There were cheers, chants and applause in the energized meeting room on the ground floor of the Georgia Dome that had become Northside’s temporary home.
Players were ecstatic to find out about a change in the postgame meal plan, they celebrated some more, and it was time to change clothes, from the uniform of the GHSA Class AAAAA state champs back to the attire of teenagers.
Buses were filled with recounting the previous several hours for about 50 miles Friday night after Northside beat Mays 25-18 for the title. Then the physical and emotional toll of the previous several hours hit.
“They were pretty talkative at the beginning,” Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler said. “Then once we got below Henry County, they were all sound asleep.”
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
They woke up soon enough as they neared home.
“When we got off the exit ramp off (Interstate) 75, we had an escort of a bunch of police cars,” Kinsler said. “I mean, there must’ve been 10, 12 of them, blocking off the intersections and leading us on down the road.”
Life wasn’t quiet at Northside when the team arrived around 2:30 a.m.
“The parking lot completely full,” Kinsler said. “When they got off the bus, they were cheering, and chanting ‘Northside Eagles.’
“Even though it was that late, the boys really appreciated it.”
Most of the crowd remained even after players went in the school to drop off equipment.
“The kids came back out, and (people) were still cheering for them,” Kinsler said. “It was a great night. I’m sure the neighbors didn’t appreciate it much.”
SANDIFER BATTLES THROUGH
Offensive tackle Brandon Sandifer hobbled off the field at Mercer after the semifinal win over Allatoona, a physical game.
He didn’t seem overly enthusiastic at the very moment about moving on to the state championship.
“I’m pretty tired,” he said. “And my toe hurts.”
As it turns out, Sandifer suffered a hairline fracture of a toe in that game, and he was held out of live practice all week leading up to Friday’s title game against Mays.
He turned in about the normal number of snaps in the title game, as the Eagles rushed for 249 yards against a quality Mays defense. So, was he ready for some more football Saturday or Sunday?
“Uh, nooo,” he said with a smile. “I couldn’t do that.”
NO SCORES? NO PROBLEM
When Willie Jordan’s numbers had been pedestrian this season, it was because the Eagles were hammering somebody and the starters were done early.
His 73 yards Friday were his second fewest of the season. He had 61 on six carries -- with two touchdowns -- in a 51-0 win at Cross Creek.
The only other game in which he was kept out of the end zone was in the 30-21 playoff win over Dalton.
Naturally, the last thing he talked about Friday were his numbers for the championship game.
Instead, he bragged some on quarterback Tobias Oliver, the adjustments of the offense, and just finally getting the ring.
“Yeah, it’s the best non-touchdown game I ever had,” said Jordan, who departs second on the program all-time rushing list (3,458 yards) and with the single-season rushing mark (2,246) and touchdowns (31) and all-time rushing touchdowns (53). “I love it. I feel great. I feel like I scored five touchdowns.”
ODD TASTE BUDS
One of the biggest cheers Friday night was when Kinsler altered the Eagles of a change in the postgame menu.
“After 14 weeks, they were probably pretty tired of the postgame pizza,” Kinsler said. “(Seniors) had the same thing for four years.”
The same thing was the dieticians’ nightmare of primarily double cheeseburgers and pizza. But not, however, in the same sitting.
“Changing it up and doing Chick-fil-A ... ain’t is amazing how something like that got them so jacked up?” Kinsler said with a laugh. “You’d have thought I was feeding them steak.”
Warner Robins’ lead over Northside in state championships dropped to 4-3.
Kinsler has two sons, Tyler and Kolby, and both played on state championship teams at Northside, Tyler in 2006 and Kolby this year.
Jordan and quarterback Tobias Oliver accounted for 65.1 percent of Northside’s carries (490 of 752) and 64.7 percent of its rushing yards (3,152 of 4,869).
The percent of the time Northside has won since Kinsler took over has head coach.
Oliver finished his first varsity season with 906 yards -- 94 short of 1,000 -- on 168 carries, scoring 10 rushing touchdowns.