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How it all shakes down
The Region 3-A postseason picture takes shape
Claxton's LaBron Glover, left, gets around the corner on the Portal defense in a second quarter run in this Friday, September 10 file photo. Both teams end their regular season on Friday, with Claxton hoping to punch a ticket to the GHSA Class A state playoffs.

    The final week of the regular season is already here, and eight of the 13 teams in Region 3-A will take the field this week with a chance to advance to the GHSA Class A state playoffs.
    Of the teams that are still in the hunt for a state playoff birth, Claxton (5-4, 3-2 Region 3-A) may have had the wildest ride through the 2010 season.
    The Tigers entered this season with a lot of enthusiasm, but even more question marks.
    Even with many key members of last season’s region play-in squad gone, Claxton was able to hang tough. The Tigers dropped their first sub-region game of the season, but rallied to win three of their final four to grab the final spot out of the east sub-region.
    “I’m extremely proud of how far this team has come,” said Claxton coach Allen Cartwright. “We knew it would be tough, but I think our players felt like they had something to prove. Our juniors and seniors know what it takes to get to this point, and they went out and did it.”
    Last week, Claxton squared off against rival Metter with the final play-in spot on the line. In the do-or-die matchup, Claxton proved to be the stronger team and cruised to a 28-13 win.
    “We treated it like a playoff game in our preparation,” said Cartwright. “It made it even better that we were able to do it against a rival and a good team in Metter.”
    For their efforts, the Tigers now face one final — albeit large — hurdle standing between them and the state playoffs.
    Claxton travels to Wrightsville Friday to take on undefeated and state-ranked Johnson County,  which finished first in the west sub-region,  for the right to keep playing.
    “They might be the toughest team we’ve faced,” said Cartwright of the Trojans. “The pressure is on them though. We know what we have to do, and we’ll show up Friday ready to play.”
    Another area team looking to make its mark in the play-in round is Emanuel County Institute (7-2, 5-1).
The Bulldogs won four consecutive sub-region titles from 2006-2009 – a stretch that also included three overall region crowns – but are the No. 2 seed out of the west sub-region this season and will host Savannah Country Day (6-3, 3-2) Friday night in Twin City.
The slip in the standings doesn’t reflect a regression in performance on ECI’s part so much as it shows the emergence of more talented teams in the region.
    In addition to perennial power Johnson County, Savannah Christian — No. 2 seed out of the east — has been near the top of the polls in each of the last two seasons and has battled with city rivals Calvary Day and Savannah Country Day this season for sub-region supremacy.
In the other two play-in games, Calvary Day (No. 1 — East) will host Wheeler County (No. 4 — West) and Montgomery County (No. 3 — West) will travel to Savannah Christian.
    The teams that did not qualify for the play-in round will also take the field one more time to finish out their season.
    Metter will host another team that saw a play-in spot slip away last week as it hosts Treutlen.
    Portal, which finished in a tie with Wheeler County, but missed out on the play-in round due to Wheeler’s better non-region record, will try to keep its late season hot streak going when the Panthers welcome Bryan County for the 2010 finale.
    As the odd team out in the 13-team region, Jenkins County will head out of the region and travel to Milledgeville for a game against Georgia Military.

    Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.