Goshen hits the road to battle tradition-rich Sweet Water

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, November 7, 2013

Bart Snyder’s Goshen Eagles have been in this very same position before. In fact, they were in this predicament just 52 weeks ago.

In 2012, Goshen eked out a playoff spot with a 5-5 record, and had to go on the road in the first round to face a region champion. This year, like baseball great Yogi Berra once said, is like déjà vu all over again.

The Eagles will load up the bus Friday afternoon and make the near three-hour drive to Sweet Water to battle the highly-ranked Bulldogs. Last season Goshen traveled to Oakman in the first round, losing 25-6.

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Snyder says Sweet Water is a very talented and disciplined football team.

“They are very, very good,” Snyder said. “They know how to win down there. Coach Luker and his staff worked them in to a power in 1A, and they are doing the same thing at the 2A level. We are going to have to play very well, and eliminate our mistakes to beat them. You can’t give them help, because they are too good.”

Sweet Water finished the season 7-3 overall, and a perfect 7-0 in region play. The Bulldogs’ three losses came to non-region foes, perennial 4A contender Thomasville, 1A powerhouse Maplesville and 3A top dog T.R. Miller.

Snyder told his players earlier in the week to forget about all the things that hadn’t gone Goshen’s way through the 10-game regular season, because they are entering a new season.

“It is all about today and this week,” Snyder said. “There is no next week for us to fix mistakes. If we make too many, we will have nine months to fix them. There are going to be some teams that are 10-0 that will go home Friday night, and there will be some teams that have losing or even records that will go on to the next round. It happens every single season. It is a completely new season now and everyone is 0-0.”

Goshen won three of its final four games, and could have easily ended the season on a five-game winning streak. The Eagles fell to Geneva and Highland Home in close ball games during the second half of the regular season.

The new momentum Goshen possesses could help them pull the first-round upset.

“We are playing pretty good football right now,” Snyder said. “We played probably our best game of the season last week against McKenzie. It is good knowing that you are getting better as the playoffs get closer. If we can get hot, stay hot and eliminate mistakes, who knows what might happen over the next five weeks.”

Sweet Water has captured state titles on nine different occasions, and have advanced to the state playoffs every year since 2001.

Sweet Water is 5-40 since the year 2000 when opposing teams score at least 30 points.

That type of stat bodes well for the Goshen offense. The Eagles have hit the 30-point plateau three times in 2013.

“They are a good football team, but they can be beat,” Snyder said. “We will need to play mistake-free football, and try to get an early lead to make them play from behind.”

The first-ever meeting between the Bulldogs and Eagles is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Nolan Atkins Stadium in Sweet Water.