That quote certainly rings true for the Cobb County teams that qualified for the state playoffs.
None of the eight current qualifiers — along with Mount Paran Christian, which is all but guaranteed a postseason berth when the final Class A private school power ratings are released — have losing records, and most were predicted to make the state playoffs prior to the start of the season.
“When it comes to the teams that make the playoffs, things usually shake out like they’re supposed to most of the time,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “Sometimes, you get in situations where tiebreakers are involved, or key injuries affect how a team might finish or it’s just a bad matchup.
“But, for the most part, it works out the way it’s supposed to. Some teams catch a break and get themselves into position. For instance, a talented kid, or a group of kids, can come into your program and help turn three wins into seven or eight because they’re that good. Or you could lose guys that you didn’t expect to lose and that hurts you. In the end, you have to play your way in.”
As McEachern enters the state playoffs, it may be without one of the players it never expected to lose.
Starting quarterback Ty Clemons suffered an ankle injury in McEachern’s 31-17 loss at Hillgrove on Friday and did not return. Hockman considered the senior questionable for the Indians’ first-round playoff game at Newton.
“Ty sprained his ankle, and we’ll see how it responds to treatment this week,” Hockman said. “He’s 50-50, at best, right now, and the trainers just want to be cautious.”
While injuries are a part of football, Kell overcame any potential distractions to earn the Region 7AAAAA title and its second undefeated regular season since 2010. North Cobb took the Region 4AAAAAA championship over McEachern and Lassiter captured its second straight title in 5AAAAAA.
The nine Cobb County playoff teams, including likely qualifier Mount Paran, maneuvered through the season to a combined record of 71-19 and now have a chance at winning a state championship.
“As a coach, you obviously focus on yourself and find the areas where you need to improve to become the best football team you can possibly be,” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said. “But I think everybody knows, especially in AAAAAA, you can look at teams on tape, and when you play them, and see which teams have the qualities necessary to make the postseason.
“We peek at the other teams in the other regions, and you get a sense of who the good teams are.”
Barring injuries and other unexpected circumstances, Irwin has several reasons why certain teams are able to make the playoffs each year.
“There are hallmarks to being a playoff team,” he said. “You have to be well-coached — and that includes the assistants as well as the head coach — you have to have consistency in your game — where you don’t have a lot of breakdowns and penalties and miscues every week — you have to have talented players and you have to find a way to win close games.
“Some teams can dominate a region, but most regions have a lot of good teams, and that creates parity. There are some good teams that don’t make the playoffs, but if your team can take care of those hallmarks, then you improve your chances.”
Irwin felt his team’s chances improve after Lassiter beat Walton on the first Friday of October. That was the game where he felt the Trojans were the most consistent, and if they could play that way the rest of the season, they would not only make the playoffs, but win the region championship.
“We had talented players, but we needed that consistency,” Irwin said. “We remained pretty steady from there.”