As people put finishing touches on their Turkey dinners, Carrollwood Day School's varsity football team spent their Thanksgiving morning running plays and preparing for their second appearance in the post season.
It was an indication of a year in which this relatively young team spent rising to the top.
The team was preparing for their only second showing in the Class 2A region finals when they'd take on First Baptist Academy in Naples.
"It's such a great feeling knowing we're going down there," said Running Back Robert Davis on Thanksgiving day at practice. "We just want to get to that third round, we have this chant each week. First it was, 'Round 1', last week it was 'Round 2', hopefully this week it'll be, 'Round 3'."
The next day on Nov. 23, the CDS Patriots were defeated 56 to 28 by the First Baptist Lions.
CDS Coach Lane McLaughlin pointed to injuries to key players like Linebacker Dominiq Sicardo and wide receiver Nate Lewis. A hefty loss no doubt, but not a defeat in the eyes of people McLaughlin, who said the team accomplished many of its goals this year.
"We expected to be in the playoffs, we had a lot of senior leadership," McLaughling told Patch recently. "We've gotten bigger and stronger."
A relatively young team - CDS began its high school football program only five years ago - the team has grown by leaps and bounds in that short amount of time. The team racked up an impressive year with three blow out wins and a had a record-setting running back (Robert Davis) on its roster.
They also faced adversity. As the team neared the post season two players were benched due to concussions and half the team's linebackers were out for injuries.
But moving through the season with those trials and still winning built up a storehouse of confidence among the players, McLaughlin said.
"It's certainly got us more press and gave the kids some confidence," he said. "We won a playoff game so now we have some playoff experience under our belt."
As a coach, McLaughlin has learned some things as well.
"The biggest lesson I learned as a coach is you can't overcome injury. You can't stress about injuries and stuff you have no control over," he said. "You have to go with who who you know and what you got."
Starting in January, McLaughlin said the team will get back in the weight room and prepare for its next season - and hopefully another post-season run.
"We'll get after it real hard. The kids are a lot bigger and stronger," the coach said about the budding roster of CDS players. "We're just going to work hard in the off season."