign as co-champions.

Another scenario has ATM losing and Cedarcrest falling to Coupeville on Friday, with the Falcons at the top.

“It could happen,” Falcon quarterback Kyle Hoch said. “Regardless, our job is to go out there and win; everything else is out of our hands.”

Great things have happened before.

In 1968, the Langley High School Falcons went undefeated, and the team was rated second in the state based on their record.

In 1979, Coach Jim Leierer took the Falcons (10-0) to the state championship at the Kingbowl in Seattle where they lost to Omak 7-6.

The team’s success has spread throughout the school and the community. Falcon Fever has taken hold.

Athletic director John Patton noted school spirit is the highest he’s seen in eight years. Last Friday, boosters had to scramble to find a third bus to handle the 154 fans traveling to the Cedarcrest game.

It’s been a dramatic turnaround for a program that has seen its share of losing seasons.

Two years ago, the Falcons didn’t win a single game; last year they were 3-7. This is the first winning season since 1992, when they went 9-2.

The freshmen and sophomores on those recent teams, and their coaches, made the decision to have a winning season. It meant grueling hours in the weight room, weeks at football summer camps, long afternoons studying game film — whatever it took.

“These guys have been working for years, literally, to get ready for the season,” Falcons coach Mark Hodson said. “Most of them are good friends, they hang out together and they’ve won together.”

Outside the community, most knowledgeable sources don’t give South Whidbey much of a chance.

“ATM has the speed advantage, and has been successful over a long period of time, with an unbeaten league record that spans years,” Lakewood head coach Dan Teeter said.

“ATM has to be considered the favorite in this game. But if the Falcons play to their ability, stop the big play and create a few breaks, there’s no reason why they don’t have a shot at knocking off the Wildcats,” he added.

Mike Cane, a sportswriter at the Daily Herald in Everett, said waiting the final two weeks for the Falcons to play their two toughest games is a real challenge.

“No one really knows if they are for real yet,” Cane said. “ATM, of course, is for real. Both teams seem willing to throw as well as run.”

On Oct. 12, the Falcons came from behind to beat Sultan 42-28.

Sultan head coach Michael McMahon said South Whidbey matches up well against ATM.

“The Falcons are going to have to believe that they can win the game,” McMahon said.

“I don’t feel most teams believe that they have a chance against ATM. The Falcons will have to play mistake free and keep the game close,” he said.

“If they can put together any sort of passing game, that will be a big plus,” McMahon added.

What that means is that South Whidbey’s senior quarterbacks Kyle Hoch (6’2, 198 pounds) and ATM’s Patrick Kelly (6’0, 185) will need to step up to the challenge.

Traditionally, ATM is a running team, but Coach Stubrud has allowed Kelly to exercise his throwing arm a bit more this season.

Through the first eight games, both players have completed 489 yards through the air.

While Hoch’s completion rate and touchdown count are higher, he’s been intercepted more; three turnovers alone against Cedarcrest last Friday.

“It was a bad night for me,” Hoch said. “I think I’ll take that as a lesson, it’s what I’m focusing on in practice this week.”

This season ATM has outscored its opponents 366-97. South Whidbey’s season point tally is 266-83.

“The Falcons seem to be playing with a great deal of confidence right now,” McMahon added. “It’s going to be a heck of a game.”