One bad memory. Fourteen really, really great ones.
That’s what Warner Robins was left with following a dominating 38-0 loss to Rome in the GHSA Class AAAAA state championship Friday in McConnell-Talbert Stadium. (And the fact the Region 1-AAAAA champs were even in the state championship – versus so many that weren’t – one day might be No. 15. Just not tonight.)
Things started out plenty hopeful for the Demons as the Wolves’ attempt at a field goal fell short to start the game. It couldn’t help but be morale-boosting/momentum-shifting. Especially since Rome, which did dominate time of possession throughout it must be added, ran 14 plays to get to that point. It picked up two long third downs along the way and even made the field goal twice. (By way of explanation, both of those – by Emanuel Gonzalez – were negated by flags.)
Warner Robins went three-and-out on its turn, but more good news followed. The visitor – starting on the 50 – turned it over on downs after picking up a first down, but then failing on another – a fourth-and-four.
The Demons moved it well following. A pass interference call gave them their first first down. An offsides call gave them their second. Dylan Fromm hit his brother Tyler across the middle on the next play. He was brought down at the visitor’s 40 to move the sticks yet one more time. That also signaled the end of the first quarter, the game scoreless at that point.
Although given the fact Rome came in averaging 51 points a game and giving up just 10, many would say they could have predicted it, truth be told little did anyone know how quickly downhill the game would go for the Demons from there.
Trai Hodges began the descent – Rome’s ascent – when he picked off a Fromm pass from the Demons’ 21 and ran it all the way back for the score. Gonzalez, with the point after, made it 7-0.
Warner Robins made a couple of first downs but then had to punt again. Rome took over on their own 22. They ran off eight plays and scored again when Jamious Griffin ran it in from the 6. Gonzalez made it 14-0 with just over eight minutes left before the break.
The Wolves got the ball back immediately when the Demons were unable to field a pooch kick. The miscue gave them the ball on Warner Robins’ 28. Xavier Roberts scored from the 16 three plays later, and with Gonzalez’s PAT, made it 21-0. That, with 741 points scored, also gave them the single-season scoring record for the state. (They finished the night with 758.)
The Demons were forced to punt again on their next possession. It appeared Rome might score again heading into the half, but Jabari Miller’s third interception of the year stopped them.
Warner Robins did get the ball to start the third. That didn’t help, however, as it again was forced to punt.
The Wolves took it at the Demons’ 49 and scored again. This time it was an 11-play drive. To add insult to injury, Warner Robins had a chance to stop them on a fourth-and-one, but was flagged for an illegal substitution. The Demons did manage to hold their ground on two running plays – no yardage and Rome also helped them with a false start following. But on the next play, quarterback Knox Kadum found a big hole up the middle and raced to the endzone untouched. Gonzalez made it 31-0, which is where it stood after three.
Barely, that is.
The Wolves punted and pinned Warner Robins on the 1 as the clock ran out. On the first play to start the fourth, the snap eluded the grasp of Fromm and Jarius Burnette in the backfield, but not K.J. Hicks. He landed on it in the endzone for the final score.
Both punted following – with plenty of substitutions by then – before the Demons finally turned it over on downs with just over two minutes left to play.
Rome subsequently ran out the rest of the clock to make it back-to-back titles.