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Patriots looking to clinch playoff spot

After an up-and-down nine weeks of the high school football season, Heritage is in the position every team wants to be in before their final regular season game: in control of their own destiny for the state playoffs.

That’s where the Patriots - 5-4 overall and 4-3 in Region 8-AAAAA - stand heading into Friday’s home game with Apalachee. The Conyers school owns the No. 4 seed and needs only to win over the visitors from Winder to advance to the Class AAAAA state tournament for a program-record fourth consecutive season.

Of course, a victory at Evans Memorial Stadium isn’t the only way Heritage can clinch a playoff spot. With a half-game lead over 3-3 Loganville, which Heritage beat last week, one Red Devils’ loss in their final two games against defending state champion and unbeaten Gainesville Friday or against Salem November 8 also puts Heritage in the postseason.

For Heritage to take care of its own business, a continuation of last weekend’s performance would be a great start. The Patriots rolled up over 400 yards of total offense and Anthony Stanley scored one touchdown in the air and one on the ground in a convincing, 21-7 victory over Loganville. That could be a sign that the Heritage offense, which has scored just 109 points in nine games including being held to 17 points or less in all but two games, is hitting its stride at the perfect time.

Apalachee’s miserable season continued with last week’s loss to Salem. The Wildcats, who led after a touchdown on the first play of the game but didn’t score again against the Seminoles, are 0-8 for the first time in the program’s 14-year history and will be trying to avoid the school’s first winless season.

That won’t be easy against a Heritage defense that has played well for much of the season. Take away a 48-point effort from Gainesville, a 33-point performance by Flowery Branch and a 23-point first half by Clarke Central (the Gladiators were held scoreless in the second half) and the Patriots have allowed 64 points in the season’s other 26 quarters.

If the playoffs began this week, Heritage would travel to current Region 6-AAAAA leader Tucker for a first-round game.