We have reached the final week of the regular season.
The key word in that sentence is final.
After going through all the offseason workouts, lifting all the weights, attending the 7-on-7 camps, the hot days of fall practice and 12 weeks of football, its about to be over for many young men.
For many seniors, tonight it will be the final game of their high school career.
That includes players we have grown to follow on a weekly basis like Kennesaw Mountain quarterback Jarrett Guest and running back Keyon Brooks, Campbell running back Tavion Jackson, South Cobb wide receiver Brysen Boone and Walker quarterback Patrick Wright. Some will have the opportunity to play on Saturdays next season, but that’s not the case for the overwhelming majority.
After playing the game, in some instances, from the time you could walk, tonight will be the last time to put on a helmet, shoulder pads and cleats. It will be the final time to be in a huddle with 10 other players who work as one for the common goal of scoring a touchdown, shutting down an opposing offense and finding a way to come out on top on the scoreboard.
It’s you who have helped the ones we will see on Saturdays next year get to where they want to be. It’s you that have made up the majority of the high school football rosters in Cobb County, and it’s you who have made covering Friday night football fun year in and year out.
It’s hard to stop doing something that has become second nature. You will soon learn that all the little things you didn’t like about those offseason workouts and practices will be some of the things you remember and miss. But more than anything, you are going to miss the camaraderie of the teammates, knowing you won’t have the chance to line up next to friends.
As the playoffs roll on, more of you will put on the uniform for the last time. Even those who continue on and play in college, or the lucky few that make it to the NFL, know it’s eventually going to come to an end.
For those of you who grew up in Marietta, Kennesaw, Powder Springs, Austell and Mableton, consider yourselves lucky. I’ve been covering high school football for two decades. The quality and the integrity of the high school coaches in this area are second to none. They not only prepare their players to play on a Friday night, but with the structure of the programs and attention to detail, have prepared them for their next stage in life.
So, if you have paid attention, you should now have the skills to properly adjust to college life. The coaches showed you there is more than winning football games, and they have helped you prepare a foundation they can build a life on.
Those lessons become the reason Kenyan Drake, playing in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins, sets up a foundation to help his community. Just recently, that foundation went to work in the Hillgrove community and filled a semi-truck with supplies that were then taken to the hurricane survivors in south Georgia and the Florida panhandle.
Those lessons taught Kennard Backman, who played at Whitefield Academy, UAB and in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, and Jerrick McKinnon, from Sprayberry, Georgia Southern and the San Francisco 49ers. how to give back to the Cobb community. They offer football camps that also include personal growth education and recruiting help.
It’s also those lessons that brought Pope’s Tab Griffin, Sprayberry’s Brett Vavra, Kennesaw Mountain's Caleb Carmean, Marietta’s LeBron Mitchell and Derrick Tinsley, among many others, back to their alma maters as coaches to help pass on those life lessons.
For many of you, tonight is your final football game. You need to take a moment, soak it in, and remember how it feels. Hopefully, you will leave everything you have left on the field, and then leave it with no regrets.
Just remember, while this may be the end of your football career, it is the beginning of an opportunity to take what you’ve learned on the field and put it to use in real life.
We have enjoyed watching what you’ve done to this point, but your parents, coaches, and friends are more excited to see how you are going to use this knowledge in becoming respected husbands, fathers and members of the community.
Good luck, and thanks for the thrills.
John Bednarowski is the sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal and can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jbednarowski