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FOOTBALL: 3 local teams are spending Thanksgiving on practice field

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Most people might not consider working on Thanksgiving an accomplishment.

But when it comes to being part of a football team deep in a postseason push, making the quick switch from the practice field to the dinner table today is a point of pride.

While families and friends gather for annual holiday traditions this morning, players and coaches from three local programs will be preparing for their next playoff opponent.

Darlington and Rome are both in the GHSA state quarterfinals and will hit the road Friday for their contests. Berry College, meanwhile, is in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs and getting ready to take on St. Thomas on Saturday afternoon in Minnesota.

“It’s always a good thing to be practicing Thanksgiving week, so the kids get fired up about that,” Reid said.

“And we don’t want to take it for granted. It’s a big deal to be one of the final eight teams in Georgia. You just do the best you can and try to have a good week of practice.”

Having the week off from classes has helped, according to Reid, as the top-ranked Wolves have started practice at 8:30 a.m. each morning in preparation for their game against Starr’s Mill in the Class 5A state quarterfinals.

“It’s been great,” Rome defensive lineman Ja’Quon Griffin said. “It’s a great atmosphere when you can get up early and start your day off with football.”

“The thing about it is they usually go to eight hours of school and then practice, so it’s kind of fun for them to only have to practice,” Reid said. “We’ve had a good tempo and a good attitude. They like coming in the morning and taking the rest of the afternoon off.”

The meaning behind still practicing on Thanksgiving is such that Berry head coach Tony Kunczewski mentioned it during his postgame press conference last Saturday after the Vikings defeated Huntingdon 34-20 in their first-ever playoff game.

“I personally have never done it. But I guess it is one of those football benchmarks where if you’re practicing on Thanksgiving, you know you’re having one special season,” Kunczewski said Wednesday. “So it’s even more special that we’re also flying out tomorrow so we’ll be practicing in Minnesota.”

Berry will use the extra time to get acclimated to the weather, according to Kunczewski, and will have a meal together as a football family tonight.

“You want to make that special, but the overall point of playing on Thanksgiving is special,” Kunczewski said. “It’s a balancing act because you still have a game to play on Saturday.”

That balance is what Reid hopes to achieve this week as well, knowing that it has taken a lot of hours nearly every day of the week since the spring for a team to get to this point.

“Hopefully we’ll have practice in the morning and relax,” Reid said, adding that he’ll have his family over this afternoon.

“You got to utilize some of this time. It’s been a long grind. You’re talking six months of every day. It’s non-stop.”