WARNER ROBINS, Ga. -- Northside Warner Robins is no stranger to the state championship.
But there were times this year where it felt like Atlanta was a long way off for this Eagles team, which went just 5-5 in the regular season.
"As long as our goal was still out there in front of us, our kids stayed committed," head coach Kevin Kinsler says.
Northside (9-5) never stopped believing in 2018 -- and now the Eagles are preparing for the 6A state championship game Tuesday at 8 p.m.
"Everybody keeps making a big deal out of 5-5," Kinsler says. "And what I've made a big deal out of is Northside kids are Northside kids."
Northside has established a culture of expected excellence for the past 27 years -- making the playoffs each year -- and there was never any reason that this season would be any different..
"It's always our main goal every year -- state championship," senior cornerback Tubby McCall said. "So we won't ever think we're not coming here. Just believe."
To go from .500 to a state title appearance meant this team had a lot of growing up to do, and not lot of time to do so.
"We had to get better and we had to grow up -- get battle-tested throughout the season," Kinsler said. "And it was gonna be a process of getting better each week. Playing the schedule we did didn't make it any easier."
That schedule now comes full circle, as Northside prepares to face region foe Lee County at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
This is the third straight year that the 6A state champion will come from this region, meaning this team is used to playing elite competition week-in and week-out.
"It's a grind, but that's what it's all about," Kinsler said. "That's what's fun about it is knowing that you're gonna play that kind of competition. And yeah I say fun, but it's tough, and the expectations are there."
The doubters have been silenced and the goal is waiting for Northside. All that's left is to go capture it.
"It's like a dream come true," McCall said. "Every high school player wants to be in this position."