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"WE ARE STRONG ROCK"

By Doug Gorman

dgorman@news-daily.com

Celebrating victories on the football field is the easy part.

But when you are young and inexperienced, and don't have a whole lot of depth, sometimes measuring the success of your program goes beyond how the scoreboard reads once the game clock counts down to all zeros at the end of the fourth quarter.

Little steps and getting better each week may be just how the Strong Rock Christian Patriots gauge themselves this year as they move from the Georgia Independent School Association into the Georgia High School Association.

With the switch to the new league, Strong Rock joins Region 5-A and now will have to face traditional football powers such as Eagle's Landing Christian and Landmark, two teams which have become regular visitors to the Class A playoffs.

"There is this big unknown here," Strong Rock head coach Cris Bell admitted late last month. "We don't know how we are going to be able to compete with the upper echelon of our region. I know we can compete with some of the middle of the road teams in our region, but depth is going to be a real problem for us. When we get our best 11 out there against their best 11, I think we are going to be ok. When you get beyond that, we have some question marks."

There are a couple of things Bell does know about his team. It will run an option-oriented offense and whoever lines up under center will be young.

The Patriots went into the summer workouts in the midst of a quarterback battle between freshman Jesse Adams and sophomore Zack Moss.

"It's a challenge because I am one of the younger players, so I just know I have to step up. All these guys are really supportive of a younger player coming in to play quarterback," Moss said.

For Adams, his early indoctrination into the world of high school football has also been challenging.

"It's fun and I think the season is going to be fun. We have a bunch of guys working hard. We might win a few games and we might lose some, we are going to hope for the best," Adams said.

The younger players already have the support of the guys who have been around for a while.

"We want to try and instill some motivation in the younger guys," kicker and lineman Stephen Adamson said. "We need everybody on the same page."

Bell heads into the season asking the team's fan base to remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. The Patriots will win their share of football games this year, but there are going to be some growing pains along way, too.

Right now, the numbers aren't big enough for the Patriots to field a jayvee team this year, something that disappoints Bell and his staff.

Bell admits there is an element of fear when it comes to increasing the numbers on the football team at the four-year old school.

Although Strong Rock did play three years of GISA football, as it transitions into GHSA, it's almost like the Patriots are starting over.

The key to getting around this could be for current student-athletes at Strong Rock to take the plunge and come out for the team.

"We know we are going to fix some of these problems, it's just going to take time and dedication," Bell said.

One thing Bell and his staff won't have to worry about as the Patriots embark on a new football venture 24 days from now when they open against Georgia Military is enthusiasm.

There is plenty of that to go around. Strong Rock has lived in the weight room this summer in an effort to get bigger and stronger.

"Being in shape is the only way we are going to be able to compete," Bell said.

His players certainly undertand that concept.

"We have to be in better shape than the other teams," Moss said. "We know that."

ELCA could turn into Strong Rock's biggest rivalry, but the Chargers could also be the blue print the Patriots use when it comes to building up their football team.

It hasn't been all that long since ELCA also jumped from GISA into GHSA.

The Chargers joined the GHSA in 2004 and have made the playoffs every year.

"They are one of the top programs in Henry County," Bell said. "We would love to have that kind of early success someday."

The two teams will officially get their football rivalry started on Oct. 8 when they meet in a region battle on the Strong Rock campus.