The success of the 2017 Hattiesburg football squad didn't happen overnight. It was a gradual process from day one of the Tony Vance era back in 2013.
Take the Tigers' senior class for example. This group consists of players that didn't win a single game as freshmen
"As a ninth grader we didn't win no game," senior lineman Quincy McGee said. "We just bought in, came in the summer and now we're here."
Fellow senior lineman Josh Dean admits those days were tough.
"It was real discouraging at first but what the coaches taught us, he taught us that we always push through and finish the job so that's exactly what we're doing this year as seniors," Dean said.
These players have solidified a spot in the Hattiesburg history books. The Tigers won their first region title since 1998 and completed the program's third perfect regular season.
"To go from not winning a game as freshmen to the epitome of playing in a state championship undefeated, it's been huge for those guys," Vance said. "They worked their butts off to be here. They deserve to be here and now we just gotta go win one football game."
Vance didn't escape growing pains either. After a highly successful run at Charleston, that included a state title, the Tigers won four games in his first season at the helm.
"It tested me and it tested my mettle," Vance said. "I thank my wife for shaking me and saying hey a lot of this is on you. You gotta be more positive about it. She really helped me throughout this journey. Her and my family. Just made me realize hey you've got some growing to do also."
The Tigers have improved every year since Vance's hiring. This is a testament to the belief of both coaches and players.
"All my coaches," McGee said. "They were on our butt man. But I love them. They brought us this far."
Added Dean, "The coaches always taught us from a young age that we was great, we had greatness in our genes. "That's exactly what we're trying to produce now as seniors."
On the brink of history, Vance and his players can be proud of how far they've come.
"I told people when I took this job, I'm no savior. "I didn't come here to take Hattiesburg somewhere it hadn't been before. I just come to try to restore it and just get it back to where we wanted it t be. Put a program on the field each and every week that people could be proud of and to make Hattiesburg relevant in high school football in Mississippi."