I just got my hands on a copy on the new Region 3-AA football schedule. It does not look pretty if you're a fan of the Laney Wildcats. It is a full region schedule.
That means no Josey versus Laney game next fall unless it is in a scrimmage setting. That's not the first or last bit of frustration Wildcats fans will have with this new schedule.
The first four games of the season might as well be the Class AA playoffs. Those four teams each went to the state playoffs last year and return vital skill position personnel.
Here's the damage:
Aug. 29: Jefferson County at Laney (Likely loss with the Bostic kid back at JC, Laney falls to 0-1)
Sept. 5: Screven County at Laney (Toss-up even though Laney lost to SC in 07. But I do not think a Laney team that finished 2007 poorly and graduated its top two linemen should be favored here. Especially with no clear-cut quarterback returning to face a stacked SC team. Laney falls to 0-2.)
Sept. 12: Dublin at Laney (Loss. Dublin is Dublin. 'Nuff said. Laney 0-3)
Sept. 19: Off week (Much needed. After a potential 0-3 start, the attitudes of the team this week will dictate the course of the season.)
Sept. 26: Laney at Dodge County (Dodge went 9-3 and won a playoff game last year. They'd have beaten Laney last year. But we'll call this one a Laney win. The off-week will help. So will program tradition. Laney's players thrive on adversity. The record rises to 1-3.)
Oct. 3: Toombs County at Laney: (Toss-up. Toombs also went to the playoffs last year. But the Wildcats are still the better program, Laney improves to 2-3.)
Oct. 10: Laney at Bleckley County: ('Cats go to Cochran to face a team that's won as many playoff games (2) as the Wildcats have the last three seasons. But let's also give Laney another win and put them at 3-3 here.)
Oct. 17: Vidalia at Laney: (Coach Lee Chomskis has got the Indians heading in the right direction. But the Indians were 5-5 last year, so I'll also give Laney the edge. The definition of a tough schedule is when the Vidalia game can be seen as one of the more winnable games on the docket. This win gets them to 4-3.)
Oct. 24: Laney at Swainsboro: (Let's call this another loss. Swainsboro won the region in which the 'Cats finished fourth in last year and return better skill personnel. That and the road trip should drop Laney to 4-4).
Oct. 31: East Laurens at Laney: (Another 2007 playoff team. Laney should probably be very beat-up by this point but feisty enough to pull off a tough win. This game could very well determine a playoff spot. Laney HAS to win here to get to 5-4.)
Nov. 7: Laney at Southeast Bulloch: (SEB went 2-8 last year. Cruel twist puts the easiest game of the year in the final week. Laney could even be eliminated from the playoffs by this point even with a 6-4 record.)
Here's the half-full prediction: 6-4
Here's the half-empty prediction: 4-6
Here's the best they can do: 8-2
These shark-infested waters make that playing in Class AAAA thing seem sort of logical in a warped way. Laney would have lost no more than 2-3 games by any stretch of the imagination had it chose to play in Class AAAA with the rest of Richmond County this fall. This has really just blew up in their faces as far as football goes.
Keep in mind this will be a Laney team still trying to find a quarterback that lost four of its last six games last year, including three in a row.
The bottom line is Laney resides in one of THE tough regions in the state now. If you're a Laney player, forget about playing that new video game system you got for Christmas and go to the weight room. Now. Bring a teammate or three with you. Better yet bring 12 teammates. Then hit the field afterward for a 7-on-7 session.
This team could have another Robert Dunn and a J.K. Sabb on the roster in 2008 and still lose twice.
It's the schedule that doesn't need the coaching staff to bring along a pacifier, but a sledgehammer. They'll need an All-Star team to earn a home playoff game in 2008. Keep in mind this is a region that Laney ASKED to be placed in.
Laney will have to finish strong by wining four out of its last six to make the playoffs this fall.
Here's a thought: How will this region placement choice be judged if Laney goes 4-6 or 5-5 next year and fails to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999? What will the athletic department's bank balance looks like next fall if the team loses six or seven games next year?
Will the Laney faithful stay away from that beautiful new stadium if the team loses four out of its first five games? We shall see.