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Energizing the base

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

DAWSON -- Terrell Academy coach Bill Murdock has maintained a friendship with Randolph Southern coach Ottis Griggs for the better part of three decades. In fact, they've talked on the phone multiple times this week leading up to tonight's rivalry matchup between their two schools separated by a little more than 11 miles.

"We've got so many acquaintances, we have acquaintances we didn't even know we had," Griggs said.

Murdock compliments the 63-year-old Griggs for the character of the kids he produces and Griggs jabs Murdock for being old, like him, "every chance I get."

For them, tonight's Region 2-A showdown in Dawson represents a friendly rivalry.

But for the rest of those planning on attending the game, not so much.

"I think the parents get into it more than the kids," Murdock said. "It is definitely a heated rivalry. A lot of people from Terrell don't like Randolph -- and vice versa."

Somebody will leave Don Beard Field tonight unhappy about its playoff position. A win for the Eagles (8-2 overall, 4-0 in Region 2-A) would wrap up a second consecutive region title and put them in the No. 1 seed on a path to repeat as state champions.

A win for Randolph Southern (8-2, 3-1) would force a three-way playoff along with Fullington Academy to determine the top three seeds in the region.

That doesn't matter, though.

"If we were to play marbles it would be a big game," Griggs said. "It's just competition against friends you've been around all year. Certainly you want to win. It is a big game, it always is."

For the most part, it has been a big game dominated by the Eagles. Terrell has won each of the last four years with the closest game

being a 26-point TAE blowout last season.

Terrell enters tonight riding the legs of star widout/running back Cole Byrd, who has accounted for more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage this year. The spread passing attack powered by the arm of quarterback Cole Phillips has Terrell averaging 37 points a game.

It's created a six-game win streak that has visions of last year's state championship popping into the Eagles' heads.

"It feels a lot the same really," Byrd said. "There is not a big difference."

Many on the Randolph side of the football believe the tide may be turning in their direction. Quarterback Loy DeVane has led the Patriots to their best start in school history. They spent the majority of the season ranked No. 1 in the state before falling last week to Fullington.

Murdock says after watching tape of DeVane lead Randolph to a comeback win against Westwood, he "was exhausted just watching him." DeVane has led three fourth-quarter comebacks for wins this season.

"He was running all over that field, throwing the football," Murdock said. "He is a winner."

DeVane's created the latest chapter in a turnaround at the school that has them adding spice to the rivalry that Terrell has held the advantage in most sports.

The most significant victory to date came last season when Randolph defeated the Eagles in the state championship baseball series in three games.

Byrd also was a member of that baseball team, and he admits football feels different than baseball, but losing that day "is a little bit" in his the back of his head coming into tonight.

For the most part, the rollover from that event appears to be minimal.

"It is kind of like switching gears, going from baseball to football," Terrell head baseball coach and assistant football coach Ashley Walker said. "It is two different sports. The rivalry between Terrell and Randolph is what it is. There's no need for any extra motivational tactics."

That's certainly also the case for the fan bases, which are both expected to turn out in full, intense force in Dawson.

"There will be a few people out there," Griggs said with a laugh. "You ever seen the movie Old School? You know how he tells the kid 'Earmuffs'? That's what we will need is earmuffs."