Barbecue dinners were served under sprawling red-and-white tents. Honorary captains were recognized. Politicians spoke. Official parties and bonfires were even staged the night before.
The two-day event known as the Gulf High Alumni Invasion, capped by a rare Saturday game against rival Hudson, was as close to a Super Bowl setting as a mid-sized public school could be expected to muster.
And like many Super Bowls, the game itself was an anticlimactic rout.
Exploiting its glaring speed advantage with a succession of big plays, the Bucs (7-0, 3-0) overwhelmed the Cobras (2-5, 1-2) 59-22 to move one step closer to the program's second playoff berth and antagonize their Class 3A, District 8 rival in the process.
North Suncoast rushing leader Adrian "Bubba" Golden led Gulf's 474-yard effort, running for 250 and four touchdowns. He capped his last one, a 19-yarder with 40.9 seconds to play, by doing a back flip in the end zone, drawing a penalty flag and the ire of Hudson coach Mark Nash.
"It's classless," Nash said of Gulf's late TD, "but what can you expect from a team like Gulf?"
"All he needs to do is take a look at our bench and see that we have 26 players and every kid played," Bucs coach Jay Fulmer responded. "Every running back we've got (played), and we've got nowhere else to turn."
The outcome essentially was determined by three scoring plays covering 50 or more yards before halftime. Quarterback Madison Burr scored on his team's third play from scrimmage, darting right after being flushed out of the pocket on third-and-9 and racing 93 yards for a TD.
Burr finished with 223 total yards, running for 106 and three TDs. Golden added first-half runs of 74 and 50 yards, the latter giving Gulf a 28-6 lead with 45 seconds to play in the first half. He had another 74-yard first-half score nullified by a penalty.
Junior Zack Wynn finished 20-for-35 for 207 yards and three TDs - each to a different receiver -- for the Cobras, who are all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Times correspondent Andy Villamarzo contributed to this report.