KATHLEEN -- The Veterans Warhawks did what they absolutely had to do at the end of the regular season in order to earn a postseason berth and now they hope to carry that momentum into Friday’s GHSA Class AAAA opening-round matchup against Cairo.
“We’re feeling pretty good, and we understand the task ahead of us,” Veterans head coach David Bruce said. “We’re not overconfident, but I think we’ve kind of got a sense that we’ve worked our way here, and now let’s see what we can do.”
After going winless through their first six games, the Warhawks won three of their final four to clinch a playoff spot. The decisive victory came last week on the road at Upson-Lee as Veterans won what essentially amounted to a play-in game by a 28-26 final.
“We just took it one day at a time,” Bruce said. “We talked about how goals were still attainable and the hardest part about the playoffs a lot of times is just getting there. We were hoping things would fall our way, and fortunately they did.”
In what has become a staple of his coaching philosophy, Bruce once again scheduled extremely tough non-region games in order to prepare his players for the postseason. Veterans’ non-region opponents finished the regular season with a combined record of 35-5, with all four of those teams earning a first-round home game in the playoffs.
“Even though some of the games didn’t go the way we wanted them to, I think it still kept us with the realization that we could turn this thing around,” Bruce said. “I’m real proud of the kids. They never gave up and they never gave in.”
Cairo will present a big challenge in its own right. The Syrupmakers won Region 1-AAAA, have an 8-2 record and boast a defense that surrendered just 111 points during the regular season.
“They’re very well-coached, and that’s evident on the film,” Bruce said. “They’re very, very physical and very hard-nosed. They play old-style, physical, smash-mouth football. There’s nothing fancy about what they do on either side of the football. They line up, and they come get you.”
Veterans will look to control the clock, play opportunistic football and pick its spots at big plays through the air from quarterback Logan Byrd.
“We’ve got to be able to control the tempo, establish the run, and then we’ve got to be able to throw off of that,” Bruce said. “We have to take advantage of their mistakes. You don’t always have to score a touchdown every series, but you need to burn up some time and flip the field position.”