WARNER ROBINS -- Reality, when it comes to sports, is usually shoved to the side by optimism, hope and confidence.
Sometimes, the reality makes a slight appearance.
A year ago, Chad Campbell knew he didn’t have a typical Peach County team. After two weeks, the Trojans were 1-1, having scored only four more points than Perry (a 35-17 win) and Baldwin (a 35-21 loss) combined.
Perry and Baldwin, both one class higher than Peach County, each finished 3-7.
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Then came Warner Robins, a GHSA Class AAAAA team hosting the Class AAA Trojans, with a week off after a 21-10 win over Veterans.
“I don’t ever think we’re gonna get beat by 30-something points, whatever it was,” Campbell said. “I thought we’d have trouble but not that much.”
It was a rout, Warner Robins cruising to a 54-21 win. The Trojans’ wait to try and make amends is at hand when they visit the Demons on Friday at McConnell-Talbert Stadium in a battle of teams ranked in their respective classifications.
Peach County is No. 7 in Class AAA and Warner Robins 10th in Class AAAAA.
Campbell said at the start of preseason practice that things felt more normal around the field house between attitude and work ethic, and nothing has changed.
“I think we’re better right now than we were at any point last year,” Campbell said. “By far. We’re better right now than we were Game 12.”
Which, of course, was a 56-16 loss to eventual state runner-up Washington County. Senior defensive back Shaun Freeman said plenty has changed since the 2013 season started and ended.
“Everything’s different now,” he said. “We’re a team. Everybody’s together. This feels a lot more like Peach County.”
While scrimmages were two weeks ago, Peach County followed its battle with Northside, a 30-27 win, with confidence and progress while Warner Robins has had some work to do after its 49-10 win over Rutland.
Scoring margin aside, the Demons had work to do after facing the Hurricanes.
“We just had way too many busted assignments, mental mistakes that you can’t make against a really good team because they’ll take advantage of it,” head coach Bryan Way said. “That’s a lack of concentration and focus, and that’s my responsibility.
“We still got some questions that we’ve got to answer. We’ve got some guys that’ll have to grow up in a hurry. That’s just how it is.”
Connor Shaw, Ivan Corbin and Robbie Leever have spent August battling at quarterback, with Shaw -- who has been in the program -- getting the start. They were still auditioning against Rutland.
“You hand it to the backs, you’ll never go wrong, especially with the backs they’ve got,” said Campbell, who watched the scrimmage.
Way said Corbin and Leever likely will play a series or two, and that all three are still rather even.
Warner Robins will be without tight end/linebacker Conner Johnston, who hurt his knee in practice last week. Defensive tackle Traylen Battle is doubtful with a high ankle sprain suffered in the scrimmage.
But standout receiver/defensive back Marquez Callaway is healthy, as are running backs Jacquan Burns, Terry Harris and Reggie Gordon.
Peach County is pretty set position wise, Campbell and his staff making some changes after the visit to Northside.
Campbell tolerated the requisite execution issues, considering the Trojans are breaking a new quarterback and are fairly young.
“I just thought our effort was tremendous,” he said. “We really competed well. We didn’t execute none too pleasing to us. But I was very pleased with the way we competed.
“From what my pregame was, and my whole week spiel was, I think we followed it to a T.”
Raise the level of execution to the level of intensity, and one expects to see a typical Peach County team. Way does, and believes his team does, as well.
“We’ve definitely made them aware that (Peach County) is a much improved team,” Way said. “They’ve seen the scrimmage tape against Northside. They can watch that tape and see, ‘hey, those guys are pretty good.’ I don’t think we’re going to come in overconfident.”
“They don’t look like the same team. They’re going to be ready to play, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be ready to play.”