Every team fortunate enough to extend its season to the postseason should be extremely proud of its accomplishment.
For these seven local programs, there is a common denominator with countless hours of training and practice, team meetings and the constant grind of playing every Friday night.
The playoffs are something that is guaranteed to none, but playing in state is at or near the top of every team’s list of goals at the beginning of the season.
Some schools seem to make the playoffs every season, but the taste of qualifying for the them is just as sweet for players, parents and fans alike.
For some, making the playoffs seemed out of the question when the season started, but things started coming together during the season and, before you know it, they’re in.
Playing at home in front of a raucous home crowd is more desired, but making a road trip — whether it be hours or just a few miles — leaves players dreaming that maybe, just maybe, they could reach the ultimate goal of a state championship.
I can guarantee you that players from 10-0 Buford (winners of four straight state titles and 13 consecutive playoff appearances) are just as excited about making the playoffs as those kids at 7-3 Banks County (making just its second playoff appearance since ‘98).
Making the playoffs is not only a sense of validation that all the hard work from spring ball through November was worth it, but also a great feeling of achievement.
Players and coaches at Gainesville (9-1) gave high fives and hugs like it was their first region title, even though it marked the program’s fourth in a row.
Commerce is going to the playoffs for the 15th consecutive season, but for some, it is their first chance to gear up in the field of 32 in the state tournament.
Flowery Branch (9-1) dealt with the disappointment of losing out on the Region 8-AAAA title with a loss to Clarke Central last Friday, but players will still show up to the practice field Monday ready to go with a clear mind, knowing that anything is possible.
Then there is Habersham Central (6-4), which sustained the ups and downs of the season to claim a playoff spot in difficult Region 8-AAAA’s straight region schedule format.
Every program had a different road to the postseason.
Class AA’s top-ranked Wolves haven’t had as much as a hiccup yet through 10 games of regular-season play. Buford likely won’t have any serious competition until it reaches the Georgia Dome on Dec. 11.
No matter how a team got to the postseason, they all have a clean slate now.
Now, it’s just a matter of survive and advance. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Just score more points each Friday night and that dream of a state championship will stay alive.
During the playoffs, we’ll probably see a program make a run that isn’t exactly expected. If that happens, it has earned it. There’s no such thing as luck in the playoffs. Almost every team is really good.
On the flip side, there’s probably going to be a quality local program that will bow out early. It happens almost every year. Bracket alignment, injuries and team chemistry all come into play here.
However, the playoffs is fun for all.
Sit back and enjoy. Hopefully, we’ll all have a team to support in Atlanta on Dec. 11.
Bill Murphy is a sports writer for The Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.