Staff Photo: John Bohn Parkview Jack Esmonde (12) searches for on open receiver against Grayson.
It's not an elimination game, but don't tell Cecil Flowe that.
"This is play-in week right here," the Parkview coach said. "Either win Friday or go home. We have to win Friday or we are sitting at home."
Now for Flowe's Panthers that scenario isn't' entirely accurate. There is one situation where Parkview can return to the postseason even with a loss tonight to Archer. It involves Parkview beating playoff-bound Dacula and Archer losing to South Gwinnett in the season's final week. That's a lot of ifs erased with a Parkview postseason-clinching win at home tonight.
For Archer, the story is an easier tell, but more tenuous. Already down a game in the region, the Tigers must win tonight or the dreams of the school's first playoff season in Class AAAAA burst.
"This is the biggest game that we've played here in our history, no question," said Archer head coach Andy Dyer. "Our kids know the importance of it. Being a program that hasn't been there before, it's new to them. It's a challenge for them, mentally to stay focused."
Archer, under Dyer, lives by the head coach's "back to work" mantra and didn't change anything following a disappointing performance last week against Dacula. The Falcons jumped out to a 24-0 lead early on Archer and cruised.
"We were not ourselves early and you are not going to come from behind on nights like that," Dyer said.
"Not against a good team."
Archer didn't change anything about his schedule this week. No extra film or extra minutes at practice. Over its short history, it found a way into a playoff race this way.
"You don't want to start throwing them curveballs because they'll miss," Dyer said.
In Lilburn, home of plenty of big games, the Panthers must rebound from the heart-breaking loss at Brookwood if they want to secure at least one extra football game.
"The kids have had a good focus," Flowe said. "We had some mistakes in the game and it's tough, but you have to move on. You can't dwell on it. We have to fix what we weren't good on. We have to win this game to be a playoff team."
It's the little things for the Panthers, who missed a field goal and two extra points against Brookwood. Plus, the defense did allow big touchdown plays in the final minutes, a threat it faces from Archer and quarterback Jarvis Holley and Georgia Southern-bound running back Jermaine Morris.
"They have to come over here, but we have to go out there and play and overcome everything, including ourselves," Flowe said.
And Parkview had weapons of its own. Quarterback Jack Esmonde has plenty of experience and junior Chris Carson can take over a game running the ball.
"He's a super player," Dyer said of Carson. "He's a hard-nosed kid. We are going to have our hands full."
But for both Archer and Parkview, tonight is a second chance at a big win. Both teams lost a week ago in meaningful 8-AAAAA games to neighboring rivals. Parkview ran out of time and Archer started too slow.
But a win tonight will give the victor another week, another shot at a win. For Parkview, redemption. For Archer, an historic step.
"We are pushing onward and upward," Flowe said. "We have to do things better if we want to win these big games."
"You've got to expect to win, you have to have that mentality in the program," Dyer said.