It's the second week of the GHSA playoffs. The teams that survived the opening round are still on the grind. The coaches are paying attention to detail. It’s amazing how the longer a season lasts, the bigger the little things become. It can keep you up pretty late at night and sleep comes at a premium.
"What was that word that starts with an ‘S?’" asks Roswell Coach Matt Kemper. "You are running on fumes and adrenaline. You just have to push it through. You are completely, slap worn out, but you are happy to be here and just hope that you can keep it rolling. The margin for error gets very, very small."
The Roswell Hornets advanced to the second round after a 31-0 win over Wheeler last Friday night. It was the third shutout of the season for the Roswell defense. When I visited with Kemper's team back in the spring, he told me the 2019 Hornets might have to lean on the defense.
"We had some questions to answer offensively," recalls Kemper. "Some days we got an answer and other days we were still searching. I think we knew going in that we would have to rely on our defense quite heavily and we've been able to do that. It has kept us in games. Last Friday we just went out there to play like we do each week. If they don't score, I'm pretty sure we can't lose. We'll take that every week that we get it. "
With the offense still evolving and leaning on the defense, it would be special team miscues that will lead to the season's first setback against Milton. The Milton-Roswell rivalry is one of the most intense in the state. No need for bulletin board material that week, especially when you consider that it was Roswell that handed the defending state champions one of their two losses last season. This time the scoreboard read Milton 16, Roswell 12.
"You go into that game and the emotions of that game are just next level," says Kemper. "Our kids are amped up, their kids are amped up. It's a big game and looking forward it's going to be even bigger, because in the future it's going to be a region game. Our defense played well in that game, but we didn't play well offensively. We didn't do well in the kicking game. We left five points on the field. We missed a field goal and two extra points and we lose by four. So, there was a lot of heartbreak from that."
Region play would begin with a trip to Cherokee and 21-14 loss to the Warriors. The Hornets were 3-2 with four games remaining. The coach didn't have to look very far to find some inspiration for his squad.