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Claxton, ECI, JCHS make Class A playoffs
Claxton W

Class A Public Final Power Poll
School        Region    Record    Ranking
1. Marion County     4-A     10-0     14.96
2. Hawkinsville     4-A     9-1     14.06
3. Charlton County     2-A     9-1     14.05
4. Irwin County     2-A     8-1     13.88
5. Commerce     8-A     8-2     13.18
6. Claxton         3-A     7-3     12.68
7. Mt. Zion, Carroll     6-A     7-3     12.42
8. ECI         3-A     8-2     12.36
9. Dooly County     4-A     7-3     12.06
10. Clinch County     2-A     6-4     11.65
11. Lincoln County     7-A     7-3     11.60
12. Jenkins County     3-A     7-3     11.11
13. Calhoun County     1-A     7-3     10.97
14. Atkinson County     2-A     6-4     10.95
15. Greenville     4-A     5-5     10.71
16. Schley County     4-A     6-4     10.66
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20. Johnson County     3-A     5-5     9.87
25. Portal         3-A     3-7     8.83
28. Montgomery Co.     3-A     2-7     7.54
36. Treutlen     3-A     1-9     6.16

    When the final Class A football power poll was released by the GHSA Tuesday morning, some area teams rejoiced while one other started packing away the pads for the winter.
    Local schools that made the top 16 include Claxton (6), Emanuel County Institute (8) and Jenkins County (12). Portal fell a bit short, finishing 25th an out of the playoff field.
    For Claxton, this year has gone according to the blueprint.
    The Tigers made the state playoffs last season to end a six-year postseason drought, but were saddled with a low seed and bounced from the first round after a long road trip to Clinch County. With this season’s 7-3 mark, the Tigers are likely to play this year’s playoff opener in the cozy confines of the Pecan Grove.
    “We’re very excited,” Claxton coach Roderick Williams said. “This is what we’ve been working for. I think we had to earn it. We got a lot of teams’ best shots. I think we elevated our play and it shows with our record.”
    While the Tigers are sixth in the poll, they will likely be seeded seventh in the playoff bracket.
    Mitchell County is rated 18th in the final poll, but automatically qualifies for the 16-team field after winning its region championship. The playoff format also mandates that all region champions (five in the public school bracket and three in the private school bracket) receive the highest seeds.
    That will bump the Tigers down a spot, but keep them at home for at least one game.
    “It will be our first home playoff game since 2001,” Williams said. “That was also the last time Claxton won a playoff game.  It will be great for the team and our fans to get a playoff game on our home field.”
    That tiny bit of seed shuffling will likely cost another area school.
    Emanuel County Institute finished eighth in the power poll, but will bump down a spot due to Mitchell County’s leap, costing the Bulldogs a home game.
    For the Portal Panthers, the numbers didn’t shake out nearly as well. With a final rating of 8.85, the Panthers made some gains in the final poll, but still finished nearly two points behind the 16th and final playoff slot.
    Portal helped itself with wins in each of its two games against Class AAA competition. Those victories earned the Panthers some bonus points in the ratings, but a 1-7 mark inside of Class A — even considering that four of the losses came against playoff qualifiers — proved to be too much to overcome.
    “We did what we could and got a little help in the last week,” Portal coach Jon Willoughby said. “But it wasn’t quite enough. I think we finished strong and we’re proud of that.
    “Now our guys see just how important every win is. We’ll be a little older and a little stronger next season and hopefully we’ll go out and improve on this year.”
    Rounding out the area Class A squads is Jenkins County, which will play its first postseason game since a 1987 region semifinal loss to Metter.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.