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Playoff picture now much clearer
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With just one more week of regular season action to go, the standings have shaken out and most teams from around the area have a good sense of where they are — or aren’t — heading when the playoff brackets come out next week.

As expected, Bulloch Academy has racked up the wins, but has also found itself in a battle to stay near the top of the Region 1-IAAA standings. The Gators won their first five non-region games, but dropped two of their first three region contests. Facing a near must-win game last Friday, Bulloch responded in a big way with a 31-6 victory over Southland Academy.

The win clinched a spot in the state playoff field, but the Gators have a chance to improve their positioning this week as Pinewood comes to town this week to renew the annual rivalry. Both teams have punched their tickets to the postseason, but the winner of Friday’s game will get bragging rights and a No. 3 seed while the loser will be a No. 4 seed.

Also hoping to claim either a 3 or 4 seed is Statesboro.

The Blue Devils held a spot in the Class AAAA top-10 for the first 10 weeks of the season and entered play last week needing just one more win for a chance to play for a third consecutive region championship. Instead, the Devils suffered a loss to Wayne County and must now play for their postseason lives.

At 7-2, Statesboro figures to be a heavy favorite against Cross Creek (3-6) in Friday’s play-in game, but with both teams facing do-or-die circumstances anything is possible. For the Devils, this setback shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Statesboro has a proud winning tradition and expects to make a run through the playoffs every year. This time around, the play-in game just means that the postseason starts a week early.

Rounding out the rest of Bulloch County are Portal and Southeast Bulloch. Portal is still winless and is long since out of playoff contention. The Panthers have one final chance to salvage a victory this week at Glascock County, but the more important thing for the team is to take the offseason to regroup and recover from their nightmare season and come back stronger in 2013.

Southeast Bulloch was eliminated from the playoff race last week despite a season that had more positives than any recent Yellow Jacket campaign. SEB is loaded with juniors and sophomores and should be able to go even farther next season.

Other area teams that are destined for the playoffs are Emanuel County Institute and Screven County.

ECI figures to be a threat to go all of the way in the new public school half of the Class A playoffs. Not only do the Bulldogs need one less win than usual in the new 16-team setup, but a win over Savannah Christian in this week’s region championship would give them a No. 1 seed and an automatic bid while other teams scramble for positioning in the power poll.

Screven has also joined the party as this year’s biggest surprise. Ron Duncan has overseen the emergence of a powerful Gamecock offense that is averaging over 40 points per game and that clinched Region 3-AA last week.

It’s been another solid season for teams all around the area, but for a handful of schools, things are just getting fired up.


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