The Johnson baseball team hasn’t made the state playoffs since 2005. This season, it is in position to reverse that trend with a strong finish to its region slate.
The Knights (10-7, 6-5 Region 8-AAA South) are currently tied with Lanier for the No. 3 seed in the subregion and a spot in the three-game play-in for the state playoffs. Lanier holds the tiebreaker, however, having beaten Johnson twice this season.
The Knights will have their work cut out for them in their next two games, as they face North Hall and Gainesville, leaders in the North and South subregions, respectively. Those two games will be a tall order, but a win in either could go a long way to solidifying Johnson’s position in the playoff picture.
Flowery Branch and Riverside Military are two other teams facing stiff region competition down the stretch.
The Eagles (9-8-1, 7-5 Region 8-A) finished with just two wins a season ago, but are currently one game ahead of Lakeview Academy in the loss column for the coveted fourth spot in the region, which would clinch a playoff berth.
Meanwhile, Flowery Branch (12-3, 7-1 Region 8-AAAA North) is one game behind Winder-Barrow in the loss column, but will face the Bulldoggs in its next two games (Monday and Wednesday). Wins in both games would jump the Falcons to the head of the pack and give them the inside track at a playoff berth.
Buford, the defending state champions in Class AA, started out 2-7, but has won seven of its last eight and is currently 7-0 in Region 6-AA. It holds a precarious one-game lead over Blessed Trinity and Lovett in the region.
KEY MATCHES ON TAP FOR AREA SOCCER TEAMS: For Gainesville, both girls and boys soccer teams are a perfect 9-0 in Region 8-AAA with three region games left to play. The most crucial matchup for both comes on April 17, when it travels to Oakwood to take on Johnson.
On the boys side, the Knights are 6-1 in the region, just one game behind the Red Elephants in the loss column. A win in that match would likely lock up the region title since Gainesville already topped Chestatee, which is currently in second place. A loss, however, could set up a three-way tie.
The Lady Red Elephants, meanwhile, must hold off a host of one- and two-loss teams trailing in the standings. They will face two of those teams, Johnson (5-2) on April 17 and Walnut Grove (5-1) on April 20, in crucial matchups down the stretch.
The Buford girls, which are tied for 3rd at 5-1 in Region 6-AA, may be near the end of their schedule, but they have no time to rest as they will face Lovett (4-1) on April 13, Blessed Trinity (5-0) on April 17 and Westminster (5-1) on April 24. All four are fighting for the lead in the region.
On the boys side, the race is equally tight with a four-way tie in losses at the top of the region. The Wolves will face two of those teams, Blessed Trinity (5-1) and Westminster (5-1) down the stretch.
The Flowery Branch girls team, which remains one of the top in the state with just one loss to its credit, will not face a region contender down the stretch. Both of its remaining region matchups (Cedar Shoals, Salem), however, are crucial. The Lady Falcons currently hold a one-game lead over Heritage, a team they lost to earlier in the season.
If Heritage wins out and Flowery Branch loses either of those two games, the Lady Patriots will take first place in the region.
HABERSHAM CENTRAL’S MCCOY CLEANING UP ON THE LINKS: Habersham Central golfer Lee McCoy has made a name for himself on the golf course in the past, but this year, he’s taking his game to the next level.
Already, he has picked up wins at the Big Red Invitational, Jekyll Island, Apple Mountain, the Georgia/South Carolina Cup and the North Georgia Classic.
In one nine-hole period during the Georgia/South Carolina Cup, McCoy shot 5-under par, en route to an easy first-place finish.
The senior has already signed to play golf at the University of Georgia, which is currently ranked No. 25 in the nation, according to Golfweek.
McCoy and Habersham Central are scheduled to compete at the Golden Lion Challenge in Suwanee on April 17.