The Stockbridge High School Tigers went deep into the football postseason last year.
Earning a 12-1 record as region champs and members of the Elite Eight, they fell in the Nov. 24 playoffs to Buford, a school subsequently toppled by the eventual Class AAAAA Georgia High School Association champion Rome on Dec. 15.
But Tigers Coach Kevin Whitley said winning remains the name of the game for 2018.
“(Our) goal is to be the best team we can be,” he said. “We want to keep our focus on the main thing.”
The team kicked off its season with a 34-22 win at home Aug. 24 against Lithonia’s Arabia Mountain Rams.
Senior Yahsyn McKee, 17, made two kick returns for touchdowns, Whitley said.
The plays were typical of the athlete, whom the coach called a hard-working team player.
“He is our only two-way starter, so he sets the tone for our team,” Whitley said about the wide receiver and defensive back, who is also a track and field competitor.
McKee, an Atlantic City, New Jersey native, said speed, physicality, reaction time and good vision help him succeed on the gridiron.
It may also help that McKee has pursued the sport almost as long as he has walked.
“I’ve been playing football since I was 4,” he said. “Inside these lines, I just feel so relaxed and comfortable. Words can’t explain how much I love this game.”
McKee shows the sport some love with extra effort.
“Every rep in the weight room or practice I’m going hard, take no reps off and continue to chase my goals,” he said. “I watch film and study the whole defense/offense. I tend to study their tendencies and the things they do and when they take off plays.”
Besides reviewing what teams have done before, McKee studies the U.S. as well, in one of the subjects contributing to his 3.2 grade point average.
“History is my favorite subject,” he said. “I love to learn about our past.”
It may not be on his college curriculum; the wearer of the team’s No. 1 jersey said he may not only make plays but perform in them as well.
“Making it to the NFL is my No. 1 (goal), but if that doesn’t work out I want to pursue the communications road or theater,” he said.
Whitley said McKee “will definitely play on the next level.”
The senior said when he graduates, he hopes the Tigers continue their winning streak despite naysayers.
“Every year they are gonna doubt us and talk about this is the year for us to lose. Keep the hard work going,” McKee advised future teams.
In the meantime, the 2018 season will benefit from his leadership role.
“I make sure we stay focused and humble as a team and make sure we continue to work hard and never let up,” the son of Reginald Sease and Shamia McKee said.
Upcoming Stockbridge games are Sept. 7 at Locust Grove High School, Sept. 14 at home against Eagle’s Landing High School, Sept. 21 at Columbia High School and Sept. 28 at Ola High School.
In conference games, the Tigers’ homecoming game is Oct. 5 v. the Union Grove Wolverines.