Playoffs won and playoffs lost — a lot of fates were settled last week.
High school football programs start work in the summer, some as far back as the spring. It’s hours and hours of sacrifice by both coaches and players to prepare for just 10 weeks of play during the fall.
As seen this season, some of that work has paid off and some of it has gone to show for nothing.
Two teams still remain winless from Bulloch County. Statesboro fell to 0-9 after losing the battle of winless teams against South Effingham, and even if they were to beat Wayne County on Friday this would be the worst winning percentage by a team in the history of the program.
Portal fell to 0-8 after losing to Savannah Christian 34-12 on Saturday morning. The good news for the Panthers is they finally get a shot at a realistic opponent this Friday with Claxton, also 0-8. Portal will finally have a full week to prepare for an opponent, as well as to heal up some injuries.
Bulloch Academy’s season ended following a 19-14 loss in the first round of the GISA playoffs to Heritage, and contrary to the rest of the county Southeast Bulloch actually locked up a playoff spot with their win over Beach.
Here’s what the outlook looks like going into the final week of the regular season:
Statesboro has endured what has to be the most frustrating season in the history of the program. Five blown fourth quarter leads/ties, injury on top of injury and twice a schedule reworked by bad weather. There’s been nothing else like it in the almost 100 years of the program.
Thursday night was arguably the lowest point in that near century of football. Coming into last Thursday's game, South Effingham had scored 36 points all season — eight games in all. But that offense which hadn’t scored more than 14 points in a single game managed to put up 21 on Statesboro.
Statesboro’s offense managed to finally find the end zone in the fourth quarter, even with Davis Wiggins making a surprise surprise return at quarterback. But massive blunders on special teams ultimately cost Statesboro the game, giving South Effingham great field position all night.
Adding insult to injury, the game eliminated Statesboro from playoff contention. You have to go back to 1980 to find a Statesboro team that’s gone three years in a row without making the playoffs. As for the Friday, Statesboro is playing for the pride of this senior class and the pride of what has been historically a great program.
For the third time in four years, SEB is going to the playoffs under Pat Collins. It’s been over ten years since SEB’s had such a streak, and Collins has taken this program back from a proverbial grave back when he took over in 2010.
SEB locked up what should be at least the three seed, barring a disastrous loss against 0-8 Johnson tonight, and will play the winner of Worth County and Crisp County in the first round of the playoffs. The next step is for SEB to win a playoff game, something that hasn’t happened in 25 years.
SEB got another great performance from Chase Walker Friday night, once again going for 200 yards on the ground and adding two more touchdowns to add to his total of 16 — leading all county players this season. The game itself against Beach was closer than most fans would have liked it to be, but in reality SEB was never in danger of losing control.
SEB gets Johnson tonight in their regular season finale, with a chance to secure a winning record and keep their momentum riding high going into the first round. Not to mention the extra rest time SEB will get to prepare what should be a very good first round opponent, no matter who wins between Crisp and Worth.
Bulloch Academy’s season has been a roller coaster ride to say the least. After starting their season tying the defending state champions and beating Trinity Sharpsburg, BA was stomped in their first ever crossover game with the GHSA. Then at 1-1-1, BA ripped off a four game winning streak.
The pinnacle of that winning streak came against Frederica, where BA took down the undefeated Knights on a short week to take control over their region. It was described at the time by head coach Terence Hennessey as the biggest win of his BA coaching career.
But what followed were three disappointing games. An overtime loss to Trinity Dublin, a blowout loss in the de-facto region championship to rival Pinewood and this past week another first round exit at the hands of the Heritage School. Key injuries to big contributors like Jake Mock are partially to blame, but it’s still a disappointing skid to say the least.
To the Gator’s credit, they played a very good Heritage team as well as they could have. Coming into last Friday’s game Heritage was averaging 44.8 points per game and BA held them to just 19. Perhaps a healthier team would have yielded better results, but now BA is home and looking ahead to 2017.
Portal has been through the gauntlet and back with their post-Hurricane Matthew scheduling. After having to play three top-15 teams three weeks in a row, the Panthers can finally breath easy on a full week’s rest and preparation. Even better news, they’ll play another winless team Friday in Claxton.
Portal has played the top four teams on their side of the region the past four weeks, and for the smallest football playing school in the state of Georgia it’s a tough task. Consistently outclassed in almost every position and with the depth stacked against them, Portal has been fortunate to keep these games as close they have.
The same goes for this past Saturday against Savannah Christian. Portal’s offense didn’t get a first down until the fourth quarter, and wouldn’t have scored at all had it not been for Craig Ware. Ware scored on both sides of the ball to give his team all 13 of their points in a 32-13 loss.
Portal very well may have their Christmas this Friday with a chance to score their first win, and it would be a gift to head coach Matt Smith after guiding Portal through a rocky first season.