“Making the playoffs is what every team strives for,” Allatoona athletic director Benji Morrell said. “It’s a special achievement because only a few schools can accomplish it each year.”
There are many reasons why it’s important for a team to make the playoffs. There’s the acknowledgement of beating other teams for one of the four region spots. The playoffs also give coaches and players an opportunity to keep playing and practicing, while also signifying that the season was a good one.
“Whether you have a winning record or a losing one, when you make the playoffs, you feel like it’s been a good season,” Morrell said. “You’re one of the top four teams from your region and one of the few teams still left to play for a state championship.”
Heading into Friday’s games, Allatoona is the only Cobb County program from Class A or Class AAAAA that has qualified for the playoffs. The other teams still have some work to do.
Kell, Pope and Sprayberry out of Region 7AAAAA still have a chance to advance, while Mount Paran Christian and Whitefield Academy will be at the mercy of a power ratings systems to determine their postseason outcomes.
The decision for the Longhorns, Greyhounds and Yellow Jackets is simple — win and they’re in. Friday’s Region 7AAAAA crossover games have Kell at Cambridge, Pope at Sequoyah and Sprayberry at Creekview, with the winners moving on to the state playoffs and the losers heading home.
Mount Paran Christian, which hosts a Region 6A crossover game against Trion, is rated fourth in the latest Class A power ratings. Trion is 12th on the public school list. Whitefield Academy, which is tied for 18th hosts a 6A crossover against Darlington, the No. 5 team in the ratings.
The top 16 squads in the power ratings make the playoffs, so if the Wolfpack can beat Darlington team, it improves its chances of being one of the top 16. Mount Paran could still lose to Trion and maintain its status among the top 16.
In Class AAAAAA, Lassiter and Walton have secured a playoff spot in Region 5AAAAAA. In Region 4AAAAAA, North Cobb, McEachern and Hillgrove are in, and Marietta will face Harrison on Friday with the winner getting the final spot.
There are plenty of other advantages to advancing to the postseason, too.
“From a player perspective, you get another week of practice to learn and develop and the experience gained from that and playing in a game,” Morrell said. “Coaches get more opportunities to evaluate players for the future and there are opportunities to fine tune plays.”
For a school like Allatoona, which opened its doors in 2008 and has qualified for the postseason every year since 2010, reaching the playoffs helps improve brand awareness.
“Making the playoffs gets your name out there across the state,” Morrell said. “Being a new school five years ago, nobody knew who we were, but when your team makes the playoffs, in any sport and especially in football, people know who you are. That success, especially if you can make a deep run in the playoffs, helps improve your branding.”
Money can also be a motivator for making the playoffs.
“Even if you travel, sometimes a school can make more money by going on the road than by hosting a game,” Morrell said. “The road team typically gets half the gate receipts and the opposing team pays for travel expenses. At home, you have to pay the officials, but you get all of the money from concessions and clothing sales.
“Making the playoffs can also help a team get extra money that can be spread out to other teams in the athletic program to help out with those sports. So, there are a lot of benefits to getting in the postseason.”
Private schools value reaching the playoffs as much as public schools do, only making money is low on the list of benefits.
“Making the playoffs builds excitement and improves school spirit,” Mount Paran coach and athletic director Mitch Jordan said. “It’s a way to unite and build the community. It creates lasting memories for the team and the players and it’s an opportunity to be known across the state that you have a good football team.”
“It’s an opportunity for the guys to keep playing and learning. Hopefully by playing hard, it becomes a special opportunity to make a deep playoff run, beat some really good teams and win a state championship.”