ONLINE EXTRA: Watch highlights from Grovetown's matchup with Buford High School.
The situation for Grovetown High School's players, coaches and fans was placed in perspective Friday with a public address announcement during the fourth quarter.
"We would like to welcome the Buford High Class of 1979," the man said.
Buford's football team had won the state title in the fall of 1978, more than 30 years before Grovetown High played its first football game.
Grovetown's team and coaches left by bus from the school's parking lot early Friday afternoon. Once in Buford, there was nothing to indicate the historical significance of the game the Warriors were about to play.
It was business as usual. Except the Warriors had never done this before.
"We weren't going to piddle around," Grovetown coach Rodney Holder said. "We weren't going to the prom. We were coming to play football."
Cameras chronicled the Warriors movements -- from the Grovetown High parking lot to the visitors' locker room and onto the field. As kickoff approached, Holder led the team in a single-file march down the Warriors' sideline to the end zone. There, Grovetown's players huddled.
"Warriors! Warriors!" they chanted. "Game time!"
Away from the group, Grovetown's first captains -- Marvon Danzie, Tae Miller, Seth Hill and Dominique Mingo -- prepared to take the field for the coin toss.
The Warriors won the toss and chose to kick. Grovetown's defense was stingy to start. A series of heavy collisions forced a Wolves' punt and brought the Warriors' fans to their feet.
Grovetown's first two drives started in Buford territory and were extended by Buford penalties -- a personal foul for roughing Warriors quarterback Xavier Crain and a facemask penalty after running back Hill was chased down on Buford's sideline.
Crain's first down pass to Darin Davis in the right corner of the end zone was just out of reach. The Warriors crowd exhaled after what would have been Grovetown's first completion, first touchdown and first lead.
There were some Grovetown firsts left for later games, Holder said afterwards.
For more than a quarter, the Warriors were in the game with the six-time state champions. Penalties slowed the Wolves.
Buford's depth eventually won out. Grovetown's athletic trainer bustled as Warriors were felled by cramps.
Hill, who wears No. 23, picked up the program's initial first down on a run with 23 seconds left in the second quarter.
Buford led 28-0 at halftime.
"Get your heads up," a player yelled as the Warriors exited the field for the locker room at halftime. "We winners, y'all."
Holder talked to the players inside the locker room while Warriors assistants discussed strategy outside.
The assistants then entered and broke down individual units while Holder gave a brief interview with a local cable news station filming a high school football show.
"We can do it," defensive coordinator Todd Booker told the team in the locker room. "We've shown we can do it. We're no different than them."
Offensive line coach Eddie Lord told the Warriors not to look at the scoreboard.
"It's 0-0," he said. "Let's get out there and score some points."
Holder told the players the coaches had prepared them for what they needed to do to compete with Buford, but they had to do it.
A few players gave the team's shout of "Hey, hey," as they headed back on the field for the second half.
Parents reached over the wall to encourage the Warriors as they returned to the field.
But the Warriors were spent. Buford pushed its final advantage to 51-0.
After the game, Danzie, a senior offensive lineman, grimaced with cramps. He said the score was respectable, that the two-time defending Class AA champion Wolves had done worse to teams during their 31-game win streak.
"We came out and hit them hard," Danzie said. "But we have to think. We were the underdogs. And they are Buford."
The public address voice returned to inform the crowd and players that a severe storm was approaching. Holder's postgame comments were brief.
He told them they had just gone head-to-head with one of the best teams in the state.
"Now we got to turn it up," he said. "It's done. It's over with. I'm proud of you."
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