Defending state champion Valdosta is in a unique position heading into the final two weeks of the high school football season.
Win their final two games and the Wildcats are region champions. Lost their final two games and the Wildcats miss the playoffs. No other team in Class AAAAAA faces that wide range of options and has its fate totally within its hands.
If the Wildcats win Friday against third-ranked Coffee and beat Houston County next weekend, the worst they could do would be to finish tied for first place in Region 1 with the winner of next week’s Coffee-Lee County game. Valdosta would then hold the tiebreaker advantage over both.
Valdosta is an 11-point underdog against Coffee, according to the computer Maxwell Ratings, but it was a 17-point underdog last week against Lee County before pulling off the 31-28 upset.
If Valdosta loses both games, it would finish tied for fourth place with the loser of this week’s game between Houston County and Northside-Warner Robins and would hold the tiebreaker against neither, leaving it out of the playoffs.
A victory in either game would clinch a playoff berth for the Wildcats, who have failed to reach the postseason just four times since 1975.
The fate of several other Class AAAAAA teams depends on the outcomes of this week’s games. Here are some of the teams with their backs against the wall.
*Bradwell Institute, Effingham County (Region 2): The is a true elimination game. Bradwell and Effingham are tied for fourth place in their five-team region. The winner will go to the playoffs and the loser is out, regardless of what happens next weekend. Richmond Hill, Brunswick and Glynn Academy have clinched playoff berths, and Richmond Hill can wrap up the title on Friday.
*Greenbrier (Region 3): Last year, the Wolfpack went 5-0 in non-region play but failed to make the playoffs after going 1-4 in the region and finishing in fifth place. Greenbrier is in danger of doing it again. After starting this season 5-0, the Wolfpack has lost to Lakeside-Evans, Heritage-Conyers and Evans and is tied for fifth place. A loss to Grovetown this week knocks Greenbrier out.
*Jonesboro (Region 4): The Cardinals can finish in third place behind Tucker and Stephenson if they win their final two games against Lovejoy and Drew. A loss in either game puts Jonesboro in a bind. That’s because the Cardinals are tied for fourth place with M.L. King, which holds the tiebreaker over Jonesboro and would need to go 0-2 down the stretch for Jonesboro to have a shot.
*Hughes, Northgate (Region 5): Hughes and Northgate, who play each other on Friday, have two losses each in region play. Hughes would clinch a playoff berth with a victory, and Northgate would be eliminated. If Hughes loses this week, it would need Alexander to lose its final two games against Mays and Douglas County to have any shot of earning a playoff berth in a tiebreaker scenario.
*Apalachee, Habersham Central (Region 8): Both teams are 0-3 in region play, two games out of the fourth-place spot, and both will be eliminated with losses this week. Apalachee plays at Gainesville, and Habersham Central faces Winder-Barrow. If Apalachee or Habersham can pull off a victory, it would need to win again next week when they play each other, plus get a good deal of help.