The Elmore County football team has not been to the playoffs in seven consecutive seasons, the longest stretch for the program since the 1960s. The Panthers have won at least two region games in each of the last seven years and came close to advancing to the postseason last year but they were on the short end of a three-team tiebreaker.
Entering the 2019 season, the Panthers look to get over that hump and control their own destiny so they will not have to rely on a tiebreaker to reach the postseason. And that will start with some important region games on the road during the first month of the season.
Week 2 at Leeds Greenwave
Despite going undefeated at home in region play last season, Elmore County missed the playoffs because of its 0-3 road record in Class 4A Region 4. In fact, the Panthers are just 1-11 in their last 12 region road games.
The Panthers open region play on the road this season and hope to put that record to rest to jump start their year. Elmore County used its home win over Leeds to boost its playoff hopes in 2018 but if the team can pull it off again on the road, the Panthers will immediately become a favorite for a playoff spot in the region.
Unfortunately for Elmore County, it is going to be easier said than done. The Panthers are just 1-4 against Leeds all time and the Greenwave are looking to return to their former glory days after missing the playoffs last year for the first time since 2005.
Week 4 at Holtville Bulldogs
Elmore County has dominated this series over the last decade with eight consecutive wins. However, Holtville has been closing the gap and took the game to overtime in Eclectic last season.
For the first time since 2010, the Bulldogs will likely enter this game as the favorite. Elmore County may not need this win to reach the postseason but any road win in region play can go a long way.
Holtville and Elmore County finished tied in the standings last season but because of a third team in the tiebreaker, the Panthers missed out on the playoffs. Whichever team wins this game will take a huge step to grabbing an early hold on one of those four spots while the loser will be climbing an uphill battle the rest of the season.
Week 9 vs. Lincoln Golden Bears
Lincoln won Region 4 last season and the Bears clinched that title with a 27-0 win over Elmore County in the penultimate game of the year. The loss sent the Panthers back home without a playoff berth.
All four seeds in this region were determined on the final week of region play last year. The top three teams all won their final region game and there’s a good chance it will come down to Week 9 again this season.
Elmore County has lost four of its last five region finales and the Panthers finished one spot out of the playoffs after all four of those losses. There is plenty of work to do before getting to Week 9 but if the Panthers want to return to the postseason, this may be the most crucial game of the year.