Excitement has filled the air all week at Briarwood Academy with the Buccaneers preparing to host Randolph Southern in the first-round of the Georgia Independent Schools Association (GISA) Class A football state playoffs.
A large crowd is expected to attend the game, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
"It's great to be in the state playoffs," remarked Briarwood Academy head coach John Osborne during an interview on Monday.
"This is what you play for -- to hopefully make the playoffs. Our kids have really come a long way since the beginning of the season. They have played hard all season and they deserve to be in the playoffs. It's great to be hosting the first-round playoff game at Briarwood Academy," Osborne said.
The Buccaneers, now sporting a 7-3 overall record and who finished runners-up in Region 1-A behind Thomas Jefferson Academy with an impressive 4-1 record, haven't played host to a playoff game since the early 2000s.
In their latest gridiron contest, the Buccaneers shut out the visiting Young American's School 47-0. "I hope we can keep our offense rolling and keep playing good defense," said Osborne in reference to the playoff game.
What concerns him a little right now is the fact that his team hasn't had a real challenge in three weeks. The last time they were in a battle was against the Thomas Jefferson Academy Jaguars when they played for the region title in Louisville on Oct. 16.
Osborne believes his team will be ready for the challenge come Friday night in the first-round of the state playoffs.
"We'll be ready and I hope just as confident as we've been in several games this season," added Osborne. "Confidence is something that's great to have, but sometimes you can get to feeling too confident and start making small mistakes that can come back to hurt. We don't want that to happen."
As the Bucs get ready to face Randolph Southern, they won't be changing from their offensive and defensive schemes.
"We need to stick to the basics -- to do what works best for us," said Osborne.
One of the biggest challenges facing Briarwood when they clash with Randolph Southern will be on the shoulders of the defensive unit in attempting to stop the flex-bone offense of their opponents.
"Their offense is just like Georgia Tech's," explained Osborne. "I think it's going to be a tough ball game. I just hope we're ready to take them on, get past the first-round and move on to the second-round of the playoffs. That's our goal."
In the game against Young American's School last Friday night, the Buccaneers had no trouble whatsoever establishing an early lead and merely added to it as the game progressed.
Senior Trey Stadler was the Bucs' leading rusher with 87 yards on 4 carries. He also scored three touchdowns on runs of 54, 30 and an 8-yard pass reception from junior quarterback Blake Sowell in the third quarter. Stadler also successfully kicked several extra points.
Sophomore Michael Kent also performed well out of the backfield, carrying the ball 6 times for 49 yards. Kent also scored twice on runs of 5 and 26 yards, respectively.
Senior running back Matthew McElveen, meanwhile, garnered 41 yards on 4 carries.
Others scoring touchdowns for Briarwood Academy included: Sowell, a 4-yard run; and Eric Johnson on a 31-yard TD catch from Sowell -- the quarterback's second passing TD of the game.
Sowell's performance was his prep career-best, completing 10-of-15 passes for 253 yards.
"Blake played a great game," said Osborne. "He's really come on strong for us the last several games."
The leading receivers included senior wide receiver Carson Wiley, 2-for-59 yards; and Stadler, 3-for-42 yards.
Leading tacklers for the Bucs were: Ryan Nelson, Tyler Edwards and Trey Stadler, each with five tackles. Others included: Russell Burdette with 4 tackles and 3 assists; Steven Gunn, 3 tackles; and Dalton Reese with 2 tackles and a pair of interceptions.