By Brian Paglia and Derrick Mahone
Dutchtown coach Jason Galt experienced playoff runs while an assistant at Clarke Central and Carrollton, but never as a head coach, so he is finding that preparing a team in the weeks of November comes with unique challenges. Galt has had to deal with injuries, more media coverage and tougher opponents.
"I'll be honest with you, it's a long season," Galt said.
The longest in school history, in fact, for both Dutchtown (11-1) and No. 2 Eagle's Landing Christian (12-0). The Bulldogs beat Glynn Academy, 3-0, in the Class AAAA second round Friday. The Chargers pulled away for a 35-21 win over George Walton Academy in Class A.
Both teams have daunting tasks before them in the quarterfinals. Dutchtown faces No. 6 Chattahoochee (12-0), while ELCA will travel to play No. 1 Clinch County (12-0).
And both have encountered adversity in the later rounds of the playoffs that was rare during the regular season. Dutchtown overcame three missed field-goals by Ryan Kay and an underwhelming offensive performance to survive against Glynn Academy. George Walton Academy matched ELCA for three quarters before the Chargers scored 14 unanswered points to seal the game.
"We got pushed into some situations that we haven't had to face all year," ELCA coach Jonathan Gess said. "We definitely had to step up our game. We were able to dig deep down inside and pull through."
Dutchtown moved on without scoring a touchdown for the second-straight week, but played its customarily dominant defense. The Bulldogs have been delving into uncharted territory ever since they made the playoffs. Each game has come with unprecedented pressure.
Galt said he has never been one to hold back or diminish the magnitude of a game against top teams. Not when the Bulldogs went in undefeated against Griffin with first-place in Region 3-AAAA Subdivision A. Not when the Bulldogs went into their first-round game at No. 10 Thomas County Central.
And that won't change now that the Bulldogs are just one game away from the semifinals.
"We put the pressure on them," Galt said. "We think they respond well to pressure and we also think that kids aren't dumb. You try to down-play something, they know. ... They get up for big games. I think the kids like playing big games. I think they relish the opportunity. It gives them a chance to prove themselves.
"See, we're still the underdogs. We're the new school, the new kid on the block. Every school that's left now has been there for awhile. ... We're seven years old. These kids still have something to prove, and that's how they go out every game, trying to prove that they deserve to be talked about with those other teams."