102516_ mca claxton football 3

McIntosh County Academy running back J.P. Palmer tosses the ball to the official after scoring a touchdown earlier this season against Claxton. Palmer and the rest of the Bucs travel to Homerville today to face Clinch County in the Class A public school state semifinals.

Bobby Haven/The News

McIntosh County Academy head football coach Robby Robinson has been here before.

Twice before, to be exact.

In back-to-back seasons as head coach at Metter High School, Robinson played in a state semifinal game — at the time played in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The first trip, in 2001, was a 31-23 loss to Bowdon. The return was a closer contest, a 24-20 loss to Dooly County.

What has Robinson learned from his semifinal experience? It’s rare to have the talent to get that far.

“(The experience) has made me appreciate a bit more this week and enjoy each and every minute of preparation for Clinch County, and I’ve tried to relay that to my coaching staff,” Robinson said.

Robinson and the Buccaneers wanted to measure that talent earlier this season by scheduling a non-region game against Clinch County. After a 32-7 loss, Robinson and his squad knew there was still work to be done.

“We wanted to see where we stood as a program, and we found out we weren’t quite ready,” Robinson said. “We knew this was the level we had to get to.”

Ready or not, the time has come for the Buccaneers to prove if they have reached that level in the four months between that game and today’s Class A public school playoff semifinal matchup.

Robinson points out the Bucs have lost just one game between the first and second meetings with Clinch County — a 21-14 defeat to Calvary Day, which hadn’t suffered a loss until recently losing to in the Class A private school playoffs.

Robinson said his team’s week-by-week mentality means his team has cut out distractions, and the Bucs have only gotten sharper as the season has gone on.

“Our overall focus has been outstanding,” Robinson said. “We’ve been focused throughout the majority of the season, and that’s increased when the postseason started.”

Clinch County’s defense tamed the Bucs in its earlier meeting, holding McIntosh to just over 100 yards of offense.

Clinch has allowed just 12 points in two playoff games, defeating Mitchell County 54-12 in the second round and shutting out seventh- seed Commerce 44-0 in the quarterfinals.

McIntosh’s path to the semifinals included wins over Lincoln County (14-7) in the second round and Greene County (39-22) in the quarterfinals.

McIntosh’s last win against Clinch County was a playoff game in 2000. The Buccaneers won 20-13 after beating Clinch earlier in the regular season. Overall, the Buccaneers posses a 3-7 record against the Panthers.

Clinch County was ranked No. 4 in the most recent Georgia prep football poll and entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. The Bucs were unranked at the end of the regular season and are the No. 6 seed.

Kickoff in Homerville is set for 7:30 p.m. The winner faces the Macon County-Emanuel County Institute winner in the Georgia Dome at 10 a.m. Dec. 10.