The Fighting Irish (9-3) had never been home for a state playoff game prior to this season, but they will play host to the quarterfinals of the Class A state playoffs.
With the offense using the clock to keep Wilcox County's big-play attack off the field, the defense getting important stops and kicker Connor Tierney’s leg, the Irish won 32-14 Friday night and will meet Landmark Christian for the second time this season.
The two first played Aug. 26 in the first game of the season, a 10-8 Landmark Christian win. Aquinas coach Matt LeZotte said the rematch doesn’t benefit one team more than the other, adding both teams are much better than they were then.
However, one thing he does know is his Irish are one of the final eight teams remaining in Class A.
“I sure expected we would make the playoffs,” LeZotte said. “I told our guys anything can happen when you make it there.”
TOUGH COMPETITION: With his team’s 35-7 win over Woodward Academy, Burke County coach Eric Parker is making his fifth trip to the state quarterfinals since 2000.
He understands what it is like making a deep postseason run, and he knows what his Bears are facing when they are home against Allatoona on Friday.
The Buccaneers (12-0) feature running back Miles Jones, who surpassed the 2,000-yard mark this season with his team’s 14-7 win over Mary Persons. In that contest, Jones gained 88 yards on 20 carries and scored the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
“In Allatoona, we’re going to meet the best, if not one of the best, running backs in the state,” Parker said. “He’s been recruited by everybody. I saw him on film, and he looks explosive.
“It doesn’t get easy this time of year. I told the kids when you start hitting the second and third rounds, you run into showstoppers. For the next how many ever weeks, we’ll be facing big-time players. But that’s fine. We think we have a few, too.”
ONE OF THE FEW: Silver Bluff senior Blake Robbins knows the Bulldogs are in rare company when they have to practice during Thanksgiving Week.
The Bulldogs beat Mullins 21-7 on Friday night to set up a visit to top-seeded Bishop England this week. The winner will represent the Lower State in the Class AA Division II championship game.
“It’s special, something real special,” Robbins said. “There’s only four teams in the state (in our division) practicing on Thanksgiving, that’s it.”
It will be the first time since Silver Bluff won back-to-back state titles in 2000 and 2001 that the Bulldogs have made it this far.
Coach Al Lown is pleased with how his team has progressed to win six in a row after a 3-3 start.
“When you look at what we thought it would be at the start of the year to what it is now, it’s really pretty gratifying,” Lown said. “This has been quite an accomplishment for our players and assistant coaches.”
Staff writers John Boyette and Chris Gay contributed to this story.