Though tripped up the past three games against the top three teams in Region 3-AA, the Patriots have their main goals still alive: get a winning season and make the state playoffs.
A win at Josey on Friday night would clinch both for Westside, which can also back into the playoffs if Dublin loses to region champ Screven County.
Not that the Patriots (5-4 overall, 2-3 region) want to rely on help.
“It’s something we’ve talked about all year long. It’s our goal,” Westside coach Steve Hibbitts said about making the playoffs. “But they need to finish, and not just finish, but finish strong. We don’t want to limp to the finish line.”
With its eight-game losing streak, 1-8 Josey could end its season as a spoiler.
The Eagles and Patriots have split the most recent four meetings, but Westside knows it has an opportunity to continue its progression.
The Patriots haven’t reached the state playoffs since 2005, so there’s a big incentive to end their three-game losing streak, which consists of defeats to Laney, Screven County and East Laurens – teams that are a combined 20-8.
The three-game stretch battered Westside’s once 5-1 record and a few players, as quarterback Jalen Lampkin is dealing with an ankle injury and running back DeMarcus Vaughn, a big-play threat, is out after he sustained a dislocated elbow.
If Lampkin can’t play Friday, Quinton Phillips gets the nod; Damion Davis will see an expanded role at running back with Vaughn out.
But the setbacks haven’t taken away Westside’s chance to improve each year under Hibbitts.
In his third season, Hibbitts has led the Patriots from 1-9 in 2010 to 4-6 in 2011 and 5-4 so far this year.
That year-to-year win increase is easily noticeable, but a state playoff appearance would be the standout.
“If we do what we got to do, we’ll be in the playoffs,” Lampkin said.