The postponement of the Class 5A football state championship game last week caused a tempest of emotions to spring forth from Rome High fans and the community.
But no negativity could be found at Barron Stadium where, for the second week in a row, Rome prepared to play Warner Robins, this time in a true road game for its biggest game of the year.
The Wolves and Demons play tonight at 7:30 p.m., this time at McConnell-Talbert Stadium in Warner Robins. It may not be ideal, but Rome’s players know there’s still a game to be played.
“It was a shock to be honest, but come Monday we settled down and realized we still have to win this,” quarterback Knox Kadum said. “So we are sticking to the game plan we had last week, and we’re working just a little more before this game.”
According to Kadum, the team has spent most of the week just perfecting anything it may have missed.
The Wolves have also seen the week off as a bye week, a chance to mend any bumps and bruises four straight weeks of the playoffs might have caused.
This is the latest in the calendar year that Rome football has ever played a game. Players spent their final week before winter holidays still at practice, training for the same game it thought it was playing last Friday.
The Wolves (14-0) haven’t been affected by the déjà vu, however. The hype of the game has only grown from last week, but the players are trying to keep their composure and improve in any way possible.
“We are seeing this as another week to get better,” defensive lineman Ja’Quon Griffin said. “If they are going to postpone the game and have us wait another week, we just have a chance to get even better.”
It was the decision of the Georgia High School Association to postpone last week’s game, which was set to be played Friday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The weather system that dumped snow across the Southeast moved into North Georgia that morning and never let up.
The organization, which oversees high school sports and competitions, had put forth a contingency plan prior to the state championship games. It made it clear that if any of the games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium were postponed they would be made up the following weekend at the home of the higher-seeded team or, in the case of both teams having the same seeding in the playoffs, determined by a coin flip.
Rome and Warner Robins both won their respective region championships, giving both a No. 1 seeding in the postseason. The coin flip, done at Mercedes-Benz Stadium last Friday afternoon, went in favor of Warner Robins.
Rome has had to play away from Barron Stadium this postseason once before, in a quarterfinal matchup against Starr’s Mill in Fayetteville. It had no problem when it got there, beating the Region 3-5A champions 59-10.
Rome coach John Reid said he could tell leading up to the win that his team was oddly excited about the trip, and he knew his team would be prepared.
Playing the Demons (14-0) is a tad different, considering the stakes of the game and the changes made in date and location. But that’s only led to an increase in excitement, with players now feeding off the chance to win on the road.
“We were ready to play at home, but we aren’t going to let going on the road affect us at all,” Griffin said. “Going on the road hasn’t fazed us before, and we are going to go down there and make that our home game.”
In the end, Rome comes back to the word that was said throughout last week in practice — finish.
The game may be a week later than expected and it may be in hostile territory, but the Wolves have had a goal since the start of the season, and they finally have their chance to execute.
“The last week has not been planned, but we still got to finish,” receiver Jordan Watkins said. “We came here and made a plan to win the state championship, and none of that has changed.”