Photo by Derrick Mahone / Strong Rock quarterback Zach Moss said “in the past I hadn’t been a vocal leader. That’s something I’ve been working on this year.”
LOCUST GROVE — At halftime of Strong Rock Christian’s game against Crawford County last Friday, the Patriots encountered a moment already all too common for the young program.
Down by two touchdowns at home against a team that entered the contest on a 26-game losing streak, Strong Rock coach Mark Miller and senior quarterback Zach Moss met privately as the team gathered in the locker room.
“At that moment, he was saying, without actually saying it, ‘You have to step up,’” Moss said. “’This is your moment to show the team you can lead them.’”
Moss’ answer came on just the third play from scrimmage in the second half. Facing 3rd-and-7 from Strong Rock’s own 15 yard line, Moss exploded for an 80-yard run to Crawford County’s 5-yard line.
The crowd cheered, the team erupted and the quarterback found his voice.
Strong Rock went on to a 17-14 victory to improve to 3-1 as the Patriots go into their off week with the best start in school history since they joined the Georgia High School Association in 2010.
After Moss’ big run, he went on to display a vocal side he hadn’t before. The senior, one of just six this season for Strong Rock, had been struggling to find his place as a vocal leader. But 80 yards later, Moss’ problem was solved.
“In the past I hadn’t been a vocal leader,” Moss said. “That’s something I’ve been working on this year. I just feel like when I came out, the team saw a difference in me and I saw a difference in my team. That obviously showed in the second half. Something just clicked with me to be vocal and have faith to come back and win.”
Indeed, something has clicked for Strong Rock this season.
According to Moss, there’s a more harmonious relationship between players and the coaching staff in Miller’s second year at Strong Rock since leaving Woodward Academy after six seasons.
“One thing that we’ve started doing is trusting ourselves and our coaching staff,” Moss said. “We’d not gotten to the point of full cooperation with coaches. They were new to us [last season]. With a year under our belt, we’ve come together and have full trust in them.”
And the team is starting to trust Moss more, too, especially after a performance like Friday.
Running the triple option, Moss finished with 20 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He also had two interceptions on defense.
“We always talk about playing with your hair on fire,” Miller said. “That’s how he’s played.”
But it was in the huddle where Moss felt the biggest impact.
To Moss, it was a place to announce the play call. Nothing more.
On Friday, he found out the power the huddle can contain.
“I hadn’t really taken control and shown that this is my huddle,” Moss said. “I just felt it was a totally different atmosphere in the huddle in the second half. It was like an atmosphere of respect. It was almost like my teammates knew I had the ability to make the plays.”
Now, Strong Rock is believing it has the ability to make the GHSA playoffs for the first time.
But Miller said he’s also mindful that Strong Rock’s toughest challenges are ahead.
The Patriots have gone 3-1 against four teams with a combined 2-13 record. After a week off, Strong Rock starts region play where it’ll encounter teams with a combined 13-11 record, including No. 1-ranked Eagle’s Landing Christian (3-1); Landmark Christian (2-2), the state runner-up last season; and Holy Innocents (2-2), another playoff team from a year ago.
“We’re 3-1, but we know we still have a tough road ahead of us,” Miller said. “The guys, because of the winning, have a lot of confidence. That can only be a plus.
“But at the same time we remain grounded, humble and realize region competition is going to be even better.”