By Doug Gorman
Three years ago, the People's Academy Knights were a struggling high school football team looking for a little respect in the Georgia Christian Athletic Association eight-man football league.
Friday night the Knights are expected to play in front of a packed house at Southern Crescent Stadium as Colonial Hills comes to town in what is arguably the biggest football game in the history of the McDonough school's young football program.
The scenario is simple, win and make the Georgia Christian Athletic Association playoffs, lose and start thinking about next year.
It's a game that has given the whole school and church community a case of football fever.
"Eveybody is really excited about our football team," said People's athletic director Lou Dryka "The school and the entire church are looking foward to this football game."
According to Dryka, Pastor David McCoy has been one of the team's biggest supporters.
"He is a big football fan," Dryka said. "He knows that playing sports can help build character. Our fans our phenomenal, we usually pack the stadium."
Both teans comes into the game with a 5-1 record overall and 4-1 mark in the conference. For the Knights, Friday's games marks the first home contest in two weeks. The Knights' past two games were on the Georgia coast as the team beat both Brunswick and Bible Baptist of Savannah.
Football coach Wayne Meeks has watched his team evolve from a struggling squad the first year to a team now convinced it's capable of winning a GCAA state title this year.
"Our guys have worked hard each year to get better," he said. "They have bought into our philosphy and we taken steps each year.
Quarterback Lance Ambercrombie is one of the players on this team who expects to win each time the team takes the field.
The senior has been with the team since that first season. He admits it wasn't a whole lot of fun that first year.
"I'll never forget that first game," he said. "We were so excited about finally getting to play, but we lost to Mt. Vernon 70-0. It was really disappointing.
The growing pains from that first season didn't last long. The Knights hit the weights in the off-season and the strength paid dividends last year as the team enjoyed a winning season.
Junior running back Brent Kuhn knows what this game means to his teammates and fellow students.
"We all want to win this game. We really believe we can go all the way this year. The improvement since the first season has been great," Kuhn said.
People's Academy's athletic department enjoyed success in other area, now football is trying to join the school's other sports in establishing a strong playoff tradition.
"I think this is the biggest game of our careers," said fullback Kyle Massengale. "Our school has always succeed in other sports, now we want to do the same in football."
Center Mark McElreath, another one of the team's senior leaders points to hard work in the weight room for getting the Knights to the point where they are ready to contend for the GCAA state eight-man football title.
"Everybody has put in a lot of hard hours, he said. "The strength of this football team is so much better now then it was that first season."
Kickoff for Friday's game is set for 7 p.m. The Southern Crescent Stadium is located off of Lake Dow Road at the old Eagle's Landing Christian Academy Stadium.