As is common at this time of the year, Friday is setting up to be another good one for high school football in the Bi-City area.
Harris County, which is tied for first with Thomas County Central in Region 1-AAAAA, plays a big game down at Lee County. Pacelli, which is very much in the thick of the Class A playoff race, plays a key game at Dooly County. There is plenty still up for grabs in Region 5-AA.
Closer to home is arguably the biggest game of the weekend, where Central hosts Smiths Station in an annual rivalry game. Only one team, Smiths Station, is headed to the playoffs, but don’t think Central isn’t playing for anything.
Here’s a quick rundown of the weekend’s biggest games, beginning with the latter.
Smiths Station at Central
Smiths Station has already sewn up a playoff spot, its first since 2010, but missed a chance at clinching the region title at home against Carver-Montgomery last week.
So, it will come down to its final region game of the season, the annual rivalry against Central. The Red Devils are already out of playoff contention, but are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their 1993 state championship and would love nothing more than to keep the Panthers from clinching a region title on their home turf.
On paper, this game leans in Smiths Station’s favor. It has been the better team by far this season, notching impressive victories against Auburn and Opelika and sporting one of the best defenses in the state.
But there’s a reason games aren’t played on paper.
After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008, Central is playing for pride. Teams that have nothing to lose at the end of a season are incredibly dangerous. That goes double for Central, which, despite the so-so record, is a very talented team.
A win for the Panthers gives it a region title. A loss would likely knock them to the third seed in the region and force them to play on the road to start the playoffs.
That should be reason enough to check that game out.
Harris County at Lee County
The Tigers have put together an impressive follow-up campaign to their eight-win season in 2012, but a lot of their future success will hinge on this game.
A win against Lee County would set up a showdown with Thomas County Central for the region title in the final week of the season, regardless of how Harris County fares against Hardaway in two weeks.
Be honest, did you pick the Tigers to repeat as the Region 1-AAAAA champs? Did you think they would be in position to win the region at the end of the season?
It isn’t that we didn’t know they were a great team. It’s simply that, when a team puts together a great run one season, it’s hard to tell how it will follow it up.
It’s difficult to play with a target on your back.
The Tigers knocked off Lee County 35-31 last year in a game that woke up a lot of people to the fact that Harris County was on more than just a modest winning streak.
Once again, this game could offer a lot of legitimacy to the Tigers’ season.
Pacelli at Dooly County
If the season ended today, it would already be a fantastic success for the Vikings, who are 6-1 with wins over Brookstone and Greenville on their resume.
But the season doesn’t end today, and they’ve got much bigger goals than just six wins. A win against Dooly County would move those dreams much closer to reality.
With games against Schley County and Hawkinsville, both 1-6, in the final two weeks, a win over Dooly County would give Pacelli an inside track at a playoff berth.
Hard to believe, considering where it was just a couple years ago.
Though Dooly County is only 4-3 this year, it has wins over Brookstone and Wilcox County and nearly defeated Marion County last week. The odds still lie with it in this game, but Pacelli hasn’t paid attention to odds all season long.
Marion County at Brookstone
Though they have struggled at times, the Cougars (4-3) are very much in the thick of the playoff race. A win over Marion County would put them in solid position in the Class A power ratings.
Marion County, meanwhile, has proven itself to be one of the best in Class A, period.
A win for the latter likely puts it in line for a region championship. A win for the former would give it the signature win it needs to remain in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Once again, there is plenty on the line in this one, as well.