It was the middle of July, in the throes of the summer grind of high school football, that Pinecrest Academy senior Adam Guard started watching film for the Paladins’ season-opener against North Springs that was over a month away.
Perhaps there was extra motivation for Guard. He knew the Spartans were a Class AAAAA program, and Pinecrest had never played a team higher than AAA. Indeed, in the week leading up to the game, he heard the anxious questions from classmates and fans: Are you worried about the AAAAA school? How big are they? How fast will they be? Can we win?
Perhaps Guard would have watched anyway. "I think of myself as a student of the game," Guard says, and so he finds some time each day to watch film on himself, his team or his opponent.
"Film is one of the things I pride myself on," he said. "…I really focus on what the other team is doing. Just little things that give me that advantage in the game that will make this play that will change this event in the game."
The studying paid off. Pinecrest held off North Springs for a 21-14 victory this past Friday, a signature win for the Paladins in their brief tenure in the Georgia High School Association against a school with over 1,500 students.
And Guard made his impact felt, scoring on a 28-yard hook-and-ladder play in the first quarter to put Pinecrest up 14-0.
"I think it really sends a message to everyone in our minds and in our fans’ minds, and really anyone who we play, that we’re ready this year," Guard said. "We’re ready to turn it up. We’re ready to do something special."
Pinecrest knew it would rely on Guard entering this season. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound slotback and outside linebacker was a first-team all-Region 6-A selection last season on defense when the Paladins went 5-5. A starter since his freshman season, the season was a culmination of Guard’s steady development, much of which came from watching film.
Guard always knew college and professional teams devoted hours to studying game film. But Guard didn’t know how to do it, not until his freshman season in 2011 when he noticed his older brother, then a junior on the team, watching film on Pinecrest opponents.
There was an instant attraction for Guard. He’d sit with his brother and watch. Little things stood out to him, things even his brother didn’t catch.
"I found I loved watching film," Guard said, "because it just gives you that little edge."
Now, it’s at his fingertips whenever he feels a craving. Guard just opens his laptop and logs on to Hudl, a sports video editing software created in 2006. The Lincoln, Neb.-based company now has a near-ubiquitous presence in high school athletics with its convenient platform to review game or practice film online. Last year, it boasted revenues of $23.2 million, up from $1.2 million in 2010, and recently expanded into Europe with the purchase of a similar web-based software company for soccer and rugby teams.
For Guard, it’s just one more way to feed his passion for football. He began playing when he was 6 years old and inherited a visceral dedication to the sport from his family, he said.
"It’s just about effort," Guard said. "To me, effort is everything. The more you work, the more time you put in, the better you’re going to be at something."
He has this last season remaining in his high school career, one more chance to make the playoff appearance he’s lacked since that first year as a freshman on varsity. So Guard will continue watching film every day, trying to find any little thing he can that might help him and the Paladins.
"We have all the pieces falling together," Guard said. "Really, it’s unity and effort. Caring about winning the game. When it’s mid-game and maybe we’re down a touchdown, how do we react? The little things that will make our potential to make the playoffs and maybe even state."