WARNER ROBINS, Ga. -- The 2018 season for the Northside Eagles has been full of ups and downs. After narrowly making the playoffs with a 5-5 record (2-2 region), very few pegged the Eagles to make a deep playoff run.
The Eagles were perfectly fine being overlooked -- they were just ready to work. Now that work has led them to the the 6A GHSA state semifinals, as they travel to Dacula to take on the Falcons Friday night.
"You know the kids kept believing and buying in, and things started gelling together," head coach Kevin Kinsler said. "But that stuff happened because they kept believing, and they never lost sight of what their goal was."
Northside was battle tested playing in one of the toughest regions in the entire state, a region that includes that last two 6A state champions (Lee County, Valdosta).
That tough region -- and an incredibly difficult non-region schedule -- is what led to a disappointing 5-5 regular season record for the Eagles. Those losses, however, only added fuel to the fire.
"After that loss against Valdosta," Kinsler said. "That two-point loss, the kids just came out and had the best practice they've had all year, and just continued to stick together."
The Eagles are no strangers to the Final Four -- they've made it to this round in nine of the last 13 seasons -- but this is a team full of first-year starters. For many of the seniors, this will be their first and only time playing this far in the playoffs.
"It's a lot, because my last two years, we didn't make it this far," senior quarterback Jadin Daniels said. "And it was doubters coming in, like right now, saying we wasn't gonna make it this far. So it means a lot."
The Eagles don't have the most talented team in the state. They don't have the most experience. What they do have, is a group of players that will never give anything less than they're very best effort every time they step on the field.
"We've got kids that love playing for Northside, and they work really hard and they play really hard," Kinsler said. "To see them be rewarded because they stuck together and kept working, that's pretty satisfying."
It would have been easy to throw in the towel and call it quits after a disappointing regular season. The Eagles never wanted it easy, and they're ready to prove the doubters wrong one more time.
"We felt like we had a good football team," Kinsler said. "I just give the kids all the credit for finishing strong, staying focused up. I couldn't be prouder of them."
Northside and Dacula will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday night.