Michael Carson kept telling his Avondale team the same thing after midseason losses to state powers Buford and Westminster.
“We needed to use those games to move forward and grow and become the team we need to be,” Carson said.
The Blue Devils finally had their growth spurt the past two games and clinched their first playoff berth in 20 years with a 28-14 win over Decatur. The Blue Devils are 5-3, 3-2 in Region 6-AA and likely will finish third in the region.
“It feels good, and having clinched after week eight says a lot,” Carson said. “The Decatur game is a big rivalry, and the kids got up for it. They went ahead 7-0, and normally we’d drop our heads. But we drove down and tied the game, and from there we didn’t look back.”
Decatur (4-4, 2-3) will have to beat Blessed Trinity on Friday to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Several other DeKalb teams clinched playoff spots or No. 1 seeds after last weekend’s games.
In Region 2-AAAAA, Stephenson and ML King have clinched playoff spots. The Jaguars are alone in first place after beating previously undefeated Union Grove on Saturday. The Jaguars close out the regular season with Greenbrier and Douglass, teams with losing records. ML King likely will finish second.
In 6-AAAA, Tucker secured a playoff berth with a 7-0 win over Stone Mountain, and Southwest DeKalb claimed first place in the region with a win over Marist. Southwest, Marist and Tucker have qualified for state, and Stone Mountain can clinch the fourth spot with a win over Chamblee.
In 5-AAA, teams are jockeying for position this week before week 10’s play-in games. The top teams in each sub-region automatically qualify for the state tournament, with the other three spots to be determined in week 10. St. Pius (8-0, 4-0) has clinched the top spot in Division B. Dunwoody can clinch a state berth and the top seed in Division A with a win over Druid Hills. Towers, second in the sub-region, along with Cedar Grove and Columbia will need wins in the final week of the season to clinch a state playoff spot.
“We lost in overtime to Lovett and lost a close game to Dunwoody, but now we know we can finish,” said Towers coach Jonathan Sanks after his team’s 23-20 win over Cedar Grove. “We’re battle tested.”