For the Sonoraville High School football team, the season has reached must-win time.
The Phoenix’s playoff hopes still have a pulse after they lost a heartbreaking 21-14 penalty-marred rock fight to Adairsville last Friday that snapped a two-game league win streak.
But with the last-minute setback, they are now on the inside looking out regarding the playoffs after that loss dropped them back below .500 in the region and into sixth place with three games remaining this fall.
The Phoenix held a 14-0 lead after three periods, but after moving the football fairly well only to be stopped when they got close to scoring, the Tigers finally finished three drives in the final 11-and-a-half minutes to get the win that kept them near the top of the Region 6 listings.
The good new though, for the Phoenix is they still play two of the five teams above in the league and the first of those teams comes to town this Friday night when they entertain LaFayette at the Furnace.
Sonoraville stands 2-3 in the Region 6, which is proving to be one of the state’s most competitive regions at any level. LaFayette is 3-2 and a game above them in a tie for fourth place with North Murray as the regular season winds down.
The Ramblers improved to that mark after defeating Coahulla Creek, 27-14, last Friday night. And they can stay in at least fourth place if they beat the Phoenix but the guys on Highway 53 can get back to even in the league and right back in the playoff race with a home win themselves.
At the moment, defending region champion Rockmart and Ringgold are both 5-0 and barring something unforeseen, it appears those two teams will make the postseason. (If things hold like they right now, those two teams face off on the final night of the season in what will be a matchup for the region championship).
But before Ringgold, which was off last week, can even begin to think about that, the Tigers have to play Adairsville this week and as Sonoraville found out last week, that is no easy task.
The Adairsville win last Friday boosted them to 4-1 in the Region and alone in third place but they have a chance to grab a share of no less than second place this week with a win. And a loss would still not be the end of the world, however, as they would have at least a piece of third place.
LaFayette and North Murray are currently tied for fourth place at 3-2 and a game ahead of the Phoenix, making Sonoraville’s contest with the Ramblers this Friday night a big one because a victory would keep them close to that fourth and final playoff berth.
But a loss would just about sink any hopes they have of holding a week 11 game and shoot the Ramblers up in the standings.
Against Adairsville, the Phoenix moved the ball at times but could not get that third score that they needed to sink the Tigers after they led 14-0 at halftime.
Midway through third period, they had a first-and-goal at the Bengal one when a bad snap and then a mad scramble for the elusive pigskin that looked like something out of the football follies, resulted in a 32-yard loss.
The red-and-white did recover but had the ball back at the Adairsville 33. Then they had an incomplete pass and two penalties that moved them back on their own side of the field. Eventually, they would punt the ball away.
Then after the Tigers tied things up at 14 with two touchdowns in the first four minutes of the fourth frame, the Phoenix put together a clutch 12-play drive that saw them move from their own 34 to the Adairsville 6 while taking over seven minutes off the clock.
But with under a minute to play, they had a huge quarterback sack and then a penalty that pushed them back five more yards. After converting a fourth-down earlier in the drive, this time they missed a 35-yard field goal and Adairsville went on to drive for the game-winning score with just 10 seconds remaining.
So now the Phoenix meet LaFayette and they know what they have to do because they do still have a lot to play for and there is still a lot of football to be played.
Offensively, the Ramblers are led by junior Jaylon Ramsey, who has rushed for 543 yards this year and hauled in 13 passes.
Junior quarterback Zach Barrett has completed 59 percent of his passes this year, hitting on 50-of-85 attempts.
For the Phoenix, sophomore quarterback Jaxon Pate continues to pace the Region in passing with an average of 228 yards per game. Freshman running back Wyatt Springfield had 87 yards rushing on 17 carries last against Adairsville to spark the running game.
Kickoff Friday night at the Furnace is set for 7:30 p.m.