Four weeks ago, River Ridge was sitting at 1-4 and didn’t look to be one of the teams that would be participating in postseason play.
But after three straight subregion victories, including last week’s 24-21 upset of Gilmer, the Knights now only need one more victory to win Region 7AAAA’s southern subregion and guarantee themselves a playoff berth in their first year of postseason eligibility.
Standing in their way, however, is a trip to Jasper, where they will face a Pickens team that has playoff aspirations of its own.
With a win, River Ridge (4-4, 3-0) would earn the subregion’s No. 1 seed and would play at Ridgeland, the northern No. 1, for the region championship. The Knights lost to the Panthers, 42-8, in their second game of the season.
If the Knights fall to Pickens (5-3, 2-1), there would be a three-way tie atop the subregion between River Ridge, Pickens and Gilmer —three teams that would each have a subregion record of 3-1.
If such an event did occur, the team with the best record against the other half of the region would advance. That would be Gilmer, which would leave the Knights to play a region play-in game to advance to the playoffs.
Rather than dwell on the different playoff scenarios, River Ridge coach Robert Braucht wants his team to focus completely on tonight’s game at Pickens.
“We’re trying to help our kids understand that they need to keep everything in perspective,” Braucht said. “So far this year, they have been able to recognize that they need to take things one step at a time. They have been keeping their focus, and we need them to do that for one more week.”
The Knights will face a potent Pickens offense that averages 31 points and more than 400 yards a game.
Two weeks ago against Cedartown, Pickens quarterback Tanner Brumby set the school’s single-game passing record with 277 yards, while wide receiver Shannon Brooks set the receiving record with 202.
“I can’t speak for every game they’ve been in, but from what we’ve seen, they look pretty good,” Braucht said of the Dragons’ offense, which operates out of the spread formation. “So far, this year, we’ve lined up in a three-man front against (the spread) to make sure that we have enough players in the secondary. Against Pickens, we’ll need to get our kids lined up in the right places so that they understand where they fit. We need to make sure that we don’t give up big plays.”
Offensively, Braucht believes his players will have to do a better job of blocking at the line of scrimmage than they did against Gilmer last week.
“We didn’t block well up front at all last week. It was a disappointment,” Braucht said. “We didn’t implement our game plan very well either. We need to make sure that everyone is on the same page.”
For Braucht, a complete performance from the Knights will be needed to emerge from the game with a victory.
“It’s really going to come down to who plays the best in all three phases of the game,” Braucht said. “We need a total team effort.”