Holy Innocents’ has qualified for the state football playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
The Golden Bears had to sweat it out a little longer than usual to find out about its fate, however, due to Class A’s new playoff system in which postseason berths are determined by the GHSA’s power ranking.
At the end, Holy Innocents’ breathed a sigh of relief as its No. 10 rating in the last poll of the season — released last Wednesday — earned it a spot among the top-16 teams that have qualified for the Class A private-school playoffs, which begin on Friday.
The Golden Bears, who finished third in Region 5A, will have their work cut out for them as they travel down to south Georgia to face seventh-seeded and defending Class A state champion Savannah Christian in their first-round game.
“Every year, when you start off in August, your goal is to play for a state championship,” Holy Innocents’ coach Ryan Livezey said. “But, obviously, you’ve got to make it to the state playoffs first. Our season has been up and down, but the great things about making the state playoffs is at this point, everybody enters with a clean slate. We want to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Holy Innocents’ (6-4) will certainly be well rested as it takes the field for the first time in three weeks, with its last game being a 36-3 loss to Landmark Christian in its regular-season finale Nov. 2.
“We usually have a bye week the last week of the regular season,” Livezey said. “But, we’re in unchartered territory, having three weeks off at the end of the season. I’ve been telling people that it’s kind of like playing in a bowl game, where you have several weeks off between games. It does give our guys a chance to heal up a little bit, so that’s a good thing about it.”
Running back Jason Grimes leads the way for Holy Innocents’ on both offense at running back and defense at safety, while quarterback Luke Wright and running back Owen Penn are among the other key players.
Savannah Christian (7-3), which won Region 3A, has won seven of its last eight games after losing its first two of the season. The Raiders feature a prolific offense that has averaged 30 points a game.
“They’ve got a lot of speed,” Livezey said. “They run it at you and they do a great job of moving the ball down the field.”
Even more daunting for the Golden Bears, perhaps, is the 4½-hour trip south that they will have to make to Savannah — the longest trip to a game the team has ever made. “It’s a long trip, and it’s the day after Thanksgiving, so it’s a bit of a challenge,” Livezey said.