Is this the year?
It's a question pondered every season in Thomson. The Bulldogs (9-1) open the playoffs this week against Westover (4-6) in a quest for another championship to add to the five already in the trophy case.
But there's another part of that question. How many years does 72-year-old Luther Welsh have left in him? Watching the legend work at a recent practice shows it's a question better reserved for 2006.
"I really go from year to year with it," Welsh said. "I don't really have a time in mind I would like to give it up. All the coaches I know who have retired tell me you don't ever want to have a date or time. You wake up a morning, say that's it and want to quit. I haven't gotten that feeling yet."
Welsh still drops into a blocking stance at every turn, still corrects and still brings his brand of brimstone to his voice when he has to. But he also enjoys scribbling his next great play on a file folder for practice.
"I grew up on a farm and that was all I knew before I went off to college," Welsh said. "I sure as heck aren't going to get out of football to get back into farming."
Welsh shared the dreary days of colleagues who have retired.
"All the coaches I know who have been out of it awhile played all the golf they can play and got tired of it," Welsh said. "Or they fished all day and got tired of it," Welsh said. "They miss it because they have nothing else to do."
Welsh is retired but works a half-day at Thomson, teaching weight-training classes. He could just show up at practice time, but that's not his style.
"I need to be around the kids," Welsh said. "I don't want to show up for practice not having seen them all day to hear who knows what they've done. I've got to keep an eye on them. Weightlifting is important. I want to make sure they're in there and not making excuses. Kids make excuses when the head person is not around."
On second thought, make that 2007.
EAGLES FINISH STRONG: Josey (4-6) won two of its past three games to more than triple its win total from the past three years. The Eagles won a combined three games in their three previous seasons.
"I feel we ended the year playing the best football we've played since I've been at Josey," head coach Barney Chavous said. "I think we've got our program heading in the right direction."
The Eagles won two of their past four games, and their two losses were decided by 14 points. It's given the team something that the back-to-back-to-back 1-9 season of the past three years never could: confidence.
"I feel like if we took this team the way we are going now and played the whole season over we'd go undefeated," sophomore Danny Daggett said.
RAZORBACK PRIDE: It's hard not to mention Cross Creek when talking turnaround teams. The Razorbacks also won four games, including their first home game this year.
Cross Creek (4-6) finished with a surge of success, shutting out Hephzibah and Richmond Academy to finish fourth in Region 3-AAA North.
It gets better.
The team had gone 3-27 in their past three years, and that season-ending win streak was the first in school history.
Those back-to-back victories also snapped a five-game losing streak.
LANEY LOOK: Laney (7-3) takes on Crim (4-6) at ARC Stadium on Friday with high hopes. The Wildcats could be in for a deep run across their side of the bracket.
The running game looks in fine shape with Silver Bluff transfer Wayne Canty. Laney's passing game has been effective enough for teams to employ six defensive backs, with five men in the box to halt the run.
"We feel like there's about six to eight teams in Class AA that are capable of winning the title," Laney coach Eric Parker said. "We're happy to see that the postseason has come along and we're a part of that mix. We just want to get hot and start playing good football for a month and we will have a chance."
Parker said Crim would remind Wildcats fans of Putnam County, a team they faced earlier this season.
GOOD TIMES: Glenn Hills coach Felix Curry isn't too worried about a near 400-mile round trip trek to Cordele this Friday. The Spartans (8-2) will hit the road to tackle a well-balanced Crisp County (6-4) team.
Curry won't mind the miles. After all, the Spartans are in the playoffs for the first time since 1986. This week's trip, much like the year, will be a sweet journey.
"This is unreal," Curry said. "When you think about how our season could be over and we could all be sitting at home. We are blessed.
"We're still competing for what everybody tries to compete for every year they strap it up. Glenn Hills is still alive and still in it. Man, that is a very, very good thing."
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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