READY, SET, ... WAIT — The Adairsville football team played its 10th and final regular-season game of the 2019 season Friday, defeating Ringgold by an 18-3 margin at home. Now, head coach Eric Bishop and Co. must play a different game — the waiting game.
After ending the season just after 10 p.m. Nov. 1, Adairsville won't know until possibly 4 p.m. Nov. 11 if it has indeed earned the Class 3A state playoff at-large bid. That's a a long time to wait, but at least Bishop feels pretty good about his team's chances of making the tournament.
He said his Wednesday included two separate meetings that provided clarification on where the Tigers stood entering Friday.
One meeting regarded Region 6-AAA and the tie-breaking procedures in the possibility of a three-way tie involving Sonoraville, Adairsville and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. That scenario will occur if Sonoraville and LFO lose to North Murray and Calhoun, respectively, this week.
According to Bishop, the three-way tie would leave Sonoraville with the region's No. 4 seed — behind champion North Murray, second-place Calhoun and third-place Haralson County. The Phoenix would get the nod based on having scored the most points in all region games.
At that point, head-to-head would come into play to determine the region's fifth-place team. Since Adairsville beat LFO by a 22-21 margin, the Tigers would finish fifth, allowing for the possibility of earning the at-large bid, which was the focus of Bishop's other Wednesday meeting.
If all of the region stuff shakes out the way it's expected, then Adairsville will become one of eight teams vying for the at-large selection. The possible teams will be the fourth-place finisher from Region 1-AAA, because that region only has four teams, as well as the fifth-place team from the other seven regions.
At that point, the eight teams will have their Power Ratings determine the at-large bid. Per the GHSA website, Adairsville's Power Rating currently sits at 10.20. (That number, in theory, shouldn't change but could if some information is not currently input correctly.)
Essentially, Adairsville has to approach the following week-plus as though the team will be traveling Nov. 15 to face either Jenkins or Benedictine in the first round of the state playoffs.
"Both of those meetings went as we needed them to," Bishop said of what he learned this week. "We are in the mix and will continue to be. The only thing is that there are other teams in the state who can continue to get points next week, while we've got all we're going to get.
"We'll definitely be watching games from across the state and doing a lot of internet scouting. We'll have our eyes on a lot of games next week to see how they come out."
SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT — Because of how competitive Region 7-AAAAA has been the last four years, sometimes the improvements the Woodland and Cass High football teams make are not apparent in their win-loss record.
Woodland has just four combined region wins in the last four years since joining Region 7-AAAAA and are 0-7 in the region so far this year. However, that doesn’t tell the full story on the improvements Woodland has made.
After allowing at least 30 points in six straight games, Woodland has allowed a combined 31 points in the last two games.
The Wildcats were a four-win team a season ago, their best season since 2013. Then, after losing one of its largest and most talented senior classes the program has ever had, Woodland returned only six seniors for the 2019 season.
As can be expected, the team was inconsistent and struggled early on. But the Wildcats have improved as the season has progressed, even if the wins have not followed.
On Oct. 25, at home against Villa Rica, Woodland lost by a score of 14-8. Earlier in the year, it would have been unlikely Woodland could have kept the game so close. Villa Rica was within two score of region champ Carrollton until the fourth quarter on Sept. 13. Villa Rica also only lost to Cass by three points the next week. The week before, Woodland lost by 29 points to Cass.
More evidence of Woodland’s improvements came Friday at East Paulding, where the Raiders were coming off two consecutive region wins and are just one spot outside the playoff picture in the region. East Paulding entered the game as 27.5-point favorites and Woodland only had a 4% chance to win, according to the Massey Ratings. Against a common opponent, Cass, East Paulding won by 35 points on Oct. 18.
As a result, based on recent scores against common opponents, Woodland’s 17-14 loss Friday to East Paulding is evidence the Wildcats are gaining on the rest of the teams in the region and are playing opponents much closer than earlier in the season.
In fact, East Paulding scored twice against Woodland as a result of special teams Friday — a touchdown return on the opening kickoff, and a field goal after a poor Woodland punt and strong return. Besides scores set up by special teams, the Raiders really only drove the ball down the field once against the Woodland defense.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the improvement probably won’t result in any more wins this year, with top-10 ranked Kell coming to Wildcat Stadium next week in the last game of Woodland’s season. However, there are signs the program is moving in the right direction heading into the offseason.