Bill Murphy is a sports reporter for The Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Al Pacino’s character in the movie "Any Given Sunday" had it right.
He looked into his quarterback Willie Beamen’s — played by Jamie Foxx — eyes and said words that ring so true, "Cherish it, because when it’s over, it’s over."
The way that scene played out, it reminded me of the situation playing out for the Gainesville High football team this week.
When the Red Elephants face Peach County in the state title game Saturday, they have a chance to cement their legacy as one of the best football teams in Hall County history and the first to win a state title in the GHSA.
That’s a lot of pressure for kids of this age. They’ve been working since last season ended with this goal in mind and most have felt they have the talent to get it done.
However, if you’re a football player at Gainesville, don’t forget to have fun during this crazy week of preparing to claim the state’s top prize. Don’t forget the journey and path you’ve traveled to get to this stage.
Win or lose for many of these players, when they take off the shoulder pads after this weekend’s state title game, they’ll never have reason to put them back on again. Even to the seniors that are fortunate enough to be heading on to play college football next year, you’ll never take the field with the same group of players again.
So take time to enjoy this week of practice as you get ready for the biggest game of your lives to this point. Take a look around the locker room and remember all the faces you’ve gone to battle with this season. Don’t forget all the good times, big wins and team chemistry that have probably made this the best season of your young lives.
Now the coaches will want your undivided attention this week and that’s for good reason — Peach County is a very good football team. But don’t get so wrapped up in preparing for the state championship that you let the week fly by in a blink of an eye.
Trust me, there will be plenty of distractions as a football player at Gainesville High this week. Friends and family will be asking all week about if you’re going to win. There will also be countless newspaper interviews and probably television cameras there to chronicle this final and most important week of preparation this season.
But don’t forget where it all started.
Gainesville paid the price to get here with workouts in the summer when it was probably so hot they were dizzy. These football players were in the weightroom working out while most of their friends were still asleep during breaks from school. Since it all started, these Red Elephants have found a way to win all 14 times they’ve broken through the banner this season.
Now it’s time to finish the drill. You should feel the support of the entire community and county at your back at this point. Just think of what a remarkable accomplishment that would be to become the first in Hall County at this level to win a state title.
That’s an accomplishment none of these players would ever forget being a part of.
Trust me players, this game will be one of the hottest topics of conversation these next five days, even when you aren’t in the room.
People from rival schools will be making arrangements to get down to Atlanta to show their support Saturday afternoon.
But amidst all the hustle and bustle this week, don’t forget to have fun. Because when it’s over, it’s over.