GAINESVILLE -- "When you think of Chestatee (football), what do you think about?"
War Eagles receiver/defensive back Kelly Arthur was quick to answer his own question.
"We want to be hard, fast and physical. In past years we've heard, 'Chestatee's soft; Chestatee will give up.' We're trying to change that."
In back-to-back outings this season, the War Eagles have done much to show the rest of north Georgia and Region 8-AAAA, that they are indeed, "hard, fast and physical."
Starting with a Sept. 21 double overtime defeat of Eastside, Chestatee began an impressive span that continued last Friday in a 24-20 defeat of then-No. 5 Stephens County in Toccoa. The two-game surge vaulted the War Eagles into the driver's seat in 8-AAAA (along with old foe Monroe Area) and has done much to erase the memories of a season-opening loss to North Hall.
Earlier this week, Access North Georgia.com sports editor Morgan Lee caught up with members of the War Eagles to talk about their stirring start to region play and what challenges remain for Chestatee. To watch the presentation, simply scroll down and click "play."
"After North Hall we knew we had a good team, we just didn't play our best that game," Chestatee quarterback Jordan DeGraff said. "It kind of hit us. We're ready to show people that we're for real. Eastside really changed it for us. We had a shaky first half in Stephens County, but we knew we could get it done."
Chestatee got it done impressively last week, especially in the fourth quarter, when the War Eagles put up 21 points, taking a 24-14 lead.
One week after putting up over 600 yards of offense, Chestatee showed it can play some pretty good defense as well, holding Stephens County's explosive ground attack to just 126 yards and limiting the Indians to 243 yards overall. Meanwhile, the War Eagles rushed for 248 yards, including 146 yards from DeGraff -- who says the War Eagles are feeling the buzz of their success around every corner.
"People are starting to jump on board with what we're doing," DeGraff said. "It's pretty fun watching them talk about how we're doing and know that everyone is really starting to support us."
That said, Chestatee knows it faces a different kind of challenge now: how to handle success. None of the current War Eagles players have experienced postseason play, and Chestatee's last winning season came in 2007.
"We talked at length on Monday about making sure we're not complacent," head coach Stan Luttrell said. "Last Friday wasn't the state championship. Every Friday is a test. That was not the final exam, just another test. We're in a new situation as far as Chestatee goes. Some teams are tested with losing streaks or with success and championships, and that's a test we've got to pass."
Yet a senior-laden squad -- the War Eagles feature 50 juniors and seniors combined on the roster -- is doing its best to keep its head down and focus on improving each day.
"We've got to practice every day with great effort," Arthur said. "And it's not just a couple of guys on offense and defense that have to play well. We have to play well as a team. So we've got to keep grinding every day at practice. (Us seniors) also need to step up as leaders a little more so the younger guys all know we're in this together."
And if Chestatee ever starts to lose its focus those seniors can point again at those three words -- hard, fast and physical.
CHESTATEE at JOHNSON
-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
-- WHERE: Billy Ellis Memorial Stadium, Oakwood
-- CHESTATEE (3-1, 2-0 Region 8-AAAA): Defeated Stephens County 24-20 last week.
-- JOHNSON (3-2, playing non-region schedule): Bye last week after defeating East Hall 22-21 on Sept. 21.
-- HISTORY: Chestatee won the last meeting, 28-13 in 2011. The War Eagles lead the series 8-3.