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A season that meant more than just football

The 2022 Swainsboro Middle School Football season started in mid-June. Although the attendance wasn’t what the coaches expected at times, there was a consistent number of players showing up to lift weights, condition, and practice schematics. During the first week of summer workouts, the coaches and players decided that the upcoming season would be dedicated to the memory of Coach Shon Nobles. Coach Shon was a state champion football player, business owner, mentor for kids, and a vital part of the coaching staff at Swainsboro Middle School. He instilled work ethic in kids during his tenure at Swainsboro. He consistently taught players that if you wanted something in life, you had to go get it, nobody is giving anything away for free.

The players immediately bought in to dedicating the season to Coach Shon. Every day at the end of practice, the players would say, “Don’t say it if you don’t mean it, SMSN on 3.. 1, 2, 3.. SMSN!!!” The acronym SMSN stands for, Swainsboro Middle/Shon Nobles.

The season had a rocky beginning for the Tigers. They would travel to Dodge County game one and drop the contest 38-16 after leading 16-14 at the half. However, the Tigers would rebound the next three weeks to take victories over Dublin, East Laurens, and West Laurens to improve to 3-1 on the season. Bleckley County was the next team on the schedule for the Tigers. The team faced a lot of adversity during the week at practice and had some players missing due to injury and sickness. The game was played in Bleckley County where the Royals would become victorious over the Tigers. Coach Shon always preached about how adversity shows what you are made of as a man and the Tigers’ adversity was not over for the season. The next week, the JR Trippe Chiefs came to Tiger Field for the 8th grade recognition night. Again, the Tigers had several players out that game due to injury and sickness. The Tigers would go on to lose that game and sink to an even .500 record at 3-3 on the season.

Again, adversity at its finest. The coaches constantly reminded the players of Coach Shon’s last message to his players, family, and friends, “The Struggle is part of Journey”. The players immediately woke up. They knew that if they wanted to honor Coach Shon, it was now or never. The team traveled to Jeff Davis to take on a tough Yellow Jacket football team. A win meant that Swainsboro would enter the playoffs as the number four seed. After a hard fought game, the Tigers were victorious.

The playoffs began with the team once again traveling to Dodge County to face the number one seed. Dodge County had amazing speed and physicality, but the Tigers were playing with a purpose. The Tigers found themselves down at the half 14-0 and battled back to win the game 24-22 to reach their fourth championship game in the past five years. Swainsboro had to wait to see if they would be playing JR Trippe Middle School or Bleckley County Middle School, which would be played the following day. JR Trippe beat Bleckley County 38-8 to face Swainsboro in the championship for the third time in the past four years.

As some of you may remember, it has been a tradition for Swainsboro and JR Trippe to play under the lights of a high school field with the band present and the stands packed out, but this year would be different. Vidalia was the second seeded team and the Tigers were the visiting team and it was decided by the coaches and administration at JR Trippe that the game should be played at standard time (4:30) and at JR Trippe Middle School. The school brought in an extra set of bleachers to accommodate the crowd that both teams brought.

When the clock hit 4:30, there was only standing room available at JR Trippe Middle School. One set of bleachers, divided down the middle, Chief fans on one side, Tiger fans on the other. Swainsboro won the toss and elected to defer to the second half. Jobias Smith led the kickoff team onto the field and kicked the ball into the opposing end zone, which forced the Chiefs to take the ball deep in their own territory. Swainsboro’s defense would force a three and out on the first drive. The Tiger offense took the field. It would be the nasty offensive line for Swainsboro opening up gaps for Jobias Smith, Kamaurion Dukes, and Daveyhon Williams to run through that would put Swainsboro on the board first, 8-0. Swainsboro’s defense came back out swinging again. They forced a turnover that would lead to a 16-0 lead for Swainsboro. The Chiefs fought back just before the half with a deep pass that cut the deficit to 16-8.

The Tigers received the second half onside kick and were held to their first three and out of the game. The Chiefs would come out running through gaps and throwing quick passes and it seemed that they had the momentum of the game in their favor. However, that would soon change. The Chiefs fumbled the ball in Tiger territory and it was recovered by the Tigers. On the first play after the possession change, Jobias Smith would take it 60 plus yards for another Tiger touchdown. The Chiefs struggled with turnovers on the next few possessions. Shannon Benjamin intercepted a pass and took it down to the five yard line, which resulted in a Tommy Thomas touchdown that made the game 30-8. The Chiefs would again turn the ball over on the next possession due to an interception by Gzamone Gardner. The Tigers would control the clock for the rest of the game to win their third championship in that last four years.

The coaching staff at Swainsboro Middle School would like to thank the parents of their student athletes, the administration, the teachers, and the community for their support during this championship run. They would also like to thank Miss Mary Nobles (mother of Coach Shon) for her delicious pregame meals throughout the season. The coaching staff is extremely proud of these young men for setting a goal and accomplishing it. They know that Coach Shon was by their side the whole way and could not have been more proud of how these players overcome adversity to win another championship for Swainsboro Middle School.

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