"They are pretty pumped up," Cartersville coach Pete Nunn said as his team made its way into town with a police escort. "It's been a long weekend, playing back-to-back games."
Nunn said the Canes began their game against Calhoun somewhat flat, which led to a halftime pep talk.
Leading by just one score, Cartersville had the wind at its back and pinned Calhoun at the 4- or 5-yard line, he said.
The Canes forced a turnover on downs and were able to run the clock out to preserve the win.
"The last two games, I don't know that I've ever seen a team play like that together," said Nunn, whose Cartersville team dominated Crisp County Saturday in a 36-6 semifinal matchup. "Times can be tough and they didn't bicker. They came together."
A loss nearly a month ago may have driven the Canes down this road.
"Since that game, we've come out and dominated every game," Nunn said. "Several of the boys made it to the finals last year and lost in the last second."
"They've suffered their setbacks," he continued, "and they thought about that, and they talked about that as a team."
Cartersville's players, many of whom also lost in the final seconds of a region final two years ago, were determined not to let that happen.
In this year's semifinals, the Canes faced up against a much bigger Crisp County and seemed undaunted.
"They were a big team," Nunn said of his team's opponent Saturday. "They probably outweighed us -- man to man -- by 20 pounds."
Still, Nunn's team would not be intimidated, something he said he talked with his players following that loss weeks ago.
"They came out opening kickoff and really just set the tone with a big hit [by] Noah Foley," he recalled.
Nunn, who has coached at the recreation level for 22 years, told his players how much he loved them afterward.
"I don't have my own children, and these boys are my boys," he said. "They'll always be my boys.
"We had dinner after the game and just sat the trophy right there [on the table] and enjoyed the victory."