Worth wary of Woodward's Thompson

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

SYLVESTER -- Worth County coach Scotty Ward watches film of first round playoff opponent Woodward Academy and thinks the same thoughts college coaches across the Southeast did.

That running back sure is fast.

The running back is Juwan Thompson and his 4.41 40-yard dash speed allowed him to verbally commit to play at Duke University next season. But on Friday, he is Ward's project.

"He is a stud. He is put-together and really fast," Ward said of the 5-foot-11, 212-pound running back. "We have to control him and make everybody else beat us besides him."

The Rams counter with their own Division I recruits on defense in lineman Sherrod Loud (offered by UAB, Western Michigan) and Justin Tukes (verbal to UCF).

Worth County has won four of its last five games by stopping the run and committing to running the football. Ward sees the slowing of Thompson as the latest challenge for a defense that -- not counting the second half of the loss to Peach County -- hasn't allowed more than two scores in any game during their win streak.

"As of lately, we have played pretty solid, especially against the run," Ward said. "Early in the Monroe game they gashed us, but we settled down in the second half and only let up 34 yards. I feel OK, but we are still a little scared."

CONFIDENCE STILL HIGH: Randolph Southern suffered only one loss through the first nine games of the season and was as confident as any team in GISA Class A.

Since, it endured back-to-back losses to Fullington Academy and rival Terrell Academy to close the regular season.

As he opens the playoffs on Friday at Briarwood, coach Ottis Griggs insists the confidence that propelled his team to the No. 1 ranking in the state for much of the season has not gone anywhere.

"I really haven't had to fight with that," Griggs said. "It is there. We can go back and look at films where we made mistakes and kids know they made mistakes. It wasn't the fact we didn't play hard; they always play hard. There were just mental mistakes here or a fumble there. Against good teams you can't do that."

First round opponent Briarwood fits into that category. It has won six of the last seven games, with the only loss coming against Region 1-A champion Thomas Jefferson. Add in the fact last year Randolph Southern knocked Briarwood out of the playoffs in this same round and the Patriots are sure to receive a test.

But in the mind of Griggs and the Patriots, the motivations of what happened last year will have little to do with Friday's outcome.

"It's not about revenge," Griggs said. "We don't bother too much to deal with stuff like that."

SGA SEEKS ENCORE: Southwest Georgia Academy coach David Bell spoke with Tiftarea coach Marvin Barton this week and heard a story he hopes doesn't play out on Friday.

Barton felt good about his opening round game at Brentwood. Only, turnovers and some bad bounces of the football sent the Region 3-AA squad to a disappointing defeat.

As Bell and the Warriors prepare to travel across the state to play Region 2-AA No. 1 seed Bulloch Academy, he hopes his team won't suffer the same fate.

"He had some things slip up and some bad things happen to him," Bell said. "Sometimes, in the playoffs you can't slip up and have one of those types of games where you turn it over or throw an interception. Stuff like that is out of your control sometimes. I am scared about that."

Otherwise, Bell knows if he sees a performance similar to the one his team turned in during a 40-10 first-round rout of Stong Rock Christian, he should be fine. In the game, the Warriors ran for 489 yards.

While Briarwood's only losses came to Class AAA teams and a loss to Brentwood with players out due to illness, Bell likes his chances if they execute.

"If we beat them, we have to play good like we did last week," Bell said. "Since Sherwood in the second half, we played real lights out on defense. If we are going to stop them -- and that is a big chore -- we've got to stop them from running it."