For those teams on the brink, it’s an exciting week, and each knows what needs to be done to punch that ticket.
Wheeler (4-4, 1-4 in Region 5AAAAAA) will need to beat Woodstock and then get a lot of help.
Wheeler would need to beat the Wolverines and Cherokee next week. That would bring its region record to 3-4.
Etowah would have to lose twice — to Walton and Lassiter — and then Woodstock would need to lose to Milton next week. That would create a three-way tie with Wheeler, Woodstock and Etowah, and all three would have taken a turn beating the other.
Then a series of tie-breakers would be put to the test to determine the No. 4 seed.
For Woodstock, a win tonight at Wheeler’s Corky Kell Stadium and the Wildcats are eliminated. Then it becomes a two-team race.
Currently, Woodstock is in a three-way tie with Etowah and Milton for third place in Region 5AAAAAA, but the Wolverines (3-5, 3-2) already own the tiebreaker over Etowah.
Woodstock coach Brent Budde said his team is ready and enthusiastic.
“Everybody was saying that Etowah was a big game (last week), and Etowah was a big game because, without winning that, this game wouldn’t carry the weight it carries,” Budde said. “But this game is every bit as big or bigger than last week’s.”
Woodstock opened the season 0-5 before stringing together three consecutive region victories to put itself in contention. Budde said that since the team started playing well together, the players have gained more confidence.
“I don’t think we played our best game last week, but I think that we have found a way to win ballgames — close ballgames,” he said. “So, if it’s a close ballgame, I like our chances.”
Wheeler coach Mike Collins is a former member of the Woodstock coaching staff, and Budde said he has a great deal of respect for him and is familiar with his style.
“He has done a good job at Wheeler,” Budde said. “They have good athletes over there and they are kind of excited about football and have been playing a lot better.”
Simply matching up with Wheeler from an athletic standpoint will be a challenge for the Wolverines.
Wheeler’s 6-foot-7 quarterback, Elijah Staley, has shown himself capable of beating teams on the ground and in the air. Running backs Devontae Jackson and Kyonte Maxwell fuel the ground attack.
“They kind of spread you out all over the field, and if one of their guys gets loose, he is going to go the distance,” Budde said.
While Woodstock’s players will bring a lot of emotion into Friday’s game, having fought back from a poor start to the season, Budde said they remain focused on the task ahead of them.
“We talk about playing 11 as one of our goals,” said Budde. “They understand it, and they know what they have to do on Friday. I think they are focused on that goal and that task at hand and they will be ready to go.”