Athens Academy head coach Josh Alexander looks on during practice. 

Athens Academy’s players enter this week with a sigh of relief. It’s easy to get excited about facing a cross-town rival.

The hard part of being a program with expectations of winning a state championship is getting up for every game, knowing that every game won’t be a close one.

The Spartans have outscored their first four opponents 174-32. The combined record of those opponents is only 3-16.

Finding the pre game energy is admittedly difficult. That won’t be the issue for the Spartans this week. The Spartans will travel about 10 minutes to face the Wolverines of Prince Avenue Christian School in the annual Backyard Brawl on Friday night.

“That brings a lot more attention to the week, we seem to practice better because of it,” senior Len’Neth Whitehead said. “We try to treat each week the same. At the end of the day, we know they’re a better team than we’ve played so far. We’re practicing better. Even today, we looked pretty crisp. I’m excited to see what happens as the week goes and how much better we practice and how it translates into the game.”

The need for original means of hype won’t be necessary.

If anything this is the week in which the Spartans’ veterans must preach first-timers to pull themselves back a little bit with so much attention on Friday’s game.

“It’s a big game,” senior Kurt Knisely said. “You have to be focused this week. It is a cross-town rivalry game and they’re great team with a lot of great athletes and a lot of great coaches. The main thing is to be focused about us and don’t get wrapped up in everything else. We have to just be about us and not all the external stuff that can bring us down off the field.”

Spartans’ head coach Josh Alexander comes in with a unique concern. With the three blowout wins, a storm-shortened game and two off weeks, Alexander wonders about the Spartans’ readiness to face the expected four-quarter war with the Wolverines.

The Spartans haven’t played a lot of football and it may be the last question that needs to be answered about the 2019 edition heading into Friday night.

“We’re really fresh but we haven’t played a full game yet, so that’s worrisome at times,” Alexander said.

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