No. 10 Dooly County (7-3) at No. 7 Claxton (7-3)
7:30 p.m., Today
CLAXTON — For the first time since 2001, the Pecan Grove is preparing to host a postseason party.
The Claxton Tigers are in the state playoffs for a second-consecutive year and after a 7-3 regular season mark — their best since 2002 — have a No. 7 seed and will host No. 10 Dooly County (7-3) tonight in the first round of the Class A public school bracket.
For a program that has spent most of the last decade slowly evolving from a doormat to a consistent winner, Claxton couldn’t be happier to keep things close to home.
“I think it’s going to be a great night,” Claxton coach Roderick Williams said. “Our community and this school’s administration has been with us every step of the way. Our team and coaching staff has felt that support and we’re looking forward to a big home crowd for the playoffs.”
Of course, keeping the excitement and good vibes flowing will require a great effort against a tough Bobcat squad that is just two seasons removed from a trip to the state championship game. Playing a proven winner is sure to up the already-amplified pressure of the postseason, but that seems to be just how the Tigers like things.
In five games decided by two scores or less this season, Claxton is a perfect 5-0.
Claxton was shut out in last season’s playoff appearance, but figures to move the ball this time around. The Tigers haven’t been shy in lighting up the scoreboard, notching 26 or more points seven times during the regular season.
Standing in the way of the Claxton attack will be an oversized Dooly County defensive front. While Claxton might not be able to toss the Bobcats around, dual-threat quarterback Cornelius Taylor, running back Zach Grant and receiver Darvis Small are fast and can be lethal in open space if the Bobcats can’t cover from sideline to sideline.
“I think it’s an advantage that we have more than one guy to go to in order to move the ball,” Williams said. “Whether it’s our quarterback, our running backs or our receivers, we have a lot of confidence in everyone.”
When Dooly County has the ball, all Claxton eyes will be on the lookout for running back Chanin Hamilton. The Tigers will have to limit the Bobcats’ run-heavy offense from playing keep-away in order to give their own offense plenty of opportunities.
But Hamilton can’t be the only key read as Dooly quarterback Jordan Miles is keen to take the occasional shot deep downfield.
With several Tigers starting on both sides of the ball, limiting big plays by the Bobcats and staying fresh will be key to winning another game that could be close into the final minutes.
“We need to execute on our assignments,” Williams said. “We aren’t changing a lot of what we do on offense or defense. We believe in what we can do, but Dooly County is a very solid team that won’t give us much room for mistakes.”
The winner of tonight’s game will play the winner of the matchup between Irwin County and Atkinson County in next week’s quarterfinal round.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.