The Rebels needed a win over Sciotoville East, which they got, as well as a lot of help, which they also received, in order to earn their first-ever playoff berth. Everything is much simpler this year - the only scoreboard South Gallia has to watch is its own.
The Rebels can avoid all the confusing playoff scenarios and sweating it out waiting on results of other games if they can beat Lincoln County tonight. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at the old Hamlin High School.
South Gallia, at 8-1 overall, currently sits sixth in the Division VI, Region 23 computer ratings. The top eight qualify for the state playoffs. A win in the regular season finale clinches a second straight postseason appearance, while a loss leaves the door open for others to move up.
Caldwell, Newark Catholic and Waterford own spots seven through nine respectively and are the biggest threats to the Rebels; all those challengers face challenging games this week, though.
A lot would need to happen, meaning South Gallia is likely in - regardless of tonight's outcome. But a win over a school the size of Lincoln County would be icing on what has already been the greatest season in the school's 10-year existence.
“I told the boys (on Thursday), all the pressure is off of you,” South Gallia coach Justy Burleson said. “We've already achieved more than anybody ever thought we could.
“But we have higher goals than anybody else did. Right now we have several goals, but the first goal is to take care of Week 10 and finish with a 9-1 record.”
But picking up that ninth victory will be anything but easy. The Lincoln County Panthers are 0-8, but have been playing schools that they really have no business playing at the program's early stage.
Lincoln County is a giant first-year program. Hamlin, Guyan Valley, Duval and Harts consolidated to form the Class AAA West Virginia school, and is equal in size to a Division II in Ohio.
Lincoln County is looking at South Gallia as its best chance to pick up a victory in its inaugural season. The tale of the tape certainly favors the Panthers; for example, Lincoln County has 65 players on its roster to South Gallia's 35.
“I would consider ourselves underdogs, we're going into an environment against a bigger school with a lot more boys on the team. They've played a higher level of competition than we have . All those things might give one the picture that we are the underdogs,” admitted Burleson.
But South Gallia doesn't exactly see itself as prey.
“They're eyeing us as their big chance to get a win, by that same token, we're eyeing them as a big chance to get some major points,” Burleson continued. “So I guess its like two wolves trying to figure out which one is dinner.”
Lincoln County, which has been outscored 256-66 this season, has only been competitive in two games - both against smaller Class AA schools. The Panthers fell 14-0 to unbeaten James Monroe and lost a heartbreaker 7-6 to Chapmanville.
The fledgling program perhaps hit a new low point last week, being shut out 20-0 by lowly Winfield.
Whenever you take players from four different schools, four different schemes, it takes a while to gel as a team. And that is exactly what is going on in Hamlin.
“I still think they are searching for an identity,” Burleson said. “On offense, they've been throwing quite a bit, but I think that is more or less trying to keep up with the competition they've been facing.
“They have a pretty sophisticated passing attack, and that is something we're have to really prep for this week. It's a double wing look, but its not the true double wing offense.”
Burleson added they will throw a variety of different defensive formations at you as well.
Aside from the number of players, the two teams do match up well. The Lincoln County offensive line averages around 200 pounds while South Gallia tips the scales at around 195 on average.
Both also have many players that play both ways, on offense and defense.
South Gallia is coming off a 38-14 blowout of the bigger Oak Hill Oaks last week. The Rebels have won five straight since dropping its lone game at Wahama in Week 4. The past few games, South Gallia has used a nice blend of rush and pass.
Dustin McCombs had his second straight 100-yard receiving game last week and he should create some match-up problems for the Panthers as well. Quarterback John Wells has done a good job of getting him more touches the last few weeks.
The Rebels will also utilize the running combination of Dewey Cantrell and Derrick Beaver, which in addition to being hard-nosed quick yardage gainers, also help set up the pass.
Even with a win over the huge school, South Gallia won't be able to crack the top four, and play a game closer to its home field. No big deal, considering the “Road Rebels” are playing their seventh on the road this season tonight.
A road trip north in Week 11 looks inevitable.
“That's fine, our bags are packed anyway,” said Burleson. “We're ready to roll.”