PICKFORD – After reaching the state semifinals last year for the first time since making back-to-back appearances in 1991-92, Pickford has vaulted to the top spot in the state rankings.
Finishing the year atop the final Associated Press 8-player poll, the Panthers (9-0) begin their postseason run this week by hosting Atlanta (5-4) in an 8-Player Division 2 regional semifinal.
With a 53-14 win over Rudyard last Thursday, Pickford completed its first undefeated regular season since 1991 and won its first Bridge Alliance championship in outright fashion.
“You know, we had a lot of good competition throughout the year, some good teams and that’s what you want to be able to do as you’re preparing for the playoffs and getting ready,” coach Josh Rader said. “We’ve been building on that and we’re hoping to bring that momentum into the playoffs with us. A lot of good teams in the state and come playoff time, everybody’s even. One loss and you’re out. It doesn’t matter what your regular season record is.”
After going 6-4 in their first season at the 8-player level in 2015, the Panthers have gone a combined 19-2 over the last two years and have outscored opponents this year 522-96. Pickford’s closest game was an 18-point, 40-22, win over Engadine in Week 3. Since then the Panthers have outscored opponents by an average of 63 points per game.
As for Friday’s foe, Atlanta has reached the postseason in its inaugural season at the 8-player level and for the first time since 2013. The 2013 season also marked the last time the Huskies had reached five wins, after going a combined 1-24 the previous three years.
The winner of Friday’s game will move on to face either Onekama or Bellaire in a regional final.
Kickoff Friday is set for 7 p.m.