Columbia County's high-school football teams made their move last week, but they aren't all going in a positive direction.
Greenbrier, Evans and Augusta Christian were the winners last Friday night, while Harlem and Lakeside were left reeling by region losses.
Technically, all five squads are still in the state-playoff hunt, although the Panthers and Bulldogs are on the verge of postseason extinction.
The homecoming dance began early at Evans High School.
With a 14-0 win over Cedar Grove, the Knights did a jig all the way the locker room Friday night, and the fun might just be getting started.
"If we keep doing what we're doing and keep working hard, we've got a chance to go to the playoffs," Evans junior Jay Acree said after the Knights won their second-straight Region 7-AAAAA contest.
Despite suffering aftereffects of a concussion, tailback Cheng Ho tallied two touchdowns in the second quarter, and from there the Evans defense did the rest.
Acree, Allen Ligon and Gabe Greer all recorded interceptions to help preserve the shutout and lift Evans to its first win streak in Region 7-AAAAA.
"That's the best effort we've had all year," Acree said. "We just came to play. Everything was clicking."
Evans (2-4, 2-2 in Region 7-AAAAA) travels to face Lakeside-DeKalb this Friday at 5:15 p.m. If the Knights stretch their region winning streak to three, postseason play is a distinct possibility.
"This is a big game Friday. If we can find a way to pull that one out, we'll put ourselves in good position in the region," Evans coach Marty Jackson said. "We want to keep building on the positive things, and we might be able to sneak in (the state playoffs)."
Greenbrier is looking to storm into the Class AAAA playoffs after posting a 42-14 win at Cross Creek. The Wolfpack improved to 6-1 overall, and 4-1 in Region 3-AAAA with four region games remaining.
"It's the first time in a long time that we are in the position to control what happens to us," Pack coach Mickey Derrick said. "We've had a pretty good season, but we tell our athletes that we've got to get better every week, because it doesn't get any easier."
Greenbrier is at home Friday against Jones County. The region battle begins at 7:30 p.m.
Augusta Christian, meanwhile, tuned up for the stretch run by routing Southland Academy 38-0 in a non-region contest at Pride Valley.
The Lions were without Adam McKinney. The punter, quarterback and defensive end for AC had knee surgery, and will not play until later this season.
Senior Dan Wiley stepped in at quarterback and looked right at home, completing six of seven passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. Wiley also added a short scoring run in the fourth quarter.
"Dan took many of the snaps in the preseason, and he's always done a good job," AC coach Bruce Lane said. "He's got so many intangibles you can't coach. He's a winner and he just wants to do whatever it takes to make our team successful."
The Lions open their Region 1-AAA slate this Friday with a 7:30 p.m. match at Eagle's Landing Christian Academy. AC is off to a 6-1 start and is ready to defend its region crown.
"Our kids expect to win every Friday night, and that confidence level is something that has developed over the past few years," Lane said. "The players come to practice ready to prepare for an opponent, and when the lights come on Friday night, they are ready to raise their level of play."
Harlem senior Tim Camp looked like Superman last Friday at Josey, but the Eagles had some kryptonite up their sleeves.
Camp rushed for 154 yards, threw for 62, and on defense he notched a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown - and that wasn't quite enough.
Josey scored a touchdown with 43 second to play, then tacked on a two-point conversion to take a 21-20 lead - and that almost wasn't enough.
On the final play of the game, Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis called a trick play. The Bulldogs lined up in a shotgun formation, and the snap went to Donnie DeMore, who then tossed a screen pass to Camp.
Camp sprinted downfield and picked up 55 yards, only to be stopped at the Josey 3-yard line as time expired.
The crushing Region 3-AAA defeat hurt Harlem's playoff chances. The Dogs dropped to 2-4 overall and 0-2 in region play heading into this week's homecoming game with Richmond Academy.
When the 7:30 p.m. kickoff arrives, Lewis says the Dogs will shake off the tough loss to Josey.
"Our crowd played their hearts out. They have nothing to be ashamed of," Lewis said. "With the way they played, I think we'll come back and go strong this Friday night."
Lakeside has a bye this week, and the Panthers can use the rest after losing a third straight Region 3-AAAA game last Friday. Baldwin visited Panther Stadium and laid a 33-10 licking on Lakeside.
"It seems adversity kills us sometimes," Lakeside coach Randy Hill said. "The past couple of games we've made stupid plays in key situations, and we're not recovering quickly."
Lakeside's record evened at 3-3, but a 1-3 mark in Region 3-AAAA overshadows the team's strong start in 2003.
Unless they can regroup and finish out the season on a four-game win streak, the Panthers may be watching to postseason from the sideline. "Another loss, and we're out of it, but we're going to keep working and plugging away," Hill said.
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