WARNER ROBINS — For all of the added drama that fueled Friday night’s Class 5A state championship game, it was business as usual for the Rome Wolves.
A stifling defense. A pounding offense. And, for the second year in a row, a state championship to celebrate.
Rome won the night at nearly every turn against a scrambling Warner Robins team on the way to a dominating 38-0 victory in a battle of the unbeatens at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
The win completes the first ever undefeated season for Rome High’s football team and extends its winning streak to 27 games dating back to last season when the Wolves won the school’s first ever state title.
It also ends a season that was stretched out a week after the GHSA postponed last week’s state championship games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta with a winter weather system moving through the city.
“What a season,” Rome High head coach John Reid said when approached following the game.
“We’ve been doing this 20 weeks, a whole semester. And to win a championship 20 weeks in on this field, what an honor and what a tribute to this team. I’m just so happy to be a part of it and to be a part of this coaching staff with these kids.”
The Wolves (15-0) took advantage of four turnovers and finished with 324 yards of total offense against the Demons, the majority of that coming on the ground.
Rome quarterback Knox Kadum ran for 73 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries while passing for 90 yards and another touchdown.
Trai Hodges kicked open the scoring with a 79-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the second quarter and Rome kept at it for the rest of the period, leading to a 21-0 lead at halftime.
Kadum capped a nine-play drive with a 13-yard touchdown halfway through the third period to make it 28-0 and Warner Robins’ window for a comeback looked all but shut.
With Rome up 31-0 at the start of the fourth quarter following a 37-yard field goal from Emanuel Gonzalez, the game went to a running clock — a consistent theme for Rome this season.
“We told the kids whether we get in a low-scoring game, a high-scoring game, whatever, if we keep playing hard we can come out on top,” Reid said. “But we had no idea we would be that dominant in a state championship.
“I mean, running clock.”
Warner Robins (14-1) finished with just 1 yard rushing after Rome’s stout defensive line won battle after battle with the Demons’ front line and applied plenty of pressure on quarterback Dylan Fromm, who was 14-of-30 passing for 103 yards.
Rome’s Adam Anderson and Ja’Quon Griffin frequently made it to the Demons’ backfield, and the secondary kept the success of any of Fromm’s few completed screen passes to a minimum.
Fans packed into the stadium early on for both sides, creating a heightened sense of excitement before the opening kickoff. And while some rumblings were made about the game not being played at a neutral site, Kadum said that not doing so as well as not playing at Barron Stadium didn’t faze the team.
“If anything we were more excited to play here than we would have been at Barron,” Kadum said. “This was a great atmosphere. Our fans travel well. They did great. They’ve been here for us all 15 games and we can’t thank them enough.
“Oh wow, I mean, it feels great to take over somebody else’s stadium.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Rome quickly took the reins in the second quarter with Hodges’ pick-six.
Warner Robins punted to end its next possession, leading to Rome’s longest drive of the night as the Wolves went 79 yards in eight plays, the last of which was a 7-yard run by Jamious Griffin into the end zone. Gonzalez made the second of his five extra point attempts of the night to put his team up 14-0.
The ensuing kickoff was muffed by the Warner Robins returner and recovered by Montrell Millsap at the Demons’ 28-yard line. Kadum hit Xavier Roberts-Donaldson over the middle for a 17-yard TD pass two plays later.
Rome’s final touchdown came on the first play of the fourth quarter following a punt by John Cromer that rolled to inside the 1 before being stopped by Marquis Glanton.
With Warner Robins backed up into the darkest shadow of its own end zone, Fromm attempted to hand the ball off to Jarius Burnett.
But Anderson shot off the line and interrupted the play, forcing a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by Rome’s KJ Hicks.