The state soccer playoffs present a conundrum for coaches:
How do you keep things the same when they are not?
Instead of cracking a fortune cookie or going all zen like so many Phil Jacksons, the area's playoff-bound soccer coaches are trying to keep things simple.
"We're still keeping our same approach and routine," said Johnson boys coach Brian Shirley, who will lead his Knights into the first round of the Class AAAA bracket on Tuesday against Marist in Oakwood. "The first chapter of our season is over; now we've started the second chapter."
Updates on Tuesday's and Wednesday's games:
The first round of the boys tournaments was scheduled to begin Tuesday. Johnson's matchup against Marist at home has been moved to Saturday because of field conditions. Kick-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The Gainesville boys vs. Tucker matchup is still scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Park. There has been no updates on other games as of 6 p.m.
The Chestatee girls game against Marist in Atlanta scheduled for Wednesday has been pushed back to 7:45 p.m. and moved to the main stadium on the Marist campus.
That second chapter bares many differences from the first, not the least of which being that each contest is a season in and of itself -- win or go home. And with that being the case the 27 teams from northeast Georgia hoping to make playoff runs understand that goals will be hard to come by.
"From here on out all the games will 2-1, 1-0, so you better be strong on defense," said Dawson County soccer coach Jed Lacey. "I also think the window is much smaller now between most teams -- public or private. You won't see many blowouts anymore."
That's why teams like Gainesville's boys are expecting to see opponents flood the middle of the field with players looking to deny their free-flowing offense and playing a more physical style in the postseason.
"We have to play better team ball in the playoffs," said Red Elephants coach Rick Howard, who saw his squad face a similar style in its final region contest of the season, a game that the Red Elephants dropped 2-0 after a losing just once during the regular season. "We have to deal with adversity better. We're looking for five-six-seven people to step up and take the bull by the horns (Tuesday)."
The Red Elephants will play host to Tucker at 7 p.m. at City Park in the first round of the Class AAAAA bracket looking to bounce back from last week's setback.
"I think we've grown from it, and we'll get better because of it -- but you never know until you take the field," said Howard, who will have to learn if his team does improve second-hand after being ejected from last week's game, meaning he will not be allowed at Gainesville's contest. "It's going to be a tough game, regardless. We just need people to step up."
The Knights too know they must be at their best and are not taking anything for granted despite being a one seed -- especially when the fourth seed and first round opponent is traditional power Marist.
"They're a great program, and the whole school breeds success," Shirley said. "They play with heart and go into every game expecting win. They're not going to back down just because of our record."
Indeed, Marist will bring a physical style to Tuesday's showdown (kickoff at 6 p.m.) and will test the Knights' resolve.
"We've got to stay disciplined, especially on the back end and try to take away their direct style," Shirley said. "It's going to be a battle."
There are likely to be battles all over the state this week -- tournament play starts today but continues through Friday -- and the area's teams, including the Dawson County boys and girls, should be prepared after battling through tough regular season schedules.
"We won't see anything we're not ready for after playing in our region (7-AAA)," Lacey said. "We've played tough teams all year. The big question will be which team makes the first mistake, because in the playoffs you get punished for making mistakes."
Area teams hope to show, starting today, that the fact there are almost 30 northeast Georgia teams in the tournament is no mistake -- and that one thing will stay the same from regular to postseason: their winning ways.
NOTE: If Tuesday's games get postponed due to inclement weather they will be made up on Saturday.
STATE SOCCER PLAYOFF SCHEDULE -- FIRST ROUND
Tuesday, April 29
Boys Class AAAAA
Tucker at Gainesville
Boys Class AAAA
Lumpkin County at Chamblee
Marist at Johnson, ppd til Saturday, 6 p.m.
Stone Mountain at Chestatee
Wednesday, April 30
Girls Class AAAAA
Flowery Branch at North Atlanta
Lakeside, DeKalb at Gainesville
Girls Class AAAA
Chamblee at Johnson
Chestatee at Marist, new time, 7:45 p.m.
Lumpkin County at Grady
Thursday, May 1
Boys Class AAA
Buford at Coahulla Creek
Cartersville at West Hall
East Jackson at Woodward Academy
Jackson County at St. Pius
North Hall at North Murray
Ringgold at Dawson County
Boys Class AA
Lovett at Jefferson
Riverside Military at Westminster
Union County at Greater Atlanta Christian
Boys Class A
Lakeview Academy at Paideia
Friday, May 2
Girls Class AAA
East Jackson at Blessed Trinity
Islands at Buford
Ringgold at Dawson County
West Hall at Cartersville
White County at Adairsville
Girls Class AA
Wesleyan at Jefferson
Westminster at Union County
Girls Class A
Towns County at Pace Academy