When the LaGrange Grangers and Troup Tigers lock horns in tonight’s rivalry showdown, both teams will be in desperate need of a win as they pursue a spot in the Class AAAA state playoffs.
With two games remaining in the regular season, the Grangers and Tigers will bring matching 3-2 region records into tonight’s game before what should be a standing-room only crowd at Callaway Stadium.
Of the eight teams in the region, six of them still have realistic shots at making the state playoffs.
Sandy Creek and Carrollton own the top two spots with 5-0 region records, leaving LaGrange (3-2), Troup (3-2), Fayette County (2-3) and Shaw (2-3) fighting it out for the other two playoff berths.
Only Columbus and Alexander, who are both 0-5 in region play, have no shot at making the playoffs.
The muddled playoff picture will become a lot clearer after tonight, with Troup and LaGrange playing in one critical game, and Shaw and Fayette facing off in another key game.
At the top of the region, Sandy Creek and Carrollton will play for the region championship tonight.
Troup and LaGrange aren’t playing for a region title, but the stakes are high nonetheless.
“We have postseason goals that we’re trying to reach, and this is the next big game for us,” Troup head coach Lynn Kendall said.
Kendall added that LaGrange has “goals to get into the posteason, just like us. And then we have games left over after (tonight).”
For Troup, the game left over will be against Shaw next week in Columbus.
Troup can finish third in the region with a win tonight and a victory over Shaw next week.
Even if Troup wins tonight, it still isn’t a lock to make the playoffs, although its path to the postseason would be a lot clearer.
Conversely, if Troup loses tonight, it would still have a chance to end up in the playoffs with a win over Shaw next week.
While the best Troup can do is finish third, LaGrange still has a chance to finish second in the region if it wins its final two games.
If LaGrange wins tonight and Carrollton loses to Sandy Creek, those two teams would play next week for the region’s second seed.
LaGrange hosts Carrollton in the regular-season finale.
“Our goal is to win (tonight), and then stun Carrollton and be two,” LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said. “That’s our goal. That’d be great.”
If LaGrange beats Troup, it wouldn’t be guaranteed a berth in the state playoffs, although it would at the least be a part of a mini-playoff on the Monday after the regular season ends.
If two or more teams are tied for the fourth spot and none of the existing tie-breakers work out, a mini-playoff would be held to determine who makes it to the state playoffs.
“If we win (tonight), we’re in some form of postseason,” Branch said.
Beyond the playoff implications of tonight’s game, county pride will be at stake as well.
Although LaGrange has mostly dominated the series over the years, Troup has won the past two meetings.
Troup win 34-27 in 2010, and 27-14 last season, giving it two wins in a row in the rivalry for the first time ever.
LaGrange’s last win in the series came in 2009 when it blanked Troup 42-0.