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The quarterfinals. The elite eight. The Thanksgiving round. Whatever you want to call the third round of the playoffs, it's where things really start to get tough. The remaining teams are the best of the best and deserve to still be playing. A team can get lucky and slip away with a cheap win in the first round. But two playoff wins mean something.
And two playoff wins have eluded the Coffee Trojans for much of their history. Prior to 2016, the Trojans had played 13 games just three times -- 1981, 1982, and 2008. Since 2016, however, things have been different. Coffee has advanced to the third round every year except 2021 and twice -- 2017 (finals) and 2020 (semifinals) -- moved beyond the quarters.
But no Coffee team has won 13 games. History is on the line tonight. Things certainly look good for the Trojans. The Maxwell Ratings, which the Georgia High School Football Daily uses to project winners, has Coffee as 29 point favorites. The only teams with larger projected margins of victory tonight are Cartersville (34 over Jenkins) and Calvary Day (40 over Wesleyan, Class 3A).
The Trojans also have a reliable and effective game plan, they don't make many mistakes, and they have some weapons they haven't fully exploited yet.
Yes, count on the ball staying on the ground and tucked away in running back Fred Brown's arms 25 or more times tonight. Don't expect to see quarterback Maurice Hansley air it out though he is more than capable of doing so if the need arises. And do expect the defense to impose its will on the Cass Colonels all night long. It's an old school scheme that thrives on punishment and brutality, two qualities that head coach Mike Coe wholeheartedly endorses.
While the Colonels have defeated some really good teams this season, taken a few others down to the wire (most notably region foe Cartersville, which beat Cass 21-14 in overtime), and set the stat sheets ablaze with an explosive attack, Coffee has done a good job of neutralizing high-octane offenses this season.
Ware was supposed to light up the Trojans. Five points. Jenkins didn't get a lot of regular-season respect but has turned into one of the big surprises this year and is facing Cartersville tonight. Shut out. The Bolles School from Jacksonville, Fla., which has averaged 33 points per game and is still alive in Florida's playoffs. Nine points. The high-flying and speedy Jones County Greyhounds. Fourteen points.
Of course, neither the odds nor Coffee's past record this season translate into an automatic win. Cass is a really good team with some dynamic weapons at its disposal. But the Trojans do appear to be in the driver's seat.
Coffee has overachieved at times (2016, 2017) and underachieved at others (1982, 2015). Of the teams in this area that have played in the highest classification, the Trojans are the only one never to win a state title. That is always in the back of my mind, an ever-present foreboding that I can't seem to shake.
But there's something about this team that seems different from others. There aren't many highs and there aren't many lows. They have played at a high level all year long. They've never played down to lesser opponents or been intimidated by those who were supposed to pose challenges. And when things get difficult on the field, they don't panic and try to force anything to happen.
The 2023 Trojans are consistent, resilient, and confident.
Those qualities have paid big dividends this postseason and they'll serve the Trojans well tonight. Though history could be in the making, the goal isn't to win 13 games; it's to win 15. But tonight's game is, of course, a monumental step in that direction. A win would also be a big milestone for the Coffee program.
In just his second year, Coach Coe has brought a quiet determination and tenacity to the Trojans. You always hear not to worry about the loudest, most abrasive person in the room -- it's the quiet guy in the corner minding his own business who is the real threat.
That quiet guy in the corner is Coffee. The Trojans don't make a lot of noise or draw a lot of attention to themselves. Until the whistle blows on Friday night. Then all hell breaks loose.
And, one way or another, it's breaking loose tonight at 7 p.m. at Jardine Stadium.
- Coffee walks off Toombs with a three-run seventh inning
- Coffee hangs on to beat Vidalia 8-6, Jones collects 100th win as a Trojan
- Attorney Clint Lott announces candidacy for State Court Judge
- Domestic dispute leads to serious injuries, aggravated assault charges
- Brantley County ends Coffee's unbeaten streak at six games