Back in 2007, when Jody Grooms took over as coach and athletic director at Lakeside High School, he was moving from an academically poor and athletically rich school in North Carolina.
At least in terms of football, he had the opposite challenge at Lakeside: An academically stellar school with what at best was a mediocre record on the gridiron.
Here's what we said in this space back then: "If Grooms can motivate Lakeside's academically high-achieving students to produce wins on the football field, he'll be working a miracle that has eluded every other coach in Columbia County in recent years."
Grooms is probably the last person to claim miracle-worker status, but this football season was nothing if not miraculous for Lakeside High School. The Panthers won the Region 3-AAAA title and penetrated into the second round of the state playoffs, the team's best-ever record.
It comes just one year after Grooms had to sit out the first three games of 2008 for allowing his team to run an illegal play at the end of his first season. That 2007 campaign, with a losing record, ended on a dismal note that put Grooms in an uncomfortable spotlight.
But as Grooms frequently told his team: They weren't finished writing their own story. And the single indiscretion was hardly the whole story on their coach, who took his disciplinary medicine - which included not just the three-game suspension but loss of his athletic director title - and never looked back.
There is no small amount of redemption, then, in the amazing records set this year in what could be considered Coach Grooms' first full season with Lakeside football.
He worked with students who are already winners in the classroom and made them, this year, into one of the area's best football teams.
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