October 18, 2013

Every step a little closer

Dalton can’t afford to relax; Northwest, Southeast look to bounce back


Northwest (5-1, 1-1) at Ridgeland (2-4, 1-1)

At some point between last Friday’s heartbreaking 31-28 loss to rival Dalton and tonight, the Bruins needed to pick themselves up and begin looking forward.

“The first remedy was getting back out to practice well,” Northwest coach Josh Robinson said. “ ... This isn’t coachspeak. I was very honest with them. I told them if they didn’t want to work, they could leave. I’d think higher of them (for quitting) than if they just moped around.

“We probably, by far, had our best football practice of the year. The next thing is going out and getting over the emotions. Regardless of what happened in the Dalton game — we obviously would’ve liked to win — the Ridgeland game holds the same importance.”

Both teams are 1-1 in sub-region play and tied with Heritage and Southeast in the 7B-4A standings. The Bruins dominated the Generals 49-7 two weeks ago and the Panthers beat the Raiders 35-20 last week, meaning Northwest and Ridgeland have an edge in the five-game race for the sub-region’s No. 2 seed and the Region 7-4A “play-in” games, which match the No. 2 seed from each sub-region against the No. 3 seed from the other in their 10th games to decide the region’s third and fourth seeds in the state playoffs.

“In a numbers game, every win is big when trying to get to game 10, where it means something,” Panthers coach Mark Mariakis said.

Ridgeland struggled through its first five games — the fifth a 28-0 loss to Dalton — but rebounded with what might have been a season-saving win against Southeast. While Ridgeland is on a seven-season playoff streak — and made it to last year’s Class 4A state title game — Northwest hasn’t made the state playoffs since 2009, two years before Robinson became the coach.

No one on the Bruins’ roster has experienced playing in the state postseason.

“To me, the biggest thing is we still control our fate to make the playoffs in some capacity,” Robinson said. “That, to me, is what makes this game a gigantic game.”

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