By Derrick Mahone
They are no longer in the playoff hunt, but Mount Zion can have a say in which team gets the final playoff spot in a Region 4-AAAA race that will probably come down to the final week.
Early last week, Mount Zion was clinging to the No. 4 spot in the region, but the Bulldogs had to forfeit five games after self-reporting to the Georgia High School Association that it used an ineligible player this season.
While disappointed, the players say they are not going to quit playing hard in the last two games.
"We have a lot of pride," Mount Zion senior lineman David Owens said. "We are playing for each other."
Mount Zion hosts Banneker at Twelves Oaks Friday before ending the season Nov. 5 at Tri-Cities. Banneker and Tri-Cities are locked in a battle for the final playoff spot. If both teams win their remaining games, Tri-Cities owns the tiebreaker since it defeated the Trojans 28-20 last week.
The big game in the region this week is the battle between Lovejoy and Creekside at Arrowhead Stadium in Fairburn. Creekside benefited from Mount Zion's misfortune as they was awarded a win after suffering an earlier defeat against the Bulldogs at Southern Crescent Stadium.
Creekside coach Johnny White downplayed the forfiet win.
"It doesn't help us as much as people think," White said. "If we had won out we could have still gotten the No. 1 spot from that standpoint."
A Lovejoy win clinches the region championship for the Wildcats. It will be their first region title since winning consecutive Region 4-AAAAA titles from 2003-04.
Creekside would have to defeat Lovejoy and North Clayton to win the title outright.
"We are looking forward to playing a good team like Lovejoy," White said. "Our players have really grown up throughout the course of the season. This team has really stuck together."
Jonesboro, which has made only three playoff appearances in the last 21 years, picked up a much-needed win for the Mount Zion forfeit, but the Cardinals are still a longshot at making the postseason.
The Cardinals will try to end a three-game losing streak against Morrow on Saturday at Tara Stadium before ending the season at Banneker.
A 28-25 loss to Tri-Cities in the season opener put a strain on the Cardinals playoff hopes with a 10-game region schedule. However, it was a 26-7 loss to a then winless Mundy's Mill team that killed the playoff hopes, even with picking up a forfeit win from Mount Zion.
"Yeah, we were talking about that Mundy's Mill game on Sunday," Jonesboro coach Tim Floyd said. "That game was extra huge. I've got to do a better job of preparing my team for those Thursday games."
Jonesboro lost to likely playoff teams Creekside (16-13), Lovejoy (21-14) and North Clayton (12-7) by a combined 17 points. Floyd said his team has been in every game this season after a 2-8 finish last season.
"I'm proud of these guys, and they have shown that they can compete," Floyd said. "We just have to get to that next level now."