And the postseason drive really hits full tilt tonight at 7:30 when Shaw comes to Grisham Stadium for a Region 5-AAAA battle to cap off homecoming week for the Trojans.
With Carrollton, Sandy Creek and LaGrange all sitting at 3-0 in region play, the Raiders (3-3, 1-2 Region 5-AAAA) are the favorite to earn the No. 4 seed, as they will have played all three of the region title contenders following tonight’s game. Shaw wraps up the regular season with winnable games against Columbus, Fayette County and Troup, respectively, over the next three weeks.
No. 5 Carrollton (4-2, 3-0), meanwhile, still has top-ranked Sandy Creek and rival LaGrange — as well as Alexander next week — to deal with before all is said and done in the regular season. Of course, the No. 1 priority right now is an athletic Raider squad.
The Trojans could potentially wrap up a state playoff berth tonight with a win over the Raiders and losses by Troup and Fayette County this week, but Carrollton coach Rayvan Teague said as long as his team takes care of business these next two games against Shaw and Alexander, the Trojans will have put themselves right where they want to be heading into the stretch run.
“We really felt like Troup, Shaw, LaGrange and Sandy Creek were the four other teams that were going to make the playoff push. With us beating Troup and if we beat Shaw, then it looks like we would have put ourself in position for no worse than third place. So that’s what we’re really trying to work for,” Teague said.
The Raiders are led by first-year coach Kyle Adkins, who is the third different head coach in four years for the Shaw program. On the field, quarterback Chandler Whittlesey has been the offensive standout, throwing for 1,245 yards and rushing for 369 on the year with a combined 19 touchdowns.
In last week’s 51-26 loss at Sandy Creek — where Shaw trailed just 31-26 early in the fourth quarter — Whittlesey threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown, numbers Teague doesn’t want to see duplicated tonight.
“They’re explosive. Offensively, they’re extremely dangerous. Their quarterback is a great runner, as well as a really good thrower. They’ve got a good offensive system. A lot of seniors and upperclassmen with playing experience. They’re very skilled, very athletic,” Teague said. “If we have one advantage, it would be that they do play about four or five kids both ways. So if we can keep it close and get into a fourth-quarter slugfest, then we have a chance to wear them down a little bit.”
Carrollton could possibly be without four starters tonight, as tight end Cole Cook, defensive lineman Deion Webb, linebacker Armani Phillips and place-kicker Zachary Breed have either already been ruled out or are game-time decisions to hit the field against Shaw.
Of course, the other concern for Teague and the Trojans is dealing with the distractions that homecoming week entails. As far as that goes, the Carrollton coach said as of Thursday evening — so far, so good.
“If we get through [Friday afternoon] with the parade and all the distractions of the pep rally and everything else, hopefully we can get them in. We’ve set a tradition that we practice after the homecoming parade. Since we started doing that, we’ve been pretty focused and come out pretty well in the homecoming games. Of course, Shaw is probably the best opponent we’ve played in the last six or seven years as a homecoming opponent. So it’s definitely quite a challenge,” Teague said.