Parkview football coach Eric Godfree understands as well as anybody that the path through the state playoffs is never supposed to be easy, especially as it reaches the quarterfinal stage and beyond.
However, his No. 7 state-ranked Panthers have had as tough a gauntlet to run as any other playoff team in Georgia over the past two years, and for the second straight year, it includes a date in the Class AAAAAAA postseason with ninth-ranked Archer.
As with last year’s meeting, Friday night’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff will take place in the friendly (as far as Parkview is concerned) confines of the Big Orange Jungle, though this year’s will be a quarterfinal game as opposed to last year’s second-round meeting, won 36-29 by Archer en route to a run to the state semifinals.
That loss has stuck with the Panthers (11-1) somewhat over the past year, but according to Godfree, revenge isn’t the main motivator for them.
Moving on to the program’s first state semifinal appearance since 2004 is, and despite having to rally from behind to pull away for a 40-21 win over fifth-ranked Colquitt County last week, Parkview carries quite a bit of momentum into Friday’s game.
“It does give us some great momentum,” Godfree said. “At the same time, trying to rebound after a emotional, physical game is super difficult, especially with teenagers. But having a well-known opponent like Archer, who put us out last year, our kids should not have any let down at this point.”
From Archer’s standpoint, the Tigers (9-3) certainly don’t mind having Parkview in their way, and to have to go through them at the Big Orange Jungle, for the second straight year.
That’s not to say they think it will be easy. In fact, Archer coach Andy Dyer and his staff and player are under no illusions about the difficulty of the task in front of both teams, especially the defenses. Though they do it in somewhat different ways, both offenses are very balanced an multidimensional.
The Panthers have amassed 2,310 yards through the air behind the passing of Jordan Williams, who has thrown for 2,052 yards and 20 touchdowns himself, and weapons like C.J. Daniels (50-794, 8 TDs) and Jared Brown (44-839, 11 TDs), and 2,645 yards on the ground, with Cody Brown (169-1,306, 15 TDs) carry much of the load.
“The No. 1 thing is, they’ve got a great running back with Cody Brown,” Dyer said. “He is a super player. When you play a great back like that, you’re not always going to stop him, but you’ve got to contain him. So we’ve got to do a good job of gang tackling and rallying to the ball.
“Then after you stop the run, they’ve got a lot of weapons on the outside. Their quarterback does a great job. So everybody’s got to be in tune (on defense). We’ve got to be able to match routes and maintain good integrity in the box and be able to tackle.”
Archer’s offense has put up similar numbers both passing behind the poise and experience of veteran quarterback Carter Peevy and speedy receivers like Trey Messer and Andrew Dyer, and the three-headed running back monster of Renoldo Spivey Jr., Jordon Swain and Schmari Campbell, who have combined for more than 4,000 yards of total offense.
And like Parkview, the Tigers also boast a powerful and experienced offensive line, which has prompted an equal amount of respect from Godfree.
“Offensively, they do a lot of different formational stuff,” Godfree said of Archer. “They’ve got a heavy package, they’ll spread you out and they go super fast. So they try to put your defense in a bind. So that does take a lot to work on and a lot of prep on our end, for sure.
“The biggest threat is (Peevy). He throws the ball great, but he’s running the ball really well right now, too.”
Of course, both defenses have also been solid down the stretch and pose formidable challenges of their own.
And as Dyer has constantly pointed out this season, other intangibles like special teams play and creating and avoiding turnovers are essential in a game pitting two evenly-matched teams like the Tigers and Panthers, especially in the playoffs.
Dyer can point to Jackson McCrary’s blocked punt and 10-yard return for a touchdown, which was a turning point in Archer’s 45-14 second-round win over Cherokee last week, as a prime example.
“When you get in these games, it’s like a preach to the kids all the time. You never know what play or what player is going to make a difference in the game,” Dyer said. “That’s why we’ve got to be in tune and doing our jobs. It might be a block on a kickoff return that springs you for a big play or an interception or a fumble recovery or a blocked kick. You just don’t know. You just work really hard to try to gain an advantage wherever you can.”