A full gym at Augusta Christian Schools on Monday morning saw something no one in the history of the school had ever seen.
The students watched as 65 student-athletes received their rings for their roles in the school's first-ever football state championship.
After an unforgettable 12-1 season, the Lions could do nothing more than smile as they slipped on their hard-earned jewelry.
"We're finally getting our pay-off. We've earned it," Lion offensive lineman Robert Clifton said.
The senior has been designated as a specially invited walk-on to the Auburn football team next fall. Clifton, along with teammate Josh Whitaker, said the road to a state championship was anything but easy.
"We have the hardest working summer workouts in Augusta," Whitaker said. "That's when it started."
Whitaker, a wide receiver on the team, accepted his third championship ring Monday. The junior earned a Dixie Youth World Series ring at the age of 14, and then was part of last season's Augusta Christian baseball state title team.
Nolan Belcher, a sophomore, also has state title rings from the baseball and football teams. Augusta Christian head coach Bruce Lane said the ceremony was important for his younger athletes to see.
"When you want a successful program you're going to want to establish tradition," Lane said.
"That's why we had a ring ceremony in front of the whole school. We want the younger kids to see they're capable of doing the same thing."
Senior quarterback Lee Banks said he knew his team was capable of achieving state championship success. The work to get to that success, he said, was a tough experience.
"It started at those summer workouts," Banks said. "We had to stay disciplined. We had to get up every morning and work. The coaches disciplined us."
The Lions state championship came on a 24-7 win over Porter Gaud in the South Carolina Independent Schools Association state title game Nov. 18 in Orangeburg, S.C.
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