Heritage, Salem battle for playoffs

COVINGTON - The Heritage Patriots are still in the driver's seat to get home-field advantage as the No. 2 seed in the first round of the Class AAAA boys soccer playoffs. while Salem may need some help as they are currently in fifth place in Area 8-AAAA play.

Heritage's biggest threat to its position will come at 8 p.m. today as it plays third-place Loganville on the road.

A win could help solidify its No. 2 seed while a loss could jumble the final three playoff spots with a four-team race.

But the first thing Heritage has to do is make sure it get a win on the road.

"This game is truly massive. We've put ourselves in a great position with away wins at Cedar Shoals, Clarke Central and Apalachee," Heritage coach Brandon Stewart said. "It's tougher to win on the road and I think we've proved to ourselves with these wins that we can go away from home and get great results. However, it seems some of those will be made a moot point if we can't get the result we really want (today). Therefore there really isn't any way to describe the impact it truly could have on the No. 2 seed in the region."

Loganville is 3-1 in area play with six games left, including one against fourth-place Apalachee.

Salem, on the other hand, cannot afford to slip up as it tries to get past a frontrunner to get into the playoffs.

Besides doing its part by winning all its remaining area games, it must also get some help since both Loganville and Apalachee have the tiebreaker advantage.

Salem's next three games should not be a problem as Clarke Central, Cedar Shoals and Winder-Barrow have a combined area record of 2-6.

Giving the Seminoles a chance is the fact that Winder-Barrow and Clarke Central still have eight area games, including Loganville and Apalachee, to play while Cedar Shoals is six away from completing its area play schedule.

Cedar Shoals has already fallen victim to Loganville and Apalachee.

"We're well aware of the situation we're in and sure there's a little pressure," Salem coach Kurt Peters said. "But with the right mind-set, pressure is a positive thing, we're using it as a motivator. We also know that if we play to our full capability, winning out is without a doubt possible."

A game that could also have a big impact on setting the playoff picture is the final area game. Heritage travels across Ga. Highway 138 to play Salem at 8 p.m. on March 31.

"If we can get the result (against Loganville), it really sets up an already-big game with Salem," Stewart said. "With Salem, Apalachee, Loganville and us all fighting for the 2-4 playoff spots, it adds some real spice to the pot."

At 0-5 in area, Rockdale is eliminated from playoff contention.

Habersham Central, at 8-0 in area play, has all but locked up the area championship.

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@