For four years in a row, Coahulla Creek High School has opened the football season with a game against their neighboring rivals, Northwest Whitfield.
For the young Colt football program, which is its 10th season, the recent annual meetings with Northwest have been a solemn start to seasons of progress mostly undetectable in a win-loss record.
Those four times have been the only matchups between the two Whitfield County schools. Entering the 2021 game, Coahulla Creek had never scored more than seven points in any of the previous three games, and Northwest, usually a contender for the Class 4A playoffs, had delivered the Colts a decisive defeat.
Things were different in this year's matchup.
The Colts made a statement with their opening touchdown drive that this year would be different. Coahulla Creek didn't back down when Northwest responded either.
"We've been in the ballgame on the scoreboard the last few years in the fourth quarter and just hadn't been able to make plays," said head coach Danny Wilson.
That wasn't the case last Friday.
A late Coahulla Creek drive tied the game with just a few seconds left on the clock, and the Colts went on to take the victory after three overtimes at 31-25.
For a program that's never won more than two games in any season, the Colts have not had a victory like the one they got last week in Tunnel Hill. An early upset with a chance to build some much-needed momentum.
"At this point in time in our program, all wins are big. We've had some wins that have been good to us," Wilson said. "That's the first one that we've just been able to close out and do the things that we've been able to do to get the win, and that makes it a little more special."
That special win has the Colts in position to do special things for the program this season.
Coahulla Creek has started the season with a win before, but never gone 2-0 to start a campaign. They have a chance to change that tonight when the Colts host Southeast Whitfield, which put up a great fight and nearly pulled off a similar momentum-building win over Murray County last Friday.
Should Coahulla Creek win, they'll have already matched their program's best single-season win total with eight games left.
"You have to learn to handle success as well," Wilson said of his program after the season-opening win.
Luckily, the Colts have a coaching staff that has helped guide successful teams before.
Wilson, in his second year as the Colts' head coach, won a state championship at Tennessee's South Pittsburg as the head coach. Coahulla Creek also brought in Vic Grider, who had worked with Wilson at South Pittsburg and won a couple rings as head coach there, as an assistant this season.
Led by a team that brought back a lot of experience from another 2-8 season a year ago, the Creek is rising.
Nine games are left for the Colts to determine just how much.