Quarterback Xavier Crain believes Grovetown's football players used their nonregion schedule last year as motivation.
Because the Warriors didn't play region, they were ineligible for the playoffs. That meant that, in a way, the regular season served as the postseason -- or the last stop -- for the outgoing seniors.
This season, Crain said he and his teammates will play with the same high intensity in the regular season. However, having the chance to take the second-year high school to the playoffs for the first time provides a little more motivation.
"It would mean a lot," Crain said of a potential playoff berth. "It would not only put you in history, but it would just mean a lot to me, all the seniors, the coaches, all the players.
"We're just like the first stepping stone."
To get there, the Warriors -- who finished 6-4 last season -- will have to successfully navigate the northern subdivision of Region 3-AAA, which also features Harlem, Josey, Richmond Academy, Thomson and Westside.
Coach Rodney Holder didn't shy away from scheduling tough opponents last season.
Three of them -- Buford and Northside-Warner Robins on the Georgia side and Fairfield Central in South Carolina -- were programs that have grown to be among the best in their state.
Holder hoped that by seeing what successful programs look like, his players could understand what Grovetown is trying to build toward.
"By playing guys like that," he explained, "it gave not only our kids a chance to see it up close on the field, but it also gave our fans a chance to see it when we traveled to Buford and Northside and had Fairfield travel to us."
Gone is workhorse running back Seth Hill, who ran for more than 1,400 yards and scored 17 touchdowns during his senior season. Attempting to replace his production will be a new face at Grovetown and a group of young standouts.
D.J. Tyson transferred from Greenbrier this summer and should get plenty of opportunities to show off his speed.
Meanwhile, Jamal Cummings leads a contingent of sophomore backs, which includes Terrell Hughes and Devin Bryant.
Defensively, Crain will anchor the secondary along with senior cornerback Tae Miller. Senior Chris McElhaney will roam the middle of the field at linebacker.
Holder said the goal of the defense in preseason practice was to make the next step in understanding game situations.
"Just understanding how to transition into different downs. ... We're just pushing these guys to understand the game of football," Holder said.