It went on and on Saturday night, and into the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Perhaps the best way to explain this year's Kennedy race is to compare it to American Idol. Through 12 weeks we have essentially visited every regional tryout, and now that the playoffs have reached the critical quarterfinal round, all the talent is on the same stage ready to perform for voters.
If the 24-year trend of being a quarterfinalist holds true, here are the players that have punched their ticket to the big stage, in alphabetical order:
■ Anthony Bonamico, Bridgeport - The running back's numbers are astounding, especially when it is taken into consideration that he has carried just 140 times. He's run for 1,760 yards and 27 touchdowns.
He had 227 yards and three scores on 13 carries in the first round against Roane County.
■ Ross Comis, Madonna - The quarterback doesn't lead Class A in anything, but has 1,408 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns to go with 1,438 yards passing and 24 TDs passing, all while being the state's overall leader in passer rating. He was 11-of-14 for 125 yards and four scores against Tucker County in the playoff opener while rushing for 134 yards.
■ Kashuan Haley, Capital - The junior's 268-yard, two-touchdown performance against Hurricane in the first round gave him 1,412 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns this season. His abilities as a kick returner and defensive back will continue to play a role in Capital's success as long as the Cougars remain alive.
■ Mason Hodge, Wayne - The Pioneers junior has already established himself as one of the state's premier linebackers, but added "rushing leader" to his resume this season. Hodge has carried 115 times for 1,217 yards and 15 touchdowns in Wayne's pursuit of a third consecutive Class AA championship.
■ Draven Riffe, George Washington - Riffe has struggled with an ankle injury of his own, missing three games in the second half of the season. Still, he has 1,669 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, which leads all Class AAA players still alive in the postseason.
■ Nick Tubbs, Huntington - As mentioned above, Tubbs has close to 1,800 all-purpose yards this season (rushing-receiving-returns) for the only unbeaten team in Class AAA. His emergence from a deep stable of backs in the second half of the season has made him a candidate, as has the Highlanders' continued success.
■ Malique Watkins, Martinsburg - Perhaps the most recognized name on the list thanks to his extended eligibility struggles this year, Watkins is the linchpin of Martinsburg's hopes of winning an unprecedented fourth straight Class AAA title. He has 1,608 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, and has thrown for 680 yards and 11 TDs.
Make no mistake, Thomas still leads this race, but the stage is set for someone to steal the spotlight.