Nov. 7—THOMASVILLE — On Friday night, highschools around the state of Georgia will take to the gridiron for playoff football.
Thomasville is no different as the 5-5 Bulldogs will travel to Harlem near Augusta to take on the 7-3 Harlem Bulldogs. Coming off of a bye week, Thomasville has spent their time going back to the basics and getting ready for what is sure to be a hard fought contest.
"It's going to be a tough test. We are excited about the opportunity to go and play on the road," said Bulldogs head coach Jonathan DeLay. "We were open last week so we really focused on some core fundamentals of blocking, tackling, ball security and scoring and that's the name of the game. We've had a good week of practice so far and we're looking forward to the opportunity to go and play on Friday night."
Thomasville is coming off a tough 61-22 region loss to Crisp County. However, with the extra week to reflect on what went wrong against the Cougars, Thomasville has decided to learn from that game and not let it plague them.
"One game doesn't define a team. Everything that could have gone wrong against Crisp, it went wrong," DeLay said. "But, that doesn't define who we are unless we let it and the kids haven't let it, the coaches haven't let it. We've taken it and used it to learn and to move forward."
Of course, this is playoff football and, while one game doesn't define a team, one game can certainly send a team home. That is why it is so important for teams like the Bulldogs to have the right mindset going into a sudden death game like this.
"Our mindset right now is that the rest of this season boils down to five one game seasons and we're trying to go 1-0 in each of those seasons so that we have a chance to play the next week," said DeLay.
As for what to watch in this game, the Bulldogs main concern should be the Evangelista boys. Wide receiver Elijah and quarterback Ethan Evangelista are an offensive duo that should not be taken lightly. Ethan has 21 touchdown passes on the season and has ten rushing TDs according to Maxpreps. Elijah leads the team in receiving touchdowns with seven and averages 69.4 receiving yards per game and 52.9 rushing yards per game.
This dynamic duo is dangerous, but the Bulldogs also need to look out for Harlem's leading defender Baylor Davis. The 6'0, 175 lbs. junior is a force on defense, leading the team with 10.9 tackles per game and causing three fumbles this season with two recoveries.
As for Thomasville, the key to winning is simple, but cliche. They have to come out with the right mindset and their game face on. They cannot afford to start slow and fall into a hole. In three of Thomasville's five wins this season, they scored first and in four of their five losses, their opponent has scored first. It is extremely important for this Bulldogs squad that they start fast.
It is also a long road trip for Thomasville, which can be troublesome for teams that don't handle the travel right. Harlem is almost four and half hours from Thomasville, but DeLay says that his team doesn't care where they play. They just want to play football.
"We've got a locker room full of guys that love to play football and they don't care if you put it down in a parking lot in the middle of Alaska. They're going to be ready to play," he said. "So, yes, we are going to make a long trip. That's fine. We're going to do it the right way with stops along the way. But, at 7:30 on Friday night when the game kicks off its about the two groups of young men trying to accomplish the same goal and that's win the playoff game. and I am so excited to see our kids and how they're going to do everything in their power to go accomplish that goal. They are hungry to get out there against somebody in a different color jersey and show what Thomasville football is."
Thomasville will square off against Harlem in round one of the state playoffs at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night.