AA

Athens Academy players prepare to break down a huddle during their first fall practice last week. 

Chest-pounding speeches or slogans hanging in the weight room aren’t necessary at Athens Academy this year.

The expectations are known. The goals are obvious. The point of reference for excellence in the eyes of those around the Spartans has probably never been easier to look up and see.

The Spartans expect to be competing for a state championship in 2019.

They expect to have a bullseye attached on their backs everywhere they go. From playing against Athens Christian School, the team they’ve beaten by a combined score of 97-7 the last two years, to Prince Avenue Christian School who they’ve knocked from the title of region champions the last two seasons, all the way to Eagle’s Landing Christian who have won five of the last seven Class A Private state titles.

The Spartans are a team that every one is either chasing or in ELCA’s case running to stay ahead of. Spartans’ head coach Josh Alexander played a game of musical chairs on Wednesday afternoon at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business building answering questions about the team’s expectations and how they intended on beating the state’s golden standard program.

Jokingly, Alexander admits the Spartans don’t think about ELCA much at all. The Spartans are normal guys who happen to play football.

“Only when you [the media] ask us a question [do we think about ELCA],” Alexander said with a laugh. “We were really talking about where we’re going to eat lunch today. People outside the program ask about them. When you get invited to talk at different things as a coach and you get kids who get invited to things and they think we’re cooler than we really are. We’re a bunch of normal dudes that play football and we had the opportunity to have a senior class five years ago that set the standard.”

The solution to winning the state championship isn’t written in the words written about the program nor is it hidden in the messaging blasted across social media in the various hashtags that have become popular in the sports world.

Being champions for the Spartans is in the details. The Spartans want to look like champions, speak like champions, eat like champions and have players that hold those who aren’t living to the standards placed in front of them accountable.

“We like to think outside the box and pride ourselves on not being into the mottos,” Alexander said. “We’re not going to attack the day or finish the drill. We’re going to show up and expect the most.”

Alexander and his coaching staff do their fair-share of the correcting, but as the culture and standard it represents hardens in the stone of the campus, the Spartans have leaders that self-police the little details.

“When it comes from player to player and they expect the most from the guy next to them [its effective],” Alexander said. “We’ve got kids with 72,422 stars next to their name, but if that kid is lazy, you can ask those kids, we will call them out. To me, it goes back to accountability in everything we do. If the kid’s right shoe is untied, somebody needs to tell him that his shoe is untied. It’s cross the T’s and dot the I’s in everything to the best of your ability. To me, that’s culture.”

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