Grovetown football coach Rodney Holder asked his players to take a knee following practice one day last week.
He told them that this was it, that the Warriors could not afford to allow any off-field issues -- positive or negative -- to affect the team as it prepares for the final game of the season, Friday's homecoming game with Mount Paran Christian.
Holder then asked everyone who had missed a practice that week to report to the far side of the field. He dismissed the rest, but asked the seniors and captains to stay. Holder has gone to his seniors this season when he needs to get a message across.
This week, he wants everyone to know the goal. A victory means a 6-4 record, above .500 for the inaugural Warriors squad.
"If they don't believe in the direction, if they don't see the direction, then they don't have one," Holder said. "We (coaches) can know and see and believe all we want. If they're not on board with it, it's not going to happen."
By Friday, Grovetown will have had three weeks to prepare for Mount Paran. The Warriors' last game was at Northside on Oct. 17. Because of the way the Warriors schedule worked out, the next two weeks were byes.
Holder said the season felt like it flew by. And the Warriors, with their non-region schedule, aren't eligible for the playoffs.
But the time off before the final game has given the finale a postseason feel.
"It feels like another season," Holder said. "That's been real good for us mentally. Learning how to persevere and finish what we started."
Given the chance to replay his first year, Holder said he would have done everything similarly, down to scheduling some of the states's top teams. The Warriors opened the season by being beaten by Buford, and also suffered lopsided losses to Fairfield Central and Northside-Warner Robins.
But Holder said the games readied the underclassmen for what to expect in coming years, and showed the potential of seniors like back Seth Hill.
"It prepares you," Holder said. "If you're ever going to survive a 10-game region schedule, you're going to have to play some like that."
Holder will have more time to assess Grovetown's first season after Friday.
"You don't want to reflect back or try to look too far ahead," Holder said. "I feel great about our kids and what they've accomplished, our booster club, our school -- from the administration down. I feel like everybody has learned how to do this."
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