Playoff time for Cavaliers, Tigers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s a new season.
For the hundreds of teams participating in the state football playoffs, the slate will be wiped clean this week.
In each of the state’s seven classifications, there are 32 teams hopeful of winning a championship.
To make that a reality, a team will need to win five consecutive playoff games, including the championship game in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Two teams looking to make a championship run are the Callaway Cavaliers and Troup Tigers, who will both be at home this week for the opening round of the state playoffs.
Troup, which finished second in Region 5-AAAA, will be at home on Thursday against Oconee County, the third-place team from Region 8-AAAA.
Callaway, the runner-up from Region 5-AA, will be at Callaway Stadium on Friday against Elbert County, the number three team from Region 8-AA.
While Callaway was off last week, Troup was at Cartersville for a game that determined the region championship, and it didn’t go well.
Troup trailed 14-0 less than two minutes into the game, and it never recovered on the way to a 43-10 loss.
Troup will have less than a week to prepare for a first-round test against Oconee County (6-4 overall), which went 2-2 in Region 8-AAAA to earn its playoff spot.
“We can go and feel sorry for ourselves and get beat by Cartersville two weeks in a row and go home next week, or we can use this as a positive,” Troup head coach Tanner Glisson said after the Cartersville game.
This isn’t a new position for the Tigers.
This is, in fact, the third consecutive season Troup has headed into the playoffs after losing to Cartersville in the region-championship game.
In 2016, Troup followed up its loss to Cartersville by falling to West Hall 24-21 in the first round of the playoffs.
A year ago, Troup again fell to Cartersville in the regular-season finale, and it thumped Heritage-Catoosa 31-7 in the first round before losing to St. Pius X 43-35 in the second round.
Despite last week’s loss, Troup is 9-1, which is tied for the best regular season in the history of the program.
Troup was hoping to deliver the program’s first ever perfect regular season, but the chances of that happening took a big hit early on.
After Cartersville scored a touchdown on the first play from a scrimmage, it returned an interception for a score moments later to take a 14-0 lead.
Trailing 28-3, the Tigers got closer early in the third quarter on a Kobe Hudson 4-yard touchdown run, and that score was set up by a long kickoff return by Mark-Anthony Dixon.
Cartersville scored the next 15 points, though, to build a 43-10 lead after the three quarters, and that’s the way it ended.
Twice the Tigers began a possession inside their own 10-yard line in the third quarter, and they were unable to get out of the shadow of their own end zone.
“We went in and made what we thought were some good adjustments, and came out and scored and closed the gap and got a stop, and then the field position in the third quarter killed us,” Glisson said. “We couldn’t get out of that hole the whole third quarter.”
Oconee County secured its playoff spot by beating Madison County 41-20 in the regular-season finale last week.
The winner of this week’s game will play either Pickens County or White County in the second round.
Pickens County comes into the playoffs with a 10-0 record.
Callaway (8-2 overall) finished second in Region 5-AA with a 5-1 record, with its lone region loss coming to Heard County.
Callaway led 10-0 in the fourth quarter before Heard County, which won the region title with last week’s win over Bremen, scored two late touchdowns to win 13-10.
The Cavaliers are in the state playoffs for the 13th consecutive season under head coach Pete Wiggins.
Since 2008, Callaway has won at least one playoff game every year but one, and four times during that stretch is has advanced to the quarterfinals or beyond.
Callaway made it to the semifinals in 2013 and 2016 before losing to the eventual state champion.
Callaway’s opponent will be an Elbert County team that comes into the playoffs on a hot streak.
Elbert County (6-4 overall) has won three in a row, all in blowout fashion, including last week’s 41-0 victory over Banks County.
Elbert County finished with a 5-2 region record to finish third.
If Callaway wins this week, it’s likely second-round opponent would be Hapeville-Charter, the defending state champion. Hapeville-Charter hosts Coosa in the first round.