At the beginning of every season, every player, coach and fan has a goal they’d like to see their team achieve.
They may not share it all the time — coaches often express different expectations to their players, like winning the next game on the schedule, rather than looking at the big picture — but the long-range hopes are there nonetheless.
And I can imagine that when the season finally comes to a close, most often earlier than they all had hoped, there is an extended period of emptiness. Perhaps, even, a feeling of failure.
I’m here to remind everyone today, however, that there is no shame in a first-round exit.
This year in baseball, Flowery Branch was swept out of the first round by Johns Creek, Jefferson fell to Coosa, and North Hall lost a deciding third game against Allatoona on Saturday.
In soccer, it was the North Hall, Flowery Branch and Johnson boys, while the Flowery Branch girls were upset by Johns Creek.
Was the goal for any of these teams to simply make a playoff appearance?
Were they satisfied with playing one round before hanging up their gear for the offseason?
Of course not.
A state championship is the ultimate goal for every team that makes the tournament. But we have to put into perspective the accomplishments these teams can claim.
For one, they are one of just 32 teams in the state to advance to their classification’s state tournament. It’s an exclusive class and one which each of these teams should be proud to be a part of.
It isn’t easy to be a part of that club.
Many good teams are left on the outside looking in at the end of the season. Simply making the playoffs is a major step in the right direction for any program.
Secondly, regular-season success, while largely just a means to an end, is still worth a lot.
The fact that the Lady Falcons soccer team fell in the first round does not strip them of their region title and 17-2 record. Despite allowing three goals in the playoff match, Flowery Branch allowed just six over its previous 19 games. And its schedule included talented teams like Gainesville, West Hall, Johnson, Buford and Heritage.
It’s disappointing to fall short, but this is a great team that deserves recognition for the season it had. The same can be said for the baseball teams.
The Trojans easily won their subregion and lost the region title to a Gainesville squad that hasn’t dropped a contest all season.
Their reward for grabbing the No. 2 seed out of Region 8-AAA was a matchup against one of the toughest 3-seeds in the state.
Despite the unlucky draw, North Hall nearly escaped with a two-game sweep of the series on Friday before Allatoona won the second game on a walk-off home run to force a rubber-match on Saturday.
Should we think less of the team because its opponent got a hold of a single pitch in game two to keep the series alive?
Of course not.
North Hall put together an impressive season whether it made the second round or not.
The same can be said for the other teams.
Flowery Branch won 20 games before its first-round playoff series, but had to settle for the No. 4 seed out of its region. The result was a series against Johns Creek (22-6). And don’t be surprised if you see that team still alive a couple rounds down the road.
The point to remember here is that only one team in each classification’s tournament ends the season with a win.
The others finish with disappointment.
But no matter what place each finishes in, their successful seasons should not be diminished.
David Mitchell is a sports writer for The Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org