Joe Roberts' Christian Collegiate Academy Bulldogs are exactly where he envisioned during the preseason.
Prior to the 8-man season kicking off, Roberts expected his experienced Bulldogs to contend for the school's first MAIS state championship -- and now here they are.
Having edged Kemper Academy 43-42 on Friday, the Bulldogs (12-0) face Tallulah (La.) Academy at 10 a.m. Thursday at Millsaps College's Harper Davis Field.
"We've felt from the very beginning we had a good opportunity just based on their work ethic in the past," Roberts said while his team practiced at Smith-Wills Stadium on Wednesday. "It's hard to surrender on something you've put a lot of work into, starting in the summer, so we try to reiterate how much time we've put in. We've put the work in, now it's time to go."
The Bulldogs are led by dual-threat quarterback Devan Roberts, who has completed 78.4 percent of his passes for 1,554 yards and 23 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,415 yards and 22 scores.
Trey Clolinger has been CCA's leading playmaker -- outside of Roberts -- collecting 639 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, with 26 receptions for 447 yards and six TDs. He's one of five CCA players to register 10 or more receptions with 150 or more yards. Micah Williams and Blake Prince have also proven to be reliable targets, combining for more than 35 receptions for 600 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Defensively, junior lineman Caleb Bush has been hard to stop. The junior leads the team with 13 sacks and also has 75 tackles.
Opposite CCA will be a familiar opponent in Tallulah Academy, which lost in the state championship game last year. The Bulldogs knocked off the Trojans 46-38 in Week 4 of the season thanks in large part to Roberts' 272 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
His father, Joe Roberts, doesn't expect the Trojans to come out and look the same Thursday morning.
"They've gotten better and we've gotten better. We do some things different as do we," he said. "While you can take a little bit from (the previous win), you can't base everything off of it. I wish you could.
"They're a good opponent and have several guys on offense who can score at any time."
Despite the school's first state championship hanging in the balance on Thursday, Roberts said his team has been pretty loose.
"It's a good mix. They're excited about being here," he said. "They've seen their hard work pay off. This is our first trip here, so we want them to enjoy it but we need them to stay focused as well. It's a delicate balance.
"Looking at them practice, they look confident and like they're ready to go. My expectation is to go out there just like any other game and execute what we do."