Every time the Wahoo High School Warriors prepare to play their cross-town rivals, the Bishop Neumann Cavaliers, head coach Dave Brabec tells the girls to treat it like any other game.
"It's just a blue team versus a red team," said Wahoo senior shortstop Taylor Otte.
"They're just an opponent, not our cross-town rivalry."
However, each of the four times the two Wahoo teams faced each other this year, the players said that the rivalry was palpable.
"When we play, it's a big deal. The whole town is there," Otte said.
The familiar teams played their fifth and culminating matchup Thursday at the Nebraska State Softball Tournament, which resulted in a 4-2 Wahoo victory and ended up securing the Warriors a slot in the Class C championship game against Wayne High School Friday.
The Warriors ultimately secured a 10-6 win over Wayne for the Class C state title.
Bishop Neumann made a valiant push against Wayne in the tournament semi-finals Friday, coming out just shy of a victory that would have put them face-to-face with their Wahoo rivals yet again.
It's true — the stories of the two teams have been intricately and almost comically intertwined this year.
Carly Brousek, senior catcher for Bishop Neumann, has been playing summer softball with the girls from the Wahoo High School team since she was eight. Until two years ago, the city had only one summer softball program, causing girls from both the public and parochial schools to play together during the summer.
Thus, many of the girls grew up wearing the same jersey.
"I'm good friends with all of the girls," Brousek said Thursday just before their game against Wahoo. "It's something you enjoy, but it's mentally taxing at the same time."
The Cavaliers had an exciting season this year, Brousek said, which included their 200th win in team history and their first every victory over Wahoo in a preseason matchup.
When the cross-town powerhouses come together for games, the atmosphere gets a little tense, she said, but it also creates a unique spirit of community.
"It's a really neat thing to see," said Carly's mom, Patty Brousek. "If we win, they come over.
If they win, we go over. At the end of the day, we all get along. It's a good relationship."
And, when it comes to red shirts versus blue shirts, the girls say they wouldn't have it any other way.
"Being friends and playing each other is a special thing," Carly said. "It's not bad. It's a special challenge for us."