There is great excitement about the Rome football team throughout Northeast Georgia. The Wolves clinched their place in the Class AAAAA championship game and fans began showing up to purchase tickets as soon as they went on sale at the school on Monday.
“They’re treating this like a Homecoming Week,” Rome coach John Reid said. “They’re having some special every day at the school.”
They’ve made special “Rome to the Dome” sweatshirts and T-shirts that are being sold at Barron Stadium and at the school. There will be a “Community Send-Off” at Barron Stadium on Thursday at 6 p.m.
They’re even letting kids out of school early on Friday. The elementary schools will dismiss at 11:30 a.m. and Rome High School and Rome Middle School will dismiss at noon. That should be plenty of time to allow everyone to arrive at the Georgia Dome in time for the 4:30 p.m. kickoff against Buford.
Getting to the state championship may be old hat to programs like Buford or Valdosta, but it’s a brand new thing for Rome. These folks have waited almost a quarter-century to get there.
Rome was created in 1992 when the city merged East Rome and West Rome into one school. It was assumed that blending those two outstanding programs into one program would produce a superpower; East Rome won two state championships with back-to-back 15-10 seasons in 1977-78, and West Rome won five state championships, including four straight from 1982-1985 under Mike Hodges, Rodney Walker and Charlie Winslette.
The opposite happened. It took five years for Rome to produce a winning team. It got close to the finals a few times under coaches David Humphreys and Sid Fritts, but regressed into mediocrity from 2010 to 2014.
That began to change last year when John Reid took over. Reid was an established winner who had led East Paulding to four double-digit winning seasons in six years, including a semifinal appearance in 2006. The Wolves went 8-4 in 2015 and began this season with different aspirations.
“A big thing was getting kids to buy into what we wanted and get it the weight room and get stronger,” Reid said.
Rome began the season by losing two of its first three games – falling to Harrison and Kell. Since then the Wolves have ripped off 11 straight wins. They earned a spot in the title game by knocking off previously unbeaten and No. 2-ranked Stockbridge 28-21 last week.
“We’ve had to beat some good teams to get here,” Reid said. “That Stockbridge team is for real.”
As for the celebrating that’s going on, Reid hasn’t had a chance to enjoy it just yet. He and the coaching staff has been busy working on the game plan to slow down a Buford team that has won 13 straight since losing the season opener to Roswell, which is playing in the Class AAAAAAA game this weekend.