The Buccaneers (9-1) entered their Region 5AAAAA championship game against East Paulding undefeated, but suffered a 25-7 defeat. The loss dropped Allatoona to the second seed, but it still has the opportunity to host in the first round tonight against Heritage-Conyers.
Allatoona coach Gary Varner said it was much better for his team to have lost the regular-season finale last week, than it would be to lose their playoff opener.
“If we were going to lose, last week was the week to do it,” said Varner. “That’s the idea we are selling anyway.”
Varner said the players are disappointed that they blemished their record, but that they are pressing on.
“They feel like they could have done a better job like usual, but I think they are focused on being 9-1 and in the playoffs,” he said. “We’ll just see what happens.”
The Buccaneers will need the home-field advantage they earned during the season. Heritage (8-2), the third seed out of Region 8AAAAA, nearly beat the eventual region champion Flowery Branch, but let a 27-7 lead slip away.
Heritage averaged nearly 25 points per game, playing its best games against the best teams in the region. Like Allatoona, the Patriots will be making their third straight playoff appearance, but unlike when the Bucs advanced to the Class AAA state quarterfinals last year, Heritage has never gotten past the second round.
Varner said the home crowd will give his team a needed boost.
“Our fans are really good and I think the fans get excited about it,” said Varner. “I’d much rather be at home than on the road with everything that goes with it.”
The Patriots are solid on both sides of the ball, but draw their real strength from the defense.
Linebackers Chase Alford, Dustin Moore, and Dominique Packer are impact players and the secondary as a whole is noted for its ability to tackle efficiently.
“They are not your usual 8-2 team,” said Varner. “They just had some crazy things happen to them.”
Allatoona’s balanced offense hasn’t had much trouble scoring and Varner hopes that can be his team’s strength against the Patriots. With two players rushing for more than 1,000 yards on the season — T.J. Herron and Josh Bettistea — and quarterback Jeremy Uzee throwing for more than 1,000 yards, moving the ball hasn’t been an issue.
“It always comes down to the line of scrimmage though,” said Varner. “Last week we really got beat at the line of scrimmage. We just have to get down and be more fundamentally sound this week.”