Rome High players and coaches lingered on the turf of McConnell-Talbert Stadium in Warner Robins long after the final seconds had ticked away Friday night.
They laughed and took pictures with friends and family to commemorate the school’s second ever football state championship.
But the Wolves’ 38-0 win didn’t just cap an impressive season in the Rome High record books. The 2017 Rome team has left its mark in the annals of Georgia high school football as well.
With its victory over Warner Robins, Rome broke the state record for most points scored in a single season with the final total coming to 758, 21 points more than the previous mark set by Washington County in 2014.
The Wolves surpassed the former record of 737 in the second quarter of Friday’s state championship game when quarterback Knox Kadum completed a touchdown pass to Xavier Roberts-Donaldson with 6:07 on the clock to make it 20-0. Emanuel Gonzalez’s extra point made it 21-0.
Rome head coach John Reid said the amount of preparation and practice they go through every week is a big contributor to his team’s success.
“The thing about it is we work our tails off so hard, we respect our opponents so much, I think that the end result is we get them to be so intensely focused,” Reid said. “We tell them that if you’ll let us coach you, you’ll be champions.”
The players seem to have obeyed that request as Reid and his staff has led the Wolves to back-to-back state championships in three seasons at Rome.
“The kids deserve it because they worked,” Reid said. “And I know that word is used a lot, but these kids really have put in the mental and physical work and the coaches as well.”
Rome finishes its undefeated season with an average of 50.5 points per game and won all but its opener against Harrison by three or more touchdowns.
Shutting it down
After allowing a touchdown or less in half of its previous games, Rome’s shutout of Warner Robins is its sixth of the season. And a large part of why is the Wolves’ powerful defensive front, considered the top in the state.
“They were big, but once we came off the ball they softened up,” Rome defensive lineman Jamarcus Chatman said. “They weren’t used to taking on base blocks and our fast moves.”
Chatman, Adam Anderson, Ja’Quon Griffin and T.J. Cammack — all of whom are Division I commits or prospects — made it difficult for Warner Robins quarterback Dylan Fromm or any of his running backs to find an open lane or hole.
The Demons had just 103 yards passing after averaging 254 yards per game coming into Friday.
“We saw pretty early that the quarterback was a little bit rattled,” Reid said. “I told our kids with the physicality and speed up front, and the way we come off the ball, it should give them problems, and it did.”
Senior defensive back Trai Hodges provided a spark for Rome with his 79-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the second quarter that kicked off the Wolves’ scoring.
“I saw it and, you know, the coaches were telling us that somebody has got to make a play. And it just happened to be me,” Hodges said. “I caught the ball and looked, and I see Adam going ‘come on, come on,’ so I just got behind him and I scored.”
It was Hodges’ third pick-six of the season, and the Rome crowd’s reaction left an impression on Reid.
“It was so exciting. Our fans … I can just hear them roaring,” Reid said. “I kept thinking, ‘Are they going to get him?’ And they never did.”
One of the most important parts of Friday’s game for Rome didn’t lead to the team putting any points on the board.
The Wolves opened the game on offense and proceeded to put together a 15-play drive that ended with a missed 34-yard field goal by Gonzalez. But the 6 minute, 24 second possession took up more than half of the first quarter and all but one play went for positive yardage.
“It established a tone against a good team that’s undefeated on their field,” Reid said. “And when you get to run that many plays with success you start to go, ‘OK, that works. That didn’t work.’ At least you’ve got some plays and you can see how they were covered. Plus it puts their defense on the field for a while.”