On August 4th, it started. On a summer day so hot they worked out in the cool of the night, it began. The Gilmer Buckeyes knew they were working out for the long haul.
"We expect to be where we are right now," Gilmer lineman Dakota Hagler admits. "We expect to go to state every year."
"It feels good," Gilmer receiver Hunter Harrison said. "We've put a lot of years in, ever since seventh grade."
The Buckeyes have the burden of high expectations, and the privilege of pressure is one they enjoy.
"There's so much tradition, so much that's been going on. I think about it every day. It's a lot of work, but you want to put in the work and finish it off."
Seventeen weeks on the go, to earn the wins, the district championship, and the playoff victories. From August on, Gilmers fans and family hope their Buckeyes stay busy until Christmas.
"Family, friends," Hagler explains, "they all know once August rolls around, there's not going to be much free time. It's nothing but football, school work, and work."
In the last five years, Gilmer has won sixty-two games. And the Buckeyes have worked all year because they expect to add three more.
Their opponents, the Carthage Bulldogs, know exactly who they'll be facing this week.
"We've been saying, if we can get past Gilmer, we've got a good chance at state," Carthage quarterback Si'Darious Blackshire said.
"The fans were always asking when we were going to play Gilmer," Carthage coach Scott Surratt said. "We took it one game at a time as coaches. I know our players looked ahead a little bit, but we kept them focused, but now it's here and we're ready."