Photo by Derrick Mahone
Although the Riverdale Raiders haven’t been to the playoffs since 2005, second-year coach Olten Downs was defensive coordinator at Carver High in Columbus, which is a traditional playoff powerhouse.
The Georgia High School Association state playoff bracket can send teams on four hour bus rides or just trips across a county line.
Depending on your playoff draw, teams can often face an opponent that is not as known to them.
Playoff football means a lot more film study and gathering scouting reports on teams that are not quite familiar.
“We as a coaching staff have to do our homework a little more,” Union Grove coach Paul Burgdorf said. “We’re not real familiar with playoff teams often times. All year long I think our guys have been even keel the whole time. For our guys, we understand we’re in the playoffs, but we’re preparing like it’s another football game.”
Union Groves opponent is Bainbridge, which is located on the tip of the Florida line in South Georgia. The Bearcats run the old veer offense, something that its coach Ed Pilcher has used to win four state titles during his career.
“We spent maybe a little longer orienting ourselves with Bainbridge,” Burgdorf said. “I think from the staff standpoint, you put in more hours and time to get familiar with them.”
Riverdale, which is making its first playoff appearance since 2005, has never played Cairo, but Raiders coach Olten Downs is familiar with the powerhouse program.
When he was defensive coordinator at Carver High in Columbus, his team went to Cairo and defeated them for a state title.
This week, Downs has been preparing his staff not only on the Syrupmakers offensive and defensive schemes, but also on what awaits them Friday at West Thomas Stadium.
“I have a vast knowledge of what they do,” Downs said. “I’ve been trying to tell the kids about the environment they are about to step into. The playoffs is brand new to these kids. I’ve told them they have to trust me and believe in what we are telling them.”
Downs is hoping his team avoids a “deer in the headlights” moment tonight in Cairo.
“We can’t have the attitude that we are just happy to be here,” Downs said.
Getting film on Westover was no problem for Jonesboro as the two teams met in Albany on Sept. 7. The seventh-ranked Cardinals won that game after being down by five at the intermission.
This time, Cardinals coach Tim Floyd will be on the sidelines when they play his alma mater. During the first meeting, Floyd was serving the second game of a two-game suspension for recruiting violation.
Floyd said beating a team twice in one season is a tough task.
“Maybe there will be a kind of revenge factor at work in this game,” said Floyd, an Albany native and 1992 Westover graduate. “I went back and looked at some film of some of the things they did to hurt us and some of the things we’ve done well. And we’ll try to focus on those, plus a few new things we’ve added during the course of the season.”
Lovejoy is familiar with its first round opponent Tri-Cities. The two were in the same region for two seasons. The Wildcats are 4-0 all-time against Tri-Cities, including last season’s 24-20 win.
“Last year coming up to the point we played them, we hadn’t given up a running touchdown all season and on that first drive they got the ball and pounded us and stuffed it down our throats,” Lovejoy defensive coordinator Kevin Jones said.
“We never forgot what they did to us last year. People were saying we were lucky to get out of there with a win last year. So this year we think it's a blessing to play them again and right some of those wrongs. We want to close the door on all that talk of how we should've lost to them.”