It’s hard to believe we’ve reached this point already.
It seems like it was just a few days ago when the local football teams were hitting the field for the first day of preseason practice under the scorching sun, and now here we are getting ready for the final night of the regular season.
For two of our local teams, Callaway and Troup, the journey won’t end tonight.
Both of those teams will be in the state playoffs that begin next week.
Unfortunately for the LaGrange Grangers, the season will likely end with tonight’s game against Carrollton.
Whether a team is heading to the playoffs or not, of course, they want to close the regular season on a positive note.
Callaway and Troup have been playing well, and they want to finish strong and carry that momentum into the state playoffs.
And LaGrange just wants its final memory of the 2013 season to be a positive one, especially in light of head coach Donnie Branch’s announcement on Thursday that he’ll be stepping down.
Here are tonight’s games, as well as my predictions.
CALLAWAY AT ROCKMART: With a win tonight, the Cavaliers will post their second consecutive 9-1 regular season, and that is a heck of an impressive accomplishment.
Kudos to head coach Pete Wiggins, his coaches, the players, and everyone associated with Callaway football for making it happen.
These kinds of seasons don’t happen by accident.
It takes a lot of dedication and hard work, and there is no shortage of that on the Callaway football team.
Tonight’s opponent, on the other hand, has had a disappointing season.
The Yellow Jackets made it to the second round of the state playoffs a year ago, and they figured to have a great chance of earning one of Region 4-AAA’s four playoff berths this year.
The Yellow Jackets lost their first two region games of the season, though, and they’ve never recovered.
Rockmart was officially eliminated from the playoff race with last week’s 20-0 loss to B.E.S.T Academy.
The Yellow Jackets have nothing to play for tonight but pride, but that can be a powerful motivator.
I would expect Rockmart to give Callaway its best shot tonight.
It won’t matter, though.
The Cavaliers are playing so well, and while they already have the region championship wrapped up, this is not a team that will be content to coast into the playoffs.
The Cavaliers want to finish strong, and they won’t look past the Yellow Jackets.
Look for Tez Parks and the Callaway offense to roll early, and for the defense to continue its stellar play.
MY PICK: Callaway 48-13
LAGRANGE AT CARROLLTON: Life doesn’t get any easier for the Grangers.
After last week’s 27-8 loss to the Troup Tigers, the Grangers get to go on the road tonight and face a powerful Carrollton team that is also probably a little angry after losing to Sandy Creek last week.
Before that Sandy Creek loss, Carrollton was 8-0, and none of those games were close.
Just the week before, Carrollton hung 63 points on an Alexander team that is probably going to the playoffs.
Against Sandy Creek, though, nothing went right for Carrollton, which lost 24-7.
But this is still an immensely talented Carrollton team, one that figures to make a run at a state championship.
For LaGrange, this will likely be the final game of a tough season.
The Grangers can make the playoffs if they beat Carrollton, and Alexander loses to Fayette County.
If those events don’t occur, LaGrange will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
I expect the Grangers to play inspired football tonight.
These are proud players, and they will walk into Carrollton’s Grisham Stadium expecting nothing less than to win the game.
It is a tall task, though.
This is a superb Carrollton team, and it will be especially focused on finishing the regular season strong in light of what happened last week.
Look for the Grangers to give it their best shot, but the Trojans probably have a little too much firepower.
MY PICK: Carrollton 38-20
SHAW AT TROUP: The situation is a little different this year.
When Troup and Shaw played in the final game of the 2012 regular season, the final playoff spot in Region 5-AAAA was on the line.
Flash forward a year, and while Troup has already wrapped up its playoff berth, Shaw has been out of the playoff race for a couple of weeks.
That doesn’t mean the Tigers will be taking this game any less seriously, though.
With a victory, the Tigers would have a winning regular season, they would close the regular season with four straight wins, and they would head into the playoffs feeling awfully good about things.
As for the Raiders, while the season hasn’t gone like they’d hoped, they do have a chance to finish at .500 with a win tonight.
The Raiders have won a couple of games in a row, and they are a potentially dangerous opponent.
But the Tigers are playing awfully well right now, on both sides of the football.
I expect Troup to come out tonight and approach this like it’s a playoff game.
There won’t be any let-up for the Tigers.
MY PICK: Troup 28-10