When it comes to postseason experience, Dalton definitely has the advantage over Douglas County heading into tonight’s game.
The Catamounts have been to the playoffs the last seven seasons, including last season’s semifinals appearance.
Douglas County, which is ranked No. 4 in the latest Georgia Sports Writers Association poll, is the No. 2 seed from Region 5-AAAAAA. Dalton finished as the No. 3 seed from Region 6-AAAAAA.
This will be the Tigers first playoff appearance since the 2014 season, when the current senior class were freshmen.
Only defensive back Charles Gadie and wide receiver/defensive back Christian Jackson were on the varsity roster. The only other player with playoff experience is junior defensive back Markell Stephens, who played last season for Langston Hughes, which reached the second round.
“Playing in the playoff is something that hasn’t happen in the last few years,” Gadie said. “By this time each year we are usually chilling at a basketball game. It is our hope to make a deep playoff run, but we first have to take care of business against Dalton.”
The lack of playoff experience among the players is a big issue.
“If we play to our ability it shouldn’t matter,” Tigers senior running back Uriah West said. “It is pretty neat being in the playoffs but we just don’t want to say we were here for one game. Right now, both teams are zero and zero. It is a new season for both of us.”
While the players lack that postseason experience, the coaching staff has playoff experience.
Tigers head coach Johnny White, in his second season, was part of playoff teams as an assistant coach at Creekside and Langston Hughes. He led Creekside to the postseason as a head coach in 2010.
Douglas County defensive coordinator Shawn Austin was an assistant on the 2013 Creekside team that went 15-0 and won the Class AAAAA title.
“The actually game part is basically the same,” said Tigers assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Travis Smith, who has coached in the postseason the last four years.
“I think the biggest difference is the atmosphere of the game,” he said. “We are not too concern because we had a good test last week. Playing last week at Alexander will definitely help us adjust to the atmosphere. We know Dalton is going to bring a large crowd. The atmosphere is very huge in the playoffs.”
Douglas County defeated rivalry Alexander 17-16 on the road to clinch the No. 2 in the playoffs. The Catamounts are coming off a loss to Allatoona last week.
Allatoona scored on two defensive touchdowns and used an interception return to set up another short score in handing Dalton a 38-3 loss at home.
This will be the first matchup between the teams since the 1973 season. Douglas County defeated Dalton in 1964 to win the school’s only state title.
But what all matters now is tonight’s game.
“This is our senior year, and we want to be a class to be remembered,” Gadie said. “We are definitely excited about being in the playoffs.”