Has there been a season in recent years where predicting the fate of local teams in the playoffs is so hard to do?
I don’t think there is a person who could say with certainty that any of our local teams — except for Buford — is a lock to make a deep playoff run. You could ask 10 different fans and get 10 different outlooks for how schools in this area will fair in the postseason.
No. 1 seeds should inherently have an easier row to hoe in the early rounds. That’s the reward for having a successful regular season.
But Gainesville (10-0) didn’t draw a complete scrub in the first round with Region 8-AAA’s No. 4 seed Oconee County (4-6). The Warriors have kind of a misleading record with three loses coming out of region play. And, this season, the Red Elephants haven’t seen a quarterback like the Warriors’ Zach Mettenberger, who is already verbally committed to Georgia.
The last time that Gainesville faced a big quarterback like the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Mettenberger in the playoffs, was when current Florida back-up Cam Newton’s Westlake High team played Gainesville at Bobby Gruhn Field in the 2005 playoffs.
But the Red Elephants seemed to handle that matchup alright winning 27-20.
Another No. 1 seed that should naturally be at an advantage is Region 8-AA champion Jefferson (10-0). The fact remains, however, that the Dragons have struggled in the playoffs in recent seasons.
Since 2000, Jefferson only has a pair of playoff wins in eight playoff appearances.
Just looking at the seeding and assuming that Jefferson is automatically going to win is a bit premature.
Jefferson’s first round opponent is a tough No. 4 seed, Chattooga County (6-4). One thing that jumps off the page with the Indians (6-4) is despite losing four games, none of those were against a team with a losing record.
One area team with a whole lot of postseason success in recent years is the No. 2 seed out of Region 7-AAA North Hall (7-3). But is home-field advantage in the first round going to amount to that much of an advantage for the Trojans?
North Hall didn’t get any favors in having to play one of the tougher No. 3 seeds in the state, Hart County (7-3), at The Brickyard on Friday. Despite a bumpy start to the season, the Bulldogs finished out the regular season with convincing wins, all in region play.
The most intriguing first round playoff game has to be Region 7-AAA’s No. 3-seed Flowery Branch (8-2) traveling back to Stephens County (8-2), the No. 2 seed out of Region 8-AAA, to play at The Reservation in Toccoa.
What are the odds that two teams in different regions would play twice in the same season at the same field? Flowery Branch, in my opinion, is the third seed with the best chance of pulling off a first-round upset. The Falcons’ opening night loss to Stephens County this season set the stage for their eight-game winning streak.
Flowery Branch is clearly a different team now.
The Falcons have a chance to flip the script on last season’s first round loss to Chamblee, which was a third-seed.
There are clearly so many questions and so many even matchups for the first round of the state playoffs.
It makes it tough to decide who’s going to come out on top when local squads hit the field Friday night.
The questions are also why it’s going to be so exciting to see how it all works itself out and which teams can survive and advance into the second round.