NC vs Tift: A preview of the opening playoff game

The+Tift+County+%2250%22+and+%22Bear%22+mix+places+both+defensive+ends+over+the+tackles+but+asks+them+to+crash+in+between+the+tackle+and+the+guard+at+the+snap.+The+outside+linebackers+will+frequently+blitz+off+the+edge%2C+and+the+defensive+backs+are+largely+covering+one+on+one.

Michael Smith

The Tift County “50” and “Bear” mix places both defensive ends over the tackles but asks them to crash in between the tackle and the guard at the snap. The outside linebackers will frequently blitz off the edge, and the defensive backs are largely covering one on one.

Michael Smith, Sports editor

Georgia high school state playoffs will kick off this Friday as NC hosts the Tift County Blue Devils at Emory Sewell at 7:30 in the first ever matchup between the two teams. GPB chose this game to kick off its playoff coverage with a 2 vs. 3 seed matchup.

This game marks the fourth straight playoff game the Warriors have played against a South georgia team, going 0-4 over a stretch that began with a crushing home loss to Colquitt County in 2013; two years ago NC travelled down the Langston Hughes, losing 42-28, and last season, in part due to a series of devastating officials calls, when the Warriors lost to the visiting Valdosta Wildcats 21-17.

This South Georgia team, just like last year’s Valdosta squad, presents a few unique strengths and weaknesses NC looks to exploit and defend. Defensively, Tift employs a unique mesh of the old “50” and “Bear” front. The Bear front gained popularity from the 1985 Bears, who used the alignment to decimate opposing running games in a generation of football led by offenses using more than one running back and/or tight ends on every play. The Tift coaches have adapted it slightly to accommodate modern spread offenses, aligning their 3-4 defensive ends directly over the tackles in the 50 front style, as a Bear would place them over the guards. However, the Blue Devils will have both ends crash hard into the “B” gap between the tackle and guard on nearly every play. This leaves the two outside linebackers responsible for containing rushes off the edge and allows the two inside linebackers to run and chase down the ball. The defense does, however leave its defensive backs in dangerous one on one type coverage, which NC’s offense will most likely attempt to exploit. Tift will certainly attempt to generate pressure to help its defensive backs, commonly blitzing, stunting, and moving its front 7 players and the occasional corner blitz.

Offensively, the Blue Devils will look similar to much of modern football, varying between three and four receiver formations and attempting to bring a balanced mixture of run and pass behind a big offensive line and some talented receivers. Tift will look to play balanced, setting up NC with play action and motion to find and exploit one on one alignments. The Warrior defense, however, has consistently played as one of the best in the state all year, changing looks to make it difficult for opposing offenses to game plan and “making teams left handed,” or prioritizing eliminating their opponent’s best aspect and conceding weaknesses in other areas.

Expect this playoff game to bring as much excitement as to the postseason as Jim Mora in a Colts press conference. Tift will surely bring its pride in “South Georgia ball” to Kennesaw, bringing plenty of nasty hits and big, powerful running in an attempt to prove a superior toughness.

The Chant’s Prediction: NC:21, Tift County: 17