Heritage barely escaped a 7-5 Hidden Valley team last week, with its starting quarterback suffering from the flu.

But the Pioneers persevered and are back to full strength, ready for the Saturday's state semifinal contest against James Monroe. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.

"I think if you're in the playoffs right now, if you don't feel like you could beat anybody then you shouldn't belong," Heritage coach Brad Bradley said.

The Pioneers take their 13-0 record up against a 9-4 James Monroe team, which lost in the state title game the past two seasons to Brookville. Heritage looks to be the next Lynchburg team to top the Yellow Jackets, and make it back to the title game themselves.

"The great thing about this one is the winner gets that ticket to the dance,” Bradley said. “Fortunately we've been there before. We didn't have a great experience there last year so that's been our motivating factor the whole year."

Heritage Senior Linebacker Darius Thurman said: "We're expecting a lot of passing. They run a little but majority is passing. They've got big, tall receivers. The game plan is pretty much just stopping them and everything else will fall into place."

Heritage has been battle-tested this season, fighting back from deficits many times, which is a result of how Coach Bradley and his staff have come in and turned the Pioneers program around in just their second year leading the team.

"It's just changed a lot. We get more determination and effort out of everybody,” Thurman said. “Going into the locker room being down, you would think we were still winning, like how intense they are. Just keep pushing. It rubs off on the field and even in practice too."

Bradley added: "There's no secret to our success. It's getting it done in the weight room, seven-on-sevens and so on and so forth. We are an intense staff. We tell our kids we're not going to ask them to work any harder that what we work."

The high expectations have translated into wins for Heritage -- especially on its home field. The Pioneers have won 10 straight at City Stadium, dating back to last October.

"It's at our place, and that makes it even better. I don't think there's been a state semifinal game hosted at City Stadium since 1988,” Bradley said. “We feel like we take pride in that stadium. We try to protect our house and those kinds of things but at the end of the day, it comes right back to whatever team makes the least amount of mistakes, and we know we're playing a great James Monroe team."