When a team shuts out an opponent on their home field to win a state championship, it tends to be a good memory to revisit every now and then.
As this year’s Rome team prepares to step onto the field at “The Mac” for tonight’s Class 5A state semifinal, they know they will face a Warner Robins team that has grown this season and put themselves in position to cause the Wolves some problems.
But Rome head coach John Reid is confident of his team and knows the challenges and obstacles they have already faced this season has better prepared them for what lies ahead in their quest to win a third straight state championship.
“At least there is some familiarity to it, and I think that is good for the kids,” Reid said about going back to McConnell-Talbert. “We would rather be at home, but this seems to be our destiny, and you go where you’ve got to go in the GHSA playoffs. We’ve got a good plan and hope to play good football.”
No. 1-ranked Rome (13-0) has the momentum coming off a win in the quarterfinals over No. 4 Dutchtown, one of the top defensive teams in Class 5A. The Wolves’ 28-14 win gave the program 40 straight victories as they advanced to the semifinals for the third season in a row.
Running back Jamious Griffin has had a career-best season, leading Class 5A with 2,662 yards rushing and 37 touchdowns to create the backbone for Rome’s offense. The North Carolina State commit is given plenty of support by four-year starting quarterback Knox Kadum and receiver Xavier Roberts-Donaldson.
Kadum is 80-of-124 passing for 1,473 yards, 20 touchdowns and no interceptions this season, as well as picking up 591 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns, including two against Dutchtown last week. Roberts-Donaldson has 50 catches for 1,043 yards — an average of 20.9 yard per catch — and 15 touchdowns.
“When it’s down to this point in the season, it comes down to whether you can go out and play a good football game and the effort is there,” Reid said. “I think the kids did great job this week in practice, so we feel prepared.”
Warner Robins (11-2) is ranked No. 3 and was losing 7-0 at halftime to Clarke Central last week before recovering in the second half to win 21-14.
Back to spearhead the Demons’ offense is quarterback Dylan Fromm, younger brother of Georgia QB Jake Fromm. Dylan has been impressive this season in Warner Robins’ pass-first system, throwing for 3,727 yards and 40 touchdowns with a .640 completion percentage and eight interceptions.
On the receiving end of most of those passes has been Marcayll Jones, who holds the state single-season record with 1,744 yards this season. Reid said he has seen similarities in how this year’s Demons squad operates when compared to last season.
“I think they have strength in some of the same spots and some of the same weaknesses,” he said. “They’ve also gained some ability, and their quarterback has definitely gained some experience. They are very good.”
While Rome’s defense was spotlighted last season with several Division I recruits in its ranks, this year’s Wolves defense has become just as dangerous, holding teams to 14 points or less in nine straight games to complement an offense that has averaged 50.5 points per game.
“We’ll see what we’re prepared for,” Reid said. “One of the things is at times our defense has been overlooked. And I think they’re pretty good. They played fantastic last week in adverse conditions against a pretty good offense.”
The rain and cold at Dutchtown last week didn’t stop Rome from forcing two turnovers — an interception and a fumble recovery — while stopping the Bulldogs on fourth-and-1 on the Wolves’ 4-yard line.