Veterans looks forward to first playoff berth

Sun News correspondentNovember 6, 2013 

Sports such as volleyball, softball, golf, basketball, soccer and baseball have all enjoyed tremendous success at Veterans High School, but until Friday night a state playoff appearance in football was missing.

The Warhawks took care of that with a 10-0 victory over Mary Persons in a battle of unbeaten region foes as Veterans clinched a playoff berth and the GHSA Region 2-AAAA championship in the same night.

“We’re excited about all the sports that win, but this is the South, and in the South, and in Georgia especially, football is kind of the lifeblood,” Veterans high school head football coach and athletics director David Bruce said. “When the football team is doing well it reflects itself in the school and the student population. We had tremendous support the other night at Mary Persons. Everyone is excited.”

Football is a sport that generally takes longer for new programs to find success, and a region championship in its fourth season of play was probably not anticipated by many outside of the Warhawk locker room.

“I guess we may have done it a little quicker than most people thought, but all along I had high expectations because we had such a super group of kids,” Bruce said.

The shutout victory was the second in three games for the Veterans defense which has taken on the mentality of its head coach.

Bruce led the defenses at Warner Robins and Westside-Macon before arriving at Veterans. He earned a state championship ring as defensive coordinator of the Demons in 2004.

“They’ve done a great job,” Bruce said. “They buy in to what we’re doing, and they’ve the embraced the defensive mentality that we preach. I’ve always told our kids that defense is not a position it’s a frame of mind, and you have to embrace that if you want to be good on defense.

“I believe in the old adage that defense wins championships, and if you have a good defense and a good kicking game, you can stay in most games and find a way to win.”

Bruce challenged his players to begin the year by scheduling three non-region opponents from higher classifications who each made state playoff appearances a year ago.

Veterans dropped all three contests, but his team was already battle tested when it found itself in a tight game with his old Westside program in week four.

The Warhawks would pick up the 21-14 victory in arguably the biggest win in school history before their region championship clincher Friday night.

“Last year (the schedule) kind of blew up in my face,” Bruce said. “I still think it was the right thing to do and we played that same schedule early again, but I just think it makes our kids that much tougher to play good quality opponents. When we got into the battle with Westside and the game was close, our guys weren’t fazed.”

With six victories in a row under its belt and a first round home playoff game looming in just a few short weeks, the mentality at Veterans has changed.

“We used to hope to win, and now we expect to win,” Bruce said.

The Warhawks will close out the regular season against Baldwin this week before the playoffs begin. Veterans will face the four-seed from region 4-AAAA in the opening round.

Contact Ryan Jordan at rjordan398@gmail.com.

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