Riverside’s Aaron Gambrah left the playing field after Friday’s 20-17 win against Fannin County knowing there’s still a chance.
Even though the Eagles (3-4, 3-3 Region 8-AA) probably need to run the table, and win out in the final three games against Oglethorpe County, Union County and Dawson County to secure the region’s fourth playoff spot, they still have purpose the rest of the regular season.
That’s a powerful motivating tool for a high school football team. You see, Riverside quickly had to amend its goals after dropping consecutive games to Jefferson, North Oconee and East Jackson, all with perfect 6-0 region records and a lock for the top three playoff spots in Region 8-AA, but clearly the Eagles haven’t abandoned any postseason hopes.
The Eagles will more than likely be the biggest contender for the region’s final playoff spot along with Union County (4-3, 3-3), which will likely be settled when the two teams meet in two weeks in Blairsville.
“I think we have a good chance of making the playoffs,” an excited Gambrah said after last Friday’s victory.
And as you may well can imagine, Riverside and Union County are far from the only Northeast Georgia football programs sitting on the playoff bubble with three weeks left to play in the regular season.
Schools such as Chestatee, White County, Lumpkin County and Habersham Central all need a strong finish to make the postseason a reality.
Win out and they’ll probably all be playing past week 11. A big slip up and critical loss could mean players from these programs will translate into going to watch friends from others schools play playoff games.
Players from teams with a trip to the playoffs hanging in the balance should all have the same kind of extra hop in their step the next few weeks.
These are the teams that will all probably spend extra time watching film and have a more acute attention to detail in practice knowing a spot in the playoffs relies on it.
Being a team stuck in the middle clawing and scraping for a playoff spot isn’t something all schools can relate with.
The Gainesvilles, North Halls and Flowery Branchs of the world normally have a playoff spot pretty well sewn up by now and are peaking to see who they might play in the first round of the playoffs.
And this year is no exception in that regard.
On the other end, there’s the teams that are doing whatever it takes to get through the rest of the season and move on to basketball season.
The playoffs for some of the these programs wasn’t even in the team vocabulary during summer practice.
But those pressure few schools stuck in the middle and walking a fine line with regards to making the playoffs makes watching the rest of the regular season interesting.
We’re not talking about state title contenders. Nor are these even region title candidates. The teams on the bubble that do end up making the postseason rarely end up making it past the second round.
However, these bubble boys are the kids with a tremendous amount of pride and trying to do whatever it takes to secure one of the sacred few playoff berths in whatever region they may play.