D'IBERVILLE -- Wednesday's workout seemed more or less like a casual walk-though from the outside. Some Warriors jogged down the corridor between the high school's weight room and gymnasium. Others got their reps in on the exercise bike or stretched lightly. They mingled. Laughed. Joked around. That was the appearance, anyway.
Internally, what's at stake Saturday has a confident D'Iberville powerlifting team anxious. Ask about the upcoming MHSAA Powerlifting Championships and all the fun evaporates from the room.
As the reigning Class 6A champs, D'Iberville knows it has a bull's-eye on its back. Two years ago, the Warriors were only points away from claiming their first title but had to settle for third. Last year, D'Iberville was unparalleled in earning the runaway 6A championship.
But that was last year.
"They have a very good understanding that this year is a different year and it's going to be a battle," coach Josh Ladner said. "I have some good kids. Some kids, when it comes to a battle they may not be looking forward to it, but they really are. They're excited about it."
Specifically, Ladner sees Gulfport as the biggest threat.
The Warriors defeated Gulfport in the regional and again at South State -- but only by five points.
The Admirals will bring nine lifters to Jackson on Saturday. D'Iberville qualified eight.
Still, there's plenty of cautious confidence from Ladner.
"They've been there and done it. This is some of their third or fourth trip to state," Ladner said of his squad. "They're very prepared. I feel like they're the best team I've ever had. I know I say that every year, but I think it's just because they're growing and the sport is growing. The difference this year is the competition. We have a lot better competition. Other schools have really stepped it up.
"We're in for a battle, but we welcome that. We're good for it."
Austin Fountain (123), Chad Bosarge (148), Khalil McCray (165), Garrett Stratton (165), Cade Ross (198) Micah Booker (220), Wyatt Delancey (242) and Mike McCoy (242) all qualified, with McCray, Ross, Booker, Delancey and McCoy all earning spots on the two Super 12 teams.
Ross, ranked among the top lifters nationally, is the unquestioned leader of the team and a "one-of-a-kind lifter."
"I coach football also," Ladner said, "and people make that analogy sometimes where you might get this kind of athlete once in your career; I think he's that kind of lifter.
"I don't know that I'll ever have anybody with his kind of ability plus someone who is willing to put in the time and sacrifice."
The Warrior lifters talked only about winning Saturday, as if there's no other option.
"We're kind of anxious but more than anything we're confident in all the hard work we've put in over the past few weeks. We're pretty confident in ourselves," Booker said. "We're really just expecting to go out there and dominate, to be honest."
Delancey was a bit more reserved.
"We're just going to go, give it our best and see what happens. We have some good competition," he said. "We'll go in there expecting a fight and whatever happens, happens. We just have to bring our best."
Asked if they have to guard against being overly confident Saturday, Ross referred to the Bible.
"You prepare your fields for when the rain comes. You don't just expect God to give you anything just because you pray to him," he said. "You work your tail off, you pray, you do everything you're supposed to do leading up to it. We've done that and more. We're not walking in as champions. We're walking in with the mindset of champions. We want it so bad. More than anyone."
The Powerlifting Championships will kick off at 8 a.m. and will run throughout the day.