Valdosta Daily Times

November 9, 2012

Column: Friday night fever

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — It is make or break time. The final week of the high school football regular season is upon us and playoff spots are on the line tonight for a few of our local area teams.

Good luck to all those teams making final playoff pushes.

While some playoff spots are on the line, don’t forget that a few of the teams in our coverage area will have their seasons end following tonight. Lanier County’s season actually ended last week with a 3-0 loss to Clinch County, while Berrien’s season will end tonight after a meeting with the undefeated Brooks County Trojans.

Whether your team is headed to the playoffs or not, enjoy the high school football action tonight and remember to follow me on Twitter at @Ed_Hooper and follow the VDT Sports section at @VDTSports. Also, remember to salute a veteran this weekend and help honor America this Veterans Day. Without their sacrifice, we wouldn’t be able to love high school football like we do so much.

As for the weekly pick ’em standings, Christian leads by one game; he sits with a 47-11 record, while I am 46-12.

Valdosta at Coffee

I said at the beginning of the season that the Coffee Trojans would have an opportunity to play themselves into the playoffs on the final night of the regular season. Turns out, I was right. I also said that the loser of the Winnersville Classic this year wouldn’t make the playoffs. For the sake of Valdosta fans, lets hope I’m not right on that one.

For those that still don’t know the playoff scenario heading into tonight’s game, here is the simple version: If the Wildcats win, they are the three seed. If they lose, they go home with a 6-4 record and with no playoff appearance. If you need more clarity, read Christian’s story.

If Valdosta does lose and is eliminated, it will be because it gave up too many points in region games against playoff teams. Those points the Wildcats gave up in the fourth quarter to Colquitt County could come back and haunt them if they don’t win tonight. Or, how about all those points Camden racked up that night?

As for tonight’s game, here is the deal: Coffee is a better football team than its 5-4 record indicates. The Trojans held the Lowndes Vikings and the top-ranked Camden County Wildcats to a combined 14 points in the second half. The problem for the Trojans? The pesky second quarter. For some reason, Coffee has been terrible in the second quarter this season (or at least in those two games).

If the Trojans could have played a complete second quarter, they might’ve beaten Camden and Lowndes.

As for Valdosta, I knew the Wildcats were better than their record indicated following the Winnersville Classic. It isn’t surprising to me that they are sitting here with a 6-3 record and with a chance to secure the No. 3 seed in the region, which I think has the easiest and best road to the state championship game.

Both coaches have amazing resumes, and I don’t think one coach has an advantage going into tonight’s game. I mean, Coffee’s Robby Pruitt is in the Florida Sports Hall of Fame for his coaching, while Valdosta’s Rance Gillespie has two state championship rings buried somewhere in his house, which he won while at Peach County.

In the end, the difference in this game will be what team can control its emotions and can play a consistent football game. Remember, penalties were called often in last year’s game in Coffee, which the Trojans won. Controlling emotions in tonight’s game might be a big key.

Ed: Valdosta wins 24-21

Christian: Valdosta wins 21-20

Cook at Early County

It should be no surprise that Cook and Early County are meeting on the final night of the regular season to decide playoff positioning. The difference this season, though, is that both teams have already secured playoff berths and are battling it out for third in Region 1-AA.

Cook will make the long 2-plus hour journey west to Blakely to face the rising Bobcats, whose only losses have come to Bainbridge, Brooks County and Fitzgerald. Only the Brooks County loss was lopsided, indicating the Bobcats aren’t a bad team.

The Hornets aren’t too shabby, either. Their only losses this year have come against the top two teams in the region (Brooks County and Fitzgerald).

I think Cook is the third best team in the region, right now, and has a chance to advance deep into the playoffs. Plus, history tells us the Hornets like playing on the road in the playoffs or when the games count for something, like playoff positioning.

Ed: Cook wins 28-20

Christian: Cook wins 24-17

Clinch County at Turner County

It’s win or go home for Clinch County tonight as the Panthers visit Turner County. If the Panthers cannot earn a playoff berth in the Class A public schools bracket, it will be the first time in 18 years they won’t advance past the regular season.

A major area of concern for Clinch County is scoring points. In the last three weeks, Clinch has scored a total of 10 points. In fact, the Panthers have scored above 20 points just twice this season.

The lack of offense seems kind of hard to believe after that dominating state championship season in 2010 when the Panthers were nearly unstoppable.

Turner County has lost three straight games, including a one-point loss to Irwin County last week and currently sits outside of the top 16 in the public school rankings (the top 16 go to the playoffs).

I think the difference in tonight’s game will be Clinch coach Jim Dickerson, who I think will have his team ready to advance into the postseason.

Ed: Clinch County wins 16-13

Christian: Clinch County wins 21-17

Central Fellowship at Valwood

Ed: Valwood wins 52-7

Christian: Valwood wins 56-10

Brooks County at Berrien

Ed: Brooks County finishes its first perfect regular season in school history, beats Berrien 44-8

Christian: Brooks wins 52-7

Upset picks:

Ed: Brookwood over Grayson

Christian: Gainesville over Flowery Branch