Last Friday, Carver faced a team making its first playoff appearance in school history. The result was a triple-overtime thriller that nearly sent the Tigers home in the first round for the first time since it failed to make the postseason in 2005.
No harm, no foul.
The Tigers survived 38-32 against B.E.S.T. Academy and will host Jefferson County in the second round at 7:30 p.m. Friday, a position very familiar to Carver.
“We know everyone we face is going to be good now,” Tigers coach Joe Kegler said. “Even just to make it to the playoffs, everyone has talent. Every team is good.”
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That includes Jefferson County, which survived a thriller of its own last week, defeating Southeast Bulloch 32-29 to advance to the second round. The team suffered a three-game losing streak near the end of the season, but those came against Washington County, Cook and Swainsboro, games that could prepare the Warriors for a team like Carver that didn’t face the same level of competition in its region.
Kegler said, though, that his team had a great week of practice, is confident and as excited as it has been all season.
“They did a great job this week,” he said of his players. “Even on Friday, I thought they did a good job. They fought through adversity after having three touchdowns called back. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, anytime you have three touchdowns called back it’s going to be difficult.”
The goal this week, Kegler said, is to focus on individual battles, winning up front, in the running game and in the passing game.
“I told them just to focus on their one-on-one battles,” Kegler said. “If everyone wins their battles and does what they’re supposed to do, then winning will take care of itself. We don’t need to worry about anybody but ourselves.”
Since a loss to Colquitt County in the third game of the season, Carver has won eight consecutive games by an average of 23.9 points. Offensively, the Tigers have been prolific, scoring more than 40 points in seven of their 11 games and five of the past six. Jefferson County has been a much better defensive team than offensive, scoring more than 30 just twice this season and only once since Sept. 13 but allowing more than 20 just twice on the other side of the ball.
The Warriors last advanced to the quarterfinals in 2009, the only time it has done so in school history. That was its best finish ever. Carver, meanwhile, last missed the quarterfinals in 2005.
But Kegler knows anything can change at this point in the season.
“We wish things could get easier, but they don’t,” he said with a laugh.
A win for Carver would likely set up another rematch with Buford in the quarterfinals, which has knocked it out of the playoffs in both the past two seasons. Kegler said he doesn’t have to worry about anyone looking ahead because of how the first-round game went.
“Yeah, we don’t have to worry about that,” he said. “We learned last week how dangerous these teams can be.”
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