Carver has been a playoff mainstay ever since it won 12 games in 2006 and a state title in 2007. Harris County, playing in its second consecutive postseason, is trying to establish itself as one of the premier programs in the area.
Both teams have opportunities to further their legacies in this season’s playoffs, which will kick off on Friday night.
Here’s a look at both teams’ matchups.
B.E.S.T. Academy at Carver
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When Joe Kegler described Carver’s (9-1) season as win-or-go-home two weeks ago, it wasn’t entirely accurate.
His emphasis was clear: He wants the team approaching every game like the playoffs. The reality was that Carver was headed to the playoffs no matter what it did against Peach County or Jackson.
Not anymore. Now, the threat rings true, and Kegler said the players are taking it to heart.
“The kids are real focused this week,” he said as the team prepared for its first-round game on Friday against B.E.S.T. Academy (6-4). “They understand it’s win or go home now. We said it two weeks ago, but reality has set in now that if we lose, there’s no tomorrow.”
And make no mistake, that would be a disappointment for a team ranked No. 4 in the state, a team that has advanced to at least the quarterfinals in ever season since 2006. This team, loaded with talent, has its eyes set on big goals, and those start on Friday.
Preparation, as a result, has gone accordingly. Kegler said this week has been one of the best weeks of practice all season.
“They’ve done a good job staying hungry and trying to get better,” he said.
And while the defense always remains a focus for the opposition, Kegler acknowledged the emergence of the offense as one of the main reasons this team can experience postseason success.
That offense includes experienced players like receivers Nate Barley and Dreilon Freeman and running backs Dequindre Coleman and Noah Hickey. Behind a strong offensive line, Coleman and Hickey have become a dynamic tandem, regularly going over 100 yards on the ground in a game.
“Even in the NFL now, you’ve got 1-2 punches,” Kegler said. “They’re different types of runners, so they do a good job of giving different looks.”
And quarterback Jawon Pass makes the offense go. A sophomore, Pass as steadily progressed as the season’s gone along, growing from a green starter to an experienced veteran in the span of 10 football games.
“I told him when he started that he couldn’t be like every other sophomore,” Kegler said. “He had to come in ready to lead, and he’s done a great job.”
In B.E.S.T. Academy, those players will face a team making its first playoff appearance in program history. It is in only its second full season as a varsity program, winning three games a year ago and six so far this season. It lacks any real signature wins, but has competed and lost against some solid opponents (14-13 to Carver-Atlanta, 14-0 to Central-Carrollton, 28-18 to Callaway).
Kegler said facing the unknown isn’t any worse or better than facing an established program.
“Every week is dangerous,” he said. “We have to be focused now more than ever.”
Glynn Academy at Harris County
Harris County knows all about Glynn Academy.
The two teams have never faced each other, though that will change when the Tigers host it in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs Friday night, but the Tigers can see a little of themselves in their opponents.
Glynn Academy started the 2013 season losing four of its first five games. The fourth loss was a heartbreaker to a very tough Ware County team, 21-19. That loss, perhaps, was the spark that led the Red Terrors to five consecutive wins and a playoff berth.
The course of the season had a striking resemblance to Harris County’s last year, when it began 0-4 and won eight straight to make the state quarterfinals.
For that reason, Harris County is taking nothing for granted.
“We’re about as evenly matched as any team,” Tigers coach Tommy Parks said. “They’ve got several weapons at quarterback and running back. Honestly, they’re a lot like we were last year. They’re a dangerous team, no doubt. We talked this week about how we were 6-4 going into the first round last year. It’s a constant reminder for us that we have to continuously earn respect from everybody around the state and area.”
Earning a 2-seed was huge for Harris County, for one because it doesn’t have to make the long trip to Glynn Academy. It will instead host a first-round game for the second consecutive season.
The similarities between the two teams extend on to the field, as well. Like Harris County, Glynn Academy has a handful of running options. Kenneth Cross (804 yards, 12 touchdowns and 7.6 yards per carry) and quarterback Zach Lamper (614 yards and six touchdowns) lead the way.
Harris County, of course, is led by the tandem of running back Esaias Chapman (1,454 yards and 13 touchowns) and quarterback TaQuon Marshall (789 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing). Keith Jenkins provides a third option with 575 yards this season.
Harris County has won eight games for the second consecutive season. A ninth win would set a school record.
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