All week long, whether in practice, watching film or just around the school, one word has resonated with the Rome High football team — Finish.
Since the beginning of the year, Rome has displayed a dominating style of playing. The defending state champions have rolled through the regular season and the playoffs with ease, winning every game by double-digits.
Today, in their final test, the Wolves take on Warner Robins in the GHSA Class 5A state championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’s a chance to not only go undefeated, but to finish the season with the same kind of effort it’s had all year.
“We always talk about finishing, whether it is finishing in the weight room, finishing blocks or finishing a run,” offensive lineman Tyler Lovingood said. “Now we have to finish the season right.”
Rome players should be used to playing in big games. Whether it was the season-opener against Harrison or the previous two playoff wins against Starr’s Mill and Buford, Rome has seen high-profile matchups all year.
Rome (14-0) has been on a tear on offense, with quarterback Knox Kadum and running back Jamious Griffin leading the charge.
Kadum has tallied more than 2,600 total yards this year, while Griffin has scored 26 touchdowns on the ground.
The Wolves face Warner Robins, a fellow undefeated squad led by a noteworthy name at quarterback. With Dylan Fromm under center, the Demons have scored 36.5 points per game and have scored more than 30 points in nine games.
This game will be one of only two Georgia state championships featuring two undefeated teams.
“Now we are facing a team that is also undefeated and also has this feeling of finishing,” Rome head coach John Reid said. “But we have respected our opponents with every game, and that doesn’t change.”
One of the bigger matchups comes at the line, as the Warner Robins offensive line goes against a Rome defensive front that’s been tough for anyone to handle. Last week, the Wolves’ defensive line held Buford to just 53 rushing yards on 20 attempts.
The Demons (14-0) present a bit of a different offense, with the focal point on Fromm as a pure drop-back passer. But no matter what it is facing, the Rome defensive line has the same objective.
“Basically all quarterbacks and running backs are kind of the same for us,” senior defensive end Adam Anderson said. “Hopefully we just have to do as we have been taught. Just get after them, and we are going to be OK.”
While this is the second straight year Rome has made it to the finals, it is the team’s first visit to recently-completed Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Reid said that while everyone is excited about playing at the new home of the Atlanta Falcons, the team should be used to the trip.
At this point in the team’s season, Rome’s coach is not worrying about anyone not performing their best. Giving a complete effort has been a requirement since Reid first came to the Wolves three years ago.
“They better play hard every down or someone else is taking their position,” Reid said. “They get it, and it is kind of built into them now. It takes a while, but after three years this is the brand of play we have established.”
And no matter when or where the game is played, the Wolves’ intention to finish remains the same.
“We are just going hard every play and every down, like we always do,” Griffin said. “We are finishing this game and we are going hard in this game. It’s pretty simple.”