Mark Mariakis got out of bed last Saturday morning, picked up his phone and began the process of preparing for the biggest game in his life and his program's history.
What better way to prepare for your first state championship football game than to bend the ear of someone who's been there five previous times?
"I talked to Hal first thing Saturday morning and asked for some advice," the Ridgeland coach said of Calhoun's Hal Lamb. "He basically said the big thing is to get the kids out there and let them get some of the nervous energy out of them."
The two teams play back-to-back today in the Georgia Dome, with Calhoun (14-0) facing Jefferson (13-1) in the Class AA title game at 2:30 and Ridgeland (13-1) going against top-ranked Sandy Creek (14-0) in the Class AAAA game at 5:30. Mariakis said he hopes getting his team to the Dome early will help them, though he's not sure any amount of warmup is going to make a difference.
"Our kids will be so jacked up they might not need to warm up," Mariakis said, laughing. I'm not worried about them being overwhelmed, though. To watch practice this week you couldn't tell if it was week two or the championship game. It's just a special group, and I don't think anything will bother them."
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...