WARNER ROBINS — It’s a luxury few teams enjoy.
“We know when our last game is,” Northside head coach Conrad Nix told the Booster Club on Monday night. “These seniors, they know Saturday will be the last time they ever put on that helmet with the ‘N’ on it.”
The Eagles play defending champion Camden County for the GHSA Class AAAAA state championship Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The 8 p.m. kickoff will begin the final high school football game in the state for this season.
While that’s an awesome concept — especially for the team’s seniors — little else will change for the club in terms of its preparation throughout the week. Routine is important; maybe even more now.
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“It feels like a normal week to me,” senior linebacker Phillip Jones said Monday. “We practice hard every week, and we practiced hard (Monday).”
The Eagles worked until about 6:30 p.m. on Monday. For the past two weeks, they’ve spent the final portion of practice scrimmaging under the lights of the soccer field on campus. The threat of inclement weather could disrupt the schedule, especially today and Wednesday when the team does most of its heavy hitting.
Nix and his staff struggle to maintain a sense of normalcy for their players even as they themselves are inundated with interruptions.
“This is one of those times I really need a secretary,” Nix said Monday morning. “I’ve fielded about 100 calls with congratulations and questions about logistics and that kind of thing. We haven’t got a lot of football stuff done. ... It’s hectic around here, but it’s really good.”
The fact that it’s a Saturday game does ease some of the administrative details. Before Friday’s semifinal game at Newnan, the cheerleaders’ bus didn’t get to the school on time. They missed kickoff.
Saturday’s game will mark Northside’s fourth appearance in a title game in the past five years, so the pace and activities of this final week are familiar. But there are subtle differences. The other three games were against Class AAAA opponents. And they weren’t played at the Dome.
“The game doesn’t change,” senior tackle Ian Cunningham said. “It doesn’t matter where we play. It’s the same white lines ... and the same four quarters. It’s just different players.”
Nix told the boosters that the legacy of success is humbling. He quoted legendary UCLA head basketball coach John Wooden, who warned against complacency. Earlier, senior defensive back Rashad Wright said he didn’t think that was an issue.
“The coaches still push us hard just like they did then,” he said. “We’ve got a good work ethic. We never give up. We never quit. Coaches push us every day, every play so we get better. Always.”