The Rome High football team wasn’t given a parting gift as they walked off the field in Warner Robins on Friday night after losing 45-28 in the Class 5A state semifinals.
No trophy. No medal. No certificate of participation.
They didn’t need one.
What the more than 30 seniors on this year’s Rome team helped build over the last four seasons is something no piece of metal or sheet of paper can fully symbolize. They were a cornerstone in the new standard for a program that brought a fan base together and showed the full extent of the talent in the “City of Seven Hills.”
The group is the winningest class in Rome High history with a record of 49-7 over four seasons. That includes two state championships, three region titles and a run of 40 consecutive wins.
The streak, spanning three seasons and ending with the Wolves’ 28-14 win in this year’s state quarterfinals, top’s West Rome’s high mark of 37 straight victories, which ended in 1984. Only five other football programs in the history of the Georgia High School Association have longer streaks, with the most being 47 set by Buford from 2001-2004.
It is the pair of state championships that will go down as the seniors’ biggest contribution to Rome sports, the first one coming in 2016 during the team’s 25th season after the consolidation of East Rome and West Rome.
The 16-7 win over Buford was one of the final high school games played in the Georgia Dome and featured quarterback Knox Kadum rushing for 125 yards and two touchdowns to cap his sophomore season.
A year later, Rome would hoist the state championship trophy again, this time on the turf of Warner Robins’ McConnell-Talbert Stadium after simply dominating the Demons 38-0.
There are members of this year’s senior class who have made an impact in each state championship run and were a large part of this season’s 13-1 record.
Kadum, who finishes with a 49-6 record as a starting quarterback, has been a source of constant calm on the field for the Wolves throughout his high school career, getting the call to start as a freshman. He finishes it with about 7,400 yards passing and 76 touchdowns, as well as just over 3,000 yards rushing and another 37 touchdowns.
Running back Jamious Griffin shared the load with Jalynn Sykes until this season and took off with it, leading Class 5A with 2,815 yards on the ground for 38 touchdowns this year alone. The North Carolina State commit has over 6,300 yards and 104 touchdowns rushing for his career.
Xavier Roberts-Donaldson had his best season this year at receiver with just over 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns, giving him more than 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns in his three seasons of varsity ball.
Rome head coach John Reid expressed his gratitude to all of the players while talking to them after Friday’s game, his first four years leading the Wolves playing out side-by-side with the seniors’ journey.
It’s a journey that didn’t end the way they wanted it, but it will be one that will remain as a remarkable legacy for a program still with plenty to prove.
Jeremy Stewart is the sports editor of the Rome News-Tribune. He can be reached at JStewart@RN-T.com.