Game of the Week: Predators, Bulldogs battle with playoff spots at stake
Article by: Kyle Dawson, Aiken Standard
Aiken Standard Game of the Week
WHO: Silver Bluff (2-7, 0-4 Region 2-AA) at Fox Creek (4-5, 1-3 Region 2-AA)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WATCH: aikenstandard.com and https://www.youtube.com/user/aikenstandard
Why wait until the postseason to be in “win or go home” mode?
That’s the landscape of the lower half of Region 2-AA heading into Friday’s high school football regular season finale, and Fox Creek and Silver Bluff both can either extend their seasons or empty their lockers based on what happens in the Aiken Standard Game of the Week.
Fox Creek (4-5, 1-3) can simplify the equation with a victory on its home field. If that’s the case, the Predators are the region’s No. 4 seed – regardless of what happens between Ninety Six and No. 1 Abbeville – and are likely headed up to Simpsonville next Friday to face third-ranked Southside Christian in the first round of the playoffs.
Silver Bluff has no interest in simplicity.
The Bulldogs (2-7, 0-4) can introduce calculators – at the very least pen and paper – into the discussion with a win. Combine that with a likely Ninety Six loss to Abbeville, and it’s a three-way tie at 1-4 with two playoff spots up for grabs. The tiebreaker in that situation is total points allowed in games played among the tied teams – Ninety Six allowed 45 combined to Fox Creek and Silver Bluff, while Fox Creek gave up 7 and Silver Bluff allowed 29 in previous games against Ninety Six. That increases the grade to Silver Bluff’s uphill climb, but the Bulldogs still know there’s a chance.
“The good thing is we’re still in the hunt,” said Silver Bluff head coach De’Angelo Bryant, whose team could end up anywhere from fourth to sixth even with a win. “So the biggest thing that we want to do is make sure we go out there and give it our all and compete and try to put ourselves in the position to have an opportunity to make the playoffs.”
It may be a do-or-die situation, but that’s no reason to stray from a winning formula. In Fox Creek’s case, that’s those RTI – relentless, tough, intelligent – principles that led to four straight victories earlier this season.
“When we’ve done that, the four times we’ve done that this year, we’ve come out with a victory,” said Fox Creek head coach LaFayette Stewart. “If we do that, I believe we’ll be fine.”
The Predators will try to get the run game going with 1,000-yard back Ryan Chavous behind a stout offensive line, but the Bulldogs can’t simply sell out to stop the run – Fox Creek has playmakers in the passing game, too, that North-South linebacker Donovan Bush and company will have to keep from breaking free.
“(Quarterback Jadon Johnson) and Ryan Chavous are very dangerous,” Bryant said. “I think (wide receiver Jatonious Butler) is a good ball player, and they’ve got some guys up front that I think can really cause some havoc if we don’t stay with our blocks the entire night.”
Silver Bluff has plenty of game-breakers of its own that can give the Predators’ defenders fits. They’ll be focused on getting aligned properly, sticking to their assignments and playing with aggression in order to keep the Bulldogs’ stars contained. However, Silver Bluff has shown that it’s not afraid to switch things up offensively to get the ball to Darius Johnson in space, even if that means shuffling the lineup. That could keep a Fox Creek defense, led by CJ Tillman’s 62 tackles and Dawson Lewis’ 26 tackles for loss, on its toes all game long.
As if fighting for a playoff spot wasn’t already enough to get both parties excited, it’s also Senior Night at Fox Creek – plus a white-out for the occasion. Fox Creek already reached a first this year by beating Ninety Six, which gave the Predators their first Region 2-AA win under the current alignment. There’s also the potential to make the playoffs for the first time out of that brutal league, and Silver Bluff is looking to make a return trip after a difficult season.
Throw in the fact that Fox Creek has never beaten Silver Bluff, and there’s a gourmet recipe for a fired-up atmosphere.
The live coverage should help, too.
“Of course, it’s Aiken Standard Game of the Week,” Stewart said with a laugh. “It’s a big deal, so our kids, our community, everybody should be up for it and be excited about it.”