Ever since their lone playoff season in 2008, Strong Rock Christian's football gear has been stuck in reverse.
They went 4-6 in 2009, their final season in the Georgia Independent Schools Association, then 2-7-1 in 2010 in the Georgia High School Association.
"It was hard," said senior lineman Jake Godin. "I hate losing more than anything."
The Patriots think they have what it takes to get it unstuck. In a region where Wesleyan in the North and Eagle's Landing Christian Academy in the South have ruled the roost, the Patriots believe they can not only contend, but win it all.
"To be region champs," senior fullback Kyle Jennings said. "It is a big dream, crazy, a big leap, but if we all come together, it would be a good achievement."
The Patriots have a new coach in Mark Miller, who left his alma mater at Woodward Academy for an undertaking that he calls "phenomenal," "a new challenge" and "exciting."
And like his players, he'd rather aim higher than lower.
"You may find that our goals for (the program's) fifth year are lofty aspirations," Miller said. "But if you don't set yourself up for high goals, you don't have anything to shoot for. When I was at Woodward, we would win region championships, get the No. 1 seed and let the playoffs take care of themselves."
The only time the Patriots made the playoffs was when they were in GISA, and even then to call it a rough experience might be an understatement. The Patriots were hammered Flint River Academy 53-14.
The Patriots look forward to better things, they say, because they've done too much work in the offseason not to.
"We had workouts for three or four hours a day, five days a week," Godin said, recounting the offseason. The team, led a small band of seniors, are looking for a payoff.
"Wins — as many as we can get," Godin said.
Jennings said the players are excited with the new coaching staff, which is new to Strong Rock Christian in more ways than one. It's a bigger coaching staff, for one thing.
"We have a coach for every position," he said.
Larger schools may take that for granted.
Jennings said that the larger staff has resulted one-on-one attention and with the experience that Miller's staff brings, the Patriots should improve. And the players themselves, he said, "have to become more of a family."
They have, said Godin. "Our senior class has gotten close."
Miller is trying to pattern Strong Rock Christian after programs like Marist has under Alan Chadwick, who is entering his 27th season at the north Atlanta Catholic school.
"Especially Chadwick," Miller said. "He's got a good blueprint. We can have the exact same thing."