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As Forsyth football teams take the field tonight, there is an uneasy sense of history looming over them – well, at least four of them.
No Forsyth team has ever made the playoffs after starting a season 0-2, according to research by FCN sports writer John McWilliams on the Georgia High School Football Historians Association’s website.
That’s bad news for Forsyth Central, Lambert, Pinecrest Academy and West Forsyth who all lost last week in their season-opener. They get another chance for their first win tonight when Central hosts South Forsyth, Lambert plays at Roswell, Pinecrest plays at Cross Keys and West plays at Flowery Branch.
So should any team fall to 0-2, the precedent of county history seems stacked against them.
But wait. Don’t panic. No one is 0-2. And even if one of Forsyth’s four winless teams does slip again tonight, they have a larger precedent on their side.
Last season, 23 teams made the state playoffs after starting the season 0-2. Here’s the breakdown by classification:
Class 6A – four teams (Alcovy, McEachern, Newton, Rockdale County).
Class 5A – six teams (Clarke Central, Harris County, Flowery Branch, Lakeside-Evans, Northgate, Pope).
Class 4A – none.
Class 3A – four teams (Cedar Grove, Hart County, Jefferson County, Johnson-Savannah).
Class 2A – seven teams (Coosa, Greene County, Kendrick, Macon County, McIntosh County Academy, Pepperrell, Westminster).
Class 1A – two teams (Darlington, Savannah Christian).
Look at that collection of teams. There are surprising, feel-good stories in Alcovy and Rockdale County, who won four and three games, respectively, and yet still made the playoffs. There are proud programs like Clarke Central, McEachern, Savannah Christian and Westminster who rebounded. Flowery Branch started 0-2 and yet ended up winning Region 8-AAAAA.
The path from 0-2 to playoff team can be affected by myriad factors.
Some teams (Alcovy, Rockdale County) benefitted from playing in less competitive regions.
Some teams (Flowery Branch, McEachern) scheduled tough opponents to prepare them for region play, willing to take the early-season bumps if it paid dividends later.
Some teams (Pope, Savannah Christian) needed a few weeks to let first-time starters get acclimated to varsity competition.
All of them faced the same circumstance: For most teams, the first two or three games don’t count. The only ones that do are those five, six or seven games of the region schedule that seal a team’s playoff fate.
That’s the message that coaches across the state deliver this time of season, from the elite programs to the bottom feeders. Central’s 31-0 loss to North was just its first real tune-up for the Bulldogs’ new spread offense. Lambert’s 27-10 loss to Etowah was just a chance to hone its offensive identity. Pinecrest’s 34-10 loss at King’s Ridge was another opportunity for Jake Mangan and Ryan McCarthy to compete for the starting quarterback spot. West’s 58-28 loss to No. 1-ranked Gainesville was simply a measuring stick against possibly the state’s top team.
This past week – and the next two weeks, for that matter – has simply been time to get better. Plenty of Forsyth teams have started the season 0-1 and made the playoffs.
Sure, no Forsyth team has ever made the playoffs after a 0-2 start. But plenty of Georgia teams have.
So even if your team does lose again tonight, don’t panic.
The real season hasn’t even begun.
Brian Paglia is sports editor at the Forsyth County News. He can be reached at 770-205-8982, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @BrianPaglia.