The day after Thanksgiving, J.B. Arnold and some fellow Jefferson County football coaches typically hop in the car and head out to watch a playoff football game.
They won't be doing that this year. Instead, thousands of people will be flocking to their game, at 7:30 p.m. tonight against Calhoun, the state's No. 1 Class AA team. Jefferson County is in its first state quarterfinal following a galvanizing home overtime win over Thomasville last week.
"It's a great feeling knowing people are coming to watch you play," Arnold said. "We have to step up and play these kind of games, go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the state to get where we want to be."
Calhoun, Arnold said, fits that mold. It has one of the top players in the state, Georgia wide receiver recruit Da'Rick Rogers (6-2, 200), and hasn't lost since falling to Buford 45-21 in the Georgia Dome last year in the state final. Calhoun won its first two playoff games by 28 and 25 points.
Jefferson County only committed one turnover against Thomasville -- a long pass attempt that wasn't returned and essentially served as a long punt -- and Arnold said a similar type of execution is needed against a team that is stellar in every area. Calhoun, for example, blocked three punts last week in the first quarter of its second-round win.
"We just have to execute at a high level at this stage of the game," said Arnold, whose team planned to work out early Thanksgiving morning. "They're great on special teams, explosive offensively ... We just have to play flawless, because they are every bit as good as advertised.
"Slowly but surely we are playing at a high level. One of the reasons we prepare all (off-season) is for games like this: to give yourself a chance to win."
LOOKS FAMILIAR: Thomas Jefferson Academy is playing in its fifth consecutive GISA Class A state title game.
Its opponent today will look familiar: Terrell Academy defeated the Jaguars 61-26 last year.
Thomas Jefferson has won two state titles during this run: 2005 and 2006. Flint River won the title over the Jaguars in 2007.
HOME SWEET HOME: Brentwod won its previous state titles under coach Bert Brown on the road, in 2002 at Tiftarea and 2003 at Southwest Georgia Academy.
The War Eagles will savor playing host to the GISA Class AA title game tonight against defending champion Memorial Day.
It is the school's first appearance in a state title game since that 2003 win.
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.