For the Raiders, a win would lock up the second seed of Region 5AAAAAA, which would guarantee them a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
“Our kids know what is at stake,” Walton coach Rocky Hidalgo. “We are treating this game as a very important one. A win would mean a playoff game at home, and we really want our first playoff game to be at Raider Valley.”
For the Eagles, a win would keep their playoff hopes alive.
“Oh this is a big game for us,” Etowah coach Dave Svehla said. “We told our kids that the destiny of our season is in our hands. We control it. We determine what happens to us or not.”
After narrowly losing to archrival Woodstock on Friday, the Wolverines now hold a tie-breaker over the Eagles for the fourth and final playoff spot in the region, which means that Etowah (4-4, 3-2) is now on the outside looking in as far as they playoffs are concerned.
With a win over Walton (6-2, 4-1), however, Etowah would jump back into the playoff picture by virtue of a tie-breaker over the Raiders.
To do that, the Eagles will have to find a way to stop the Class AAAAAA rushing leader Tyren Jones.
“Well, I don’t know that anyone will be able to stop him,” Svehla said of Jones, who has rushed for 1,675 yards and 16 touchdowns this year. “He’s just an awfully good football player. What we’d like to do is to keep him from getting loose. If we can limit his number of explosive plays, that will help.”
Limiting Jones’ explosive plays is exactly what Hidalgo hopes the Eagles don’t manage to do.
“We are going to give (Jones) the ball, and hopefully, he’ll make some magic happen,” Hidalgo said.
Against Milton, the Raiders defense forced two interceptions, recovered a fumble, and blocked a punt.
In only one other game this year, a 14-9 defeat to Johns Creek, has Milton been held under 30 points offensively.
“The win against Milton was huge,” Hidalgo said. “We won it because we managed the game well. We’ll have to do the same thing against Etowah. “
For Etowah to win, they will have to avoid the numerous mistakes they made last week against Woodstock, Svehla said.