Expectations are not necessarily a bad thing.
Taylorsville High School football coach Chuck Robertson should know.
Robertson was with the Tartars when they last played for a state championship 10 years ago, has been the head coach at the school the past two years where double-digit football victories are more the rule than the exception.
And Robertson will be on the sideline at 3 p.m. Friday when Taylorsville (14-1) meets Winona High School (11-3) at 3 p.m. in the Class 2A championship game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
"You ask about tradition, and it's bred in (the players) early, it's in the community," Robertson said earlier this week after his team wrapped up practice at M.M. Roberts Stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi.
"Our people expect us to win and everybody always talks about expectations. There's no negative for having good expectations. So, as far as that goes, really, there's no pressure (Friday). They want to win. Heck, I want to win. But there's no negative in having great expectations for your community, for your kids."
Senior receiver Perry Keyes said the Tartars are well aware of the program's tradition.
"We're reminded of it all the time," Keyes said. "Last year, we went 4-7, so the older guys have been telling us about getting us back to the tradition.
The last Taylorsville state championship came 15 years ago, and since then, the Tartars have been tantalizingly close.
Since beating Eupora High School 24-22 for the Class 2A state crown in 2002, Taylorsville has won at least two playoff games to reach the South State semifinals 10 times and battled for a South State title five times.
In 2003, 2009, 2010, the Tartars fell to the eventual state champion in the South State final. In 2007, Taylorsville reached the championship game, but lost 25-22 to West Bolivar High School.
Now, the Tartars will face a school looking to win its first state championship.
"We're excited, our kids are excited, about the opportunity," Winona coach Joey Tompkins said. "You know it's a different game, the kids know that, but I think once you get out there and you start playing, it's just football, and the team that plays the best and makes the fewest mistakes is going to win. That's it.
"Taylorsville is very, very talented, they're a well-coached team. They're very, very athletic. But we've got a bunch of guys that are just good football players. That's what they are. Good football players."
The Tigers, who defeated Calhoun City High 27-14 to win the Class 2A North State title, are paced by senior quarterback Jatyler Moore, who has thrown for 1,952 yards and 27 touchdowns with six interceptions. Moore has rushed for.
Moore and two juniors, D.J. Ringo and Jalen Campbell have paced the ground game. Ringo has run for 1,035 yards and 15 touchdowns, Moore 728 yards and 12 touchdowns and Campbell 651 yards and eight touchdowns.
Three juniors have combined for 129 catches. Chris Olton has 52 catches for 740 yards and nine touchdowns, Jay Lofton 47 catches for 627 yards and 11 scores and Ahmad Robinson 30 catches for 363 yards and five touchdowns.
"They'll be one of the beast-coached teams we've played all year," Robertson said. "They do things well. The quarterback (Moore) makes them go. He's a runner-thrower. They remind of a Lumberton and Perry Central. They like to run the football and throw it off of fakes and stuff. They do an outstanding job."
Taylorsville has been led by offensively by freshman quarterback Ty Keyes and a high-flying passing attack.
Keyes has thrown for 4,226 yards and 42 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Seniors Perry Keyes (67 catches, 1,180 yards) and Malik Strickland (37 catches, 856 yards) and junior Letreal Jones (37 catches, 884 yards) each have caught 10 touchdowns. Junior Raven Arrington has 34 catches for 742 yards and eight scores.
Senior Tycarius Roberts has rushed for 923 yards and 11 touchdowns, including three consecutive games of 100-yard plus in the Tartars' past three playoff games. Ty Keyes has run for 510 yards and eight touchdowns.
Perry Keyes said while the players are aware of what's at stake, the Tartars have been approaching the game as simply the next game.
"I guess we've just been treating it as a normal game," Keyes said. "It's been working all year, so why change it?"
But Taylorsville has switched the week up a bit. The trip to USM was done to give the players a chance to get the feel of being on the field of a large stadium.
But Robertson said he agreed with Tompkins and Keyes when sizing up the bottom line for Friday's finale.
"There's a fine line between making sure they enjoy it, and preparing for the football game," Robertson said. "But at the end of the day, it's a football game.
"It's going to be a great atmosphere and a great thing, but everybody I've talked to, once it kicks off, it's a football game."