Paul Standard recognized the possibilities several weeks ago as St. Pius zeroed in on its first undefeated regular season in football in more than 40 years.
Now, as he prepares his team for the Class AAA quarterfinals, Standard is watching his team become part of the St. Pius football tradition instead of simply being inspired by it.
“Each week we’ve made some history,” Standard said. “We tell them each week we have a chance to do something else to add to the history and tradition of this program.”
With a win two weeks ago in the first round, the Golden Lions were 11-0 for the first time in school history. Friday’s 17-3 win over North Hall in the second round was the first football home playoff win in school history. The win also tied the record for most wins (the 1968 state championship team went 12-1). The Golden Lions can set the record for wins with a win over Peach County on Nov. 27, and advance to the state semifinals for only the fourth time in program history.
“We talk about it every day,” Standard said. “I think it’s important for the kids to know where we’ve come from and where we’re going.”
St. Pius has flourished in nine seasons under Standard, going 75-29 with four straight playoff appearances and seven during his tenure. Prior to Standard’s arrival, the Golden Lions had missed the playoffs in 16 of 17 seasons after the retirement of longtime coach George Maloof in 1983.
Much of the current success falls on the shoulders of Standard’s largest senior class. There are 26 seniors on this year’s team, while Standard had about 23 on the 2006 team that advanced to the state semifinals.
The senior leaders include running back Cole Moon and linebacker Robert Lucisano. Moon leads the team in rushing and had 117 yards and two touchdowns against North Hall. George Kennedy added 118 yards rushing. The defense held the Trojans to only 34 yards of offense in the second half.
“They have been great leaders,” Standard said of his senior class. “Their ability to stay focused and keep the rest of the team focused has been a big part of our success. To be able to play 13 weeks on an even keel, no matter who we play, the kids have stayed on the same level of preparation. That’s been the hallmark of this senior class. That, and the ability to make plays when we’ve had to have them to win.”
The past five games have been especially critical for the Golden Lions. A 37-13 win over Grady in the eighth game of the season gave the Golden Lions the No. 1 seed in Region 5-AAA, Division B. Two weeks later, the Golden Lions won the region with a 10-7 win over Dunwoody in the final game of the regular season.
The Golden Lions have posted three shutouts and have held nine opponents to a touchdown or less.
Peach County also is undefeated, having won each of its last six games by at least 21 points. The Trojans are in the postseason for the 19th straight time and have played in five state championship games during that stretch. The Trojans won state titles in 2005 and 2006.
“This will be our toughest challenge this season,” Standard said. “They have excellent athletes, and they’re very physical. We’re going to have our hands full.”