Each of the past two years, Adairsville’s postseason fate came down to the wire. Entering their final game of the regular season, the Tigers weren’t sure whether they would be competing in the playoffs or sitting at home.
In 2018, Adairsville lost its season finale to Ringgold, suffering playoff elimination in the process. Last year, the Tigers sat through a bizarre situation in which they had to wait until a few days after the season ended for confirmation that they had earned an at-large bid.
This time around, as wild as the 2020 season has been, Adairsville was finally sitting in the catbird seat approaching its scheduled finale at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. The Tigers had locked up a postseason berth with a 42-35 win over North Murray last Friday, and head coach Eric Bishop’s crew was looking to secure a runner-up finish in Region 6-AAA with another victory.
Then Thursday morning, LFO canceled the game — due to COVID-19, Bishop said — and handed Adairsville the No. 2 seed in the region. And as it turned out, the Tigers (6-3, 5-2) had entered their final regular-season game without their playoff fate secured.
“We had been very fortunate not to be affected like many of the teams in this area,” Bishop said Thursday. “We made it this far, with just one little bump in the road.”
He later added, “It’s been a tough, long year on everyone. Regardless of how much game interruption you had or how much practice interruption you’ve had, it’s been a tough year on everybody.”
That bump Bishop referred to was when Adairsville had to push back its home game against Coahulla Creek one day, because the Colts were being forced to make up games in the middle of the week.
With the state playoffs set to begin next week, there's no time to reschedule the game against LFO. The Warriors wind up with a 1-8 overall record and 1-6 mark in the region, meaning their season is over.
“It’s a shame,” Bishop said. “It’s a shame for LFO’s seniors, most importantly. While they did get nine games in, they didn’t get to complete their season.
“We have to take what we get and move on. We’re about done, wrapping up the cancellation process. Now, we’re moving forward with our plans for [Friday], the weekend and preparation for round one next week.”
Adairsville knows it will face the third seed from Region 7-AAA. It's not yet known which team will earn that spot. Luckily for the Tigers, they'll be on hand to find out, as Bishop said his staff will travel to North Hall to see the hosts take on Dawson County.
The loser of that game will be Adairsville's opening-round foe. It will mark the Tigers' first home playoff game since a quarterfinal loss to eventual state champion Westminster in 2015.
“We’re going to treat this like an open week, for the part of it that we have left,” Bishop said of the change in focus. “It will give us a chance to go and live scout the North Hall-Dawson County game [Friday] night as a coaching staff. We’ll obviously know when that game is over who our opponent will be. We can go to work on them Saturday — a day earlier than we probably would have otherwise.”
While he certainly rather would have spent his Thursday finishing off preparation for LFO, Bishop admitted having a chance to turn the team's focus onto the postseason early is not the worst situation to be in.
“Recently, in the last few minutes,” he said, “we’ve turned our attention towards [the playoffs] and getting the most out of this bonus time we’ve got to plan and prepare.”