Game: River Ridge (3-6, 2-5) at Sprayberry (5-4, 4-3), 7:30 p.m.
Last year: Sprayberry 44, River Ridge 6
All-time series: Sprayberry leads 3-0
Prediction: Sprayberry 30, River Ridge 10
When Sprayberry and River Ridge face off on Friday night, the Yellow Jackets will be playing to continue their season, if they can get a little outside help.
The first two playoff spots in Region 6AAAAAA are set in stone, but the remaining two could go to any of four teams with a 4-3 region record, including Sprayberry.
A win and a Sequoyah loss sends Sprayberry to the playoffs. The Yellow Jackets hold vital head-to-head victories over two of the other 4-3 teams in the region, Dalton and Creekview.
Sequoyah is the exception, holding the tiebreaker over Sprayberry. If the Chiefs upset second place Allatoona and Dalton wins against Osborne, it would create a three-way tie. Dalton would claim the third seed on point differential and Sequoyah the fourth seed thanks to its head-to-head win over Sprayberry on Oct. 25.
Sprayberry is in this position because of a big win last Friday over Creekview, one of the teams sitting at 4-3 in the region. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 253 yards and limited Creekview to 46 yards rushing in the most important win of their season.
“It was a really big win,” Sprayberry coach Brett Vavra said. “We played well in the box and made them try to throw the ball. Obviously, our run game was clicking with Damarion (Owens) having 183 yards rushing and we made some big plays on some conversions.”
Two of Sprayberry’s touchdowns came on third or fourth down. At the end of the half, quarterback Kyle Brown converted a third and long on a scramble, setting up a first and goal and another Sprayberry touchdown.
“We’ve moved on past it,” Vavra said. “We got back to us, we got back to not thinking about anything else other than our preparation day in and day out.”
River Ridge is sitting at 2-5 in the region, outside of any potential playoff scenarios. They’ve improved on last season’s 1-9 record under first year coach Michael Collins and the foundation is now set moving forward.
“I thought (the players) improved throughout the year as we set a standard of what we expected on a daily basis,” Collins said. “I feel like they answered that, specifically in the way that we practice. I thought we got better in all three phases of football throughout the year. Hopefully that will continue this week.”
Against Sprayberry, the focus will be on Damarion Owens, the Yellow Jackets star running back and Cobb County’s second leading rusher with 1,219 yards.
“They’re a good football team,” Collins said. “I don’t know if that was the prediction coming into the season. They have a football team that is as good as any football team I’ve seen this year. Coach Vavra has done an outstanding job with that program.”
Even though River Ridge has no playoffs to fight for, Collins is looking forward to one last litmus test for the program before starting work on year two, while trying to play spoiler at the same time.
“I’d like to see us play the best game we’ve played all year,” Collins said. “That way you feel like you got better every week. When we walk off the field Friday, I want to feel like we maximized our talents, resources, and opportunities. We’re working really hard this week to make sure that happens.”