Shaw not happy just makingClass AAAAstate playoffs
By DAVID MITCHELL
When Shaw made the playoffs last season, it was a step in the right direction.
After two years of missing out on postseason play, the Raiders' primary objective was to get back to a place where they had a chance at success.
This year, the expectations are higher.
Despite entering the playoffs as a 4 seed from Region 5-AAAA, Shaw (6-4) has its sights set on taking the next step and winning a playoff game.
The Raiders will get their chance oFriday, when they travel to face Monroe Area in the first round.
Monroe Area (9-1), the Region 8 champion, which is ranked No. 9 and won its first nine games of the regular season, will serve as a daunting task for Shaw, but Raiders coach Kyle Adkins said it's something his team is prepared for.
"We felt like our region was kind of the little-SEC," the coach said. "So, we're pretty battle-tested. We feel like we've been in some tough games all year."
It's hard to argue with that.
Shaw has played games against Class AAA No. 2 Carver, LaGrange, Carrollton and No. 1 Sandy Creek.
"And we felt like that was a tough game against Troup
(last Friday), too," Adkins added about a game Shaw had to win to make the playoffs.
Defensive lineman Carter Huecker noted that his team's experience against the size of some of these opponents prepares it for what it will see in the playoffs.
"Playing against their size -- and Troup's, too -- is like playing against any team in the playoffs," he said. "So it's something that we're kind of used to."
Something else the team is used to is the pressure associated with playoff football. The Raiders have essentially been in playoff mode for three weeks, following a loss to Carrollton that put their backs against the wall in the region.
"We told them after that loss: 'Playoffs start today. Round 1, Round 2 and Round 3,'" Adkins said.
"Yeah, we've been in the playoffs for about three weeks," quarterback Chandler Whittlesey said with a smile on his face. "We haven't had much room for error."
The Raiders rose to the occasion with wins over Columbus, Fayette County and Troup.
It's worth noting, however, that of Shaw's six wins, none has come against a team with a winning record.
So how do the Raiders put it together and take the next step against one of the top teams in the state?
For starters, Adkins said it's important to focus on what his team is doing and not Monroe Area.
"We treat this like any other game. It's the same focus as the previous 10," he said. "It's still going to come down to blocking, tackling and taking care of the football."
Whittlesey said that it's important to come out with that mind set.
"Yeah, we're facing a good team, but we can't be happy with just being here," he said.
"We have to make plays for our teammates and keep working hard."
While it hasn't beaten any of the top teams it has faced, Shaw can at least say that it has competed well. It nearly beat Carver early in the season and, at one point in the fourth quarter, trailed Sandy Creek by just five points.
"I believe we're good enough to take on anyone," Huecker said. "We may not be as big across the board, but we've got a lot of heart. We aren't going to hold anything back."
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571