Richmond Hill High School football coach Lyman Guy said his team hasn't yet had time to enjoy the fruits of the program's first winning season since 1996.
"Missing the playoffs has left us with the immediate feeling of disappointment," he said. "However, once we have time to reflect I'm sure it will be very rewarding."
Upon reflection, the Wildcats should find they have reason to celebrate after pummeling Evans 47-8 on Nov. 4 to finish 6-4 - only the third winning season in the program's history.
Richmond Hill left little doubt at Evans that the team was on a mission. The Wildcats jumped out to a 41-0 halftime lead and never looked back, getting three TDs from Dominique Allen, two from Alex Cruz and one from TJ Franklin.
Defensively, Zach Stegner led the Wildcats with eight tackles and two assists while Keller Owens and Michael Clark had an interception each. Owens returned his for a TD.
Even better, the Wildcats showed character at the end of the game when the Evans bench reportedly cleared and a number of Knights were ejected.
"However, our players were never penalized for anything unsportsmanlike and represented the program really well," Guy said.
The Wildcats will go into the offseason looking to fill some big shoes - especially in the backfield, which loses Cruz, TJ Franklin and Aaron Dixon.
Cruz rushed for 633 yards and eight TDs on 43 carries -an average of 15 yards every time he touched the ball. He also caught six passes for 57 yards and a TD and was the Wildcats' top kick returner.
Franklin ran for 465 yards and six TDs - he caught three more TD passes out of the backfield - while Dixon added two touchdowns and 290 yards on 51 carries while also returning an interception 90 yards for a TD against Wayne County.
But Richmond Hill returns quarterback Dominique Allen, who accounted for 687 yards and 12 TDs rushing the ball and threw for five TDs.
The Wildcats also return fullback David Katzman, who rushed for 542 yards and five TDs and receiver Hank Ferendo, the team's leading receiver with eight catshs for 160 yards and a touchdown.
Offensive linemen Nick Johnson, Jacob Skarhaus, Lawton Chancey, DJ Gamble, Kendall Robinson and Connor Bloomer are set to graduate, leaving the Wildcats with work to do on the offensive line.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats lose linebacker Connor Beeson, who led Richmond Hill with 67 total tackles (59 solo, 16 assists) and Trey Thomas, with 53 total tackles (45, 16).
Owens, safety Kyle Greening, cornerback JJ Franklin and defensive back Kennard Sutton are also among the seniors the Wildcats will have to replace.
But Stegner, a rambunctious junior, and defensive men Taylor Hayes and Talib Young return.
So does punter Seth Vernau, a sophomore who twice made timely kicks to pin opponents inside their own 5-yard line, and placekicker Canon Rooker, who hit 22 of 23 extra points and a field goal.
"There are a lot of positives to speak on about this past season," Guy said. "But we would not have enough time to speak on the entire team individually. The senior class has really raised the standard and laid the foundation for good things to come. We are excited about the returning players and the rising potential we have coming."
For Guy, the Wildcats will continue to progress "if the players and coaches continue to work had and the Lord continues to bless our efforts."
There are some things out of Richmond Hill's control, however. It's unclear which region and classification the team will belong to next fall. The Georgia High School Association went to six classifications and will place schools in classifications based on student enrollment on Tuesday, according to the Atlanta Journal Constituion and Georgia High School Football Daily. With an enrollment upwards of 1,300 in grades 9-11 alone, Richmond Hill is projected to be a Class AAAAA school.
In the meantime, Richmond Hill coaches and players will "look back and identify strengths and weaknesses of this past season and address them," Guy said.
See more on reclassification on The Sports Blog at bryancountynews.net.