Camden's Goal: Get to Atlanta; but First, the Wildcats Have to Beat Newnan to Earn a Trip to the Georgia Dome

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Byline: GORDON JACKSON

KINGSLAND - Camden County High School football coach Jeff Herron normally looks forward to a trip to Atlanta to compete in the AAAAA semifinals. But not this year.

Herron, who has taken the Wildcats to Atlanta five of the past seven years for a semifinal game, was hoping a change in the playoff format would work in Camden's favor this season.

Until this year, the semifinals were played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, with the championship game hosted by one of the finalists in each of the five divisions. This year, however, the finals for each division will be played in the Georgia Dome.

The Wildcats lost the home field advantage with a coin toss and will have to travel to Newnan to play the Newnan Cougars.

The winner will play for a state title at 8 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Georgia Dome against the winner of the Peachtree Ridge/Grayson game.

"I liked it the way it was," said Herron about the playoff format. "You had a chance to host a championship game in your home venue."

Despite the changes, Herron said players, students and fans are happy to be among the four teams remaining in the AAAAA playoffs.

"I think they're pretty excited," Herron said of his team.

Herron said his players are not complacent and realize any team is capable of winning this late in the season. Last week's 18-17 victory over Woodstock High removed any overconfidence his players may have had, he said.

"I think as a coach you realize how hard it is to get there," he said. "It's an uphill, monumental task."

It may also be a challenge for some fans to get to Newnan in time for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

Students with a formal obligation to the team such as players, band members and cheerleaders are excused Friday, but all other students will have to attend classes. Students who buy a ticket will be excused at 11:30 a.m., which gives them seven hours to drive to Newnan for the game.

"Our coaches and players all understand that the academic success of Camden County's students is our first responsibility and that the best opportunity for success results from using every day available on our school calendar for instruction," Superintendent Will Hardin said. …