Creekview and Sequoyah were forced to win Region 7AAAAA play-in games in order to advance, while Etowah still managed to qualify as the fourth-place team from Region 5AAAAAA, even after its loss to Lassiter.
As the region runner-up, Creekview (8-2) will host Region 5AAAAA No. 3 East Paulding (7-3) on Friday. Sequoyah (8-2), which was left to settle for the third seed based on its loss to the Grizzlies earlier in the season, will be on the road at South Paulding (9-1).
Etowah (7-3) will find itself traveling to Gwinnett County to face Region 7AAAAAA champion Norcross (8-2).
While each of the three playoff teams found themselves in the similar position by reaching the playoffs, they all took rather different routes to get there.
Etowah opened its season with a six-game winning streak and was the favorite to win Region 5AAAAAA after Lassiter lost an early region game to Woodstock.
But the Eagles closed the regular season by losing three of their final four games. After getting upended by Cherokee, Etowah exchanged a win over archrival Woodstock with a tough loss to Walton, but it was still in the position to win the region if it could beat Lassiter.
That wasn’t meant to be, and Etowah was only able to make the postseason by backing in, thanks to Cherokee’s season-ending loss to Wheeler. A Warrior win would have brought the Eagles’ season to a close.
Creekview’s season was almost the reverse of Etowah’s.
The Grizzlies lost their opener against Cherokee, fought to a one-point win over River Ridge and then fell to a powerful Kell team.
While that loss to Kell ultimately cost Creekview the region title, it seemed to learn from the setback.
A win over Osborne came a week later, and Creekview’s defense then stepped up to hold Sequoyah to just 14 points for a win in the opener of subregion play.
Victories over Northview, Cambridge, Forsyth Central, North Springs and Sprayberry followed, and while not all the victories were by large margins — many were settled by a single possession — they counted just the same.
The season was similar for Sequoyah. The only real difference between the Chiefs and Grizzlies is that Creekview won the head-to-head meeting between the teams.
Of the three teams that are not in the playoffs, Cherokee (5-5) is probably having the toughest time being left out.
The Warriors entered the final game of the regular season with the potential to be a playoff team. While the other two games that played a factor in its fate went its way, Cherokee didn’t hold up its end when it lost to Wheeler.
Cherokee, however, finished with a non-losing record for the first time since 2007, and it defeated each of the four county opponents it faced.
Meanwhile, Woodstock (3-7) used its new spread offense to upset Lassiter. The Wolverines also won their season opener against Johns Creek and beat Wheeler at the tail end, but they lost close games against Walton, Roswell and Milton.
River Ridge (2-8) struggled after graduating its first class of seniors. The Knights, who shut out LaFayette midway through the season for their first win, did end the year on a positive note, though, when they beat Heritage-Catoosa in a Region 7AAAA crossover Friday.