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SUNDAY PREP FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Worth eerily silent before Fitzgerald game -- then goes nuts after pulling off biggest shocker of year thus far

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

SYLVESTER -- Silence is golden, at least at Worth County, where the Rams pulled off the biggest upset in the state on Friday night, knocking off state power Fitzgerald, 32-26 in double overtime. The secret? The team was so quiet before the kickoff, even coach Scotty Ward was concerned.

"I've never seen them like that,'' Ward said. "They were so quiet, I really didn't know what to think. It was just so quiet. They didn't say a word. I asked a couple of the assistant coaches if they thought the kids were scared to play. They were even quiet when we first went out to the field. I guess they were just so focused on winning .... then they just let all that emotion come out in the game.''

They weren't quiet afterward.

"They went crazy,'' Ward said. "It was pretty intense. When we won, there was just so much emotion. It's been a long time, and to beat the No. 3 (ranked team in the state) it was just great for the kids.''

Ward said he knows they haven't beaten Fitzgerald -- which crushed the Rams, 49-0, last season -- in the nine years he has been at the school, but wasn't sure if Worth had ever beaten Fitzgerald. The question is what did the big win do for Worth?

"I hope it gives them confidence to go into every week and know they have a chance to beat any team we play,'' Ward said.

Maybe he should just have a new team rule: No talking before the game.

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LEWIS' FUTURE IN LIMBO AT WESTOVER:

Westover may have to finish the season without Herald Dynamite Dozen selection Chuck Lewis, a defensive back and super-speedy receiver who is being looked at by Tennessee, Auburn and Alabama -- among many others. Lewis reinjured his shoulder in the season opener against Mitchell County on Friday.

"He has had problems with his shoulder for the past year and a half. It was situation we were aware of,'' new Westover coach Octavia Jones said. "His father had talked to him about having surgery but Chuck really wanted to play.''

Lewis' shoulder popped out during the game, and it was put back into place, but he didn't return to the field. Now Lewis and his family will make a decision about his future sometime this week.

"They are going to see a doctor on Monday and decide whether he should have surgery or not,'' Jones said. "I stay out of household decisions. That's up to the family. I know his father wants him to have the surgery.''

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ANOTHER PROBLEM FOR THE PATS:

Westover has other problems. The Patriots would love to see Trent Brown, a 6-foot-7, 310-pound offensive lineman, play this season, but Brown's future is on hold because of a GHSA rule that has as more twists and turns than a pretzel.

Brown transferred to Westover this year from Deerfield-Windsor, a private school. Brown originally attended Albany High before transferring to DWS, and the GHSA has a rule that if a student transfers from a public school to a private school and then decides to go back to public school, the student must go back to the original public school.

There's one problem: Brown attended Albany High as part of the school's magnet program, and there's a rule that if you leave the program you cannot return. Here's the kicker: Brown lives a few blocks from Westover, which makes total sense for him to go to that school.

But he can't until he gets the OK from the GHSA. There will be a hearing on Sept. 7 in Thomaston to decide Brown's future.

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JONES GRADES WESTOVER DEBUT:

It was Jones' debut as a head football coach and his team ran into a talented squad from Mitchell County in the season opener. Mitchell won the game, 26-14, and The Herald asked Jones to give himself a grade after his first game.

"I would give myself a D,'' Jones said. "It's a D because we didn't get the 'W.' It falls on me.

"I take all the blame.''

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CREDIT DUE FOR DWS' THUNDER AND LIGHTNING:

The Herald has a Player of the Week every week during football season. But it can't give the player of the week to Deerfield-Windsor's offensive line corps, which took apart Sherwood Christian in DWS' 28-6 opening night victory, but it can at least recognize them.

DWS coach Allen Lowe praised his linemen after the win, which was highlighted

by a 90-yard drive during which Deerfield drove the ball right up the middle against a much bigger Sherwood defense.

Lowe said he has two sets of offensive linemen he calls Thunder and Lightning.

"We've got so much depth on this year's team,'' Lowe said. "We have 15 offensive linemen and I think we used everyone of them on that drive.''

Here's to Thunder and Lightning, the 15 offensive linemen who drove DWS all night: Park Pace, Jordan Funderburk, Cooper Shoemaker, J.D. Blackwell, Matt Miller, Tanner Lowe, Caleb Smith, Trey Flynn, Patrick Forrestal, Harrison Houston, Michael Kelley, Tyler Brettel, Harrison Stadnik, Nicky Dinella and Weston King. There were also four tight ends who blocked: Lindsey Short, Coleman Butler, Walker Lanier, and Rhett Cooper.

Lowe, however, might have had the best line after the win over rival Sherwood. Everyone was talking about the big rivalry game all week, and there was a buzz coming into the game -- a buzz that no doubt help produce a standing-room-only crowd at Webb Memorial Stadium.

It was a little tricky for Lowe, who attends church at Sherwood Baptist, where everyone was talking about the game last Sunday.

Lowe will be back in church today.

"Yeah,'' he said with a good-natured smile, "this will make it a little easier at church (this) morning.''

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FUMBLING BEARCATS CATCH A BREAK:

After six fumbles in a 14-7 win against Early County on Friday night -- five of them lost -- Bainbridge coach Ed Pilcher says he won't take it to the extreme of having his players carrying footballs around the school this week as classmates try to slap it out of their hands, but one thing's for sure, said the coach: "That kinda stuff can't happen. It just can't."

Pilcher had just finished watching film Saturday when reached by The Herald, and said that the mistakes -- while numerous -- weren't as bad as originally thought.

"There are some things we need to work on, sure," Pilcher began, "but we weren't just (making bad fumbles). They were all little things -- all very correctable."

Much of it stems from the fact that Bainbridge is extremely young and inexperienced offensively, including two sophomores on the line of scrimmage and a junior quarterback under center in Steven Bench. Although, Bench did score the Bearcats' only offensive touchdown in a contest that came down to a huge play on defense.

And that final play was one that Pilcher, who has seen a lot in his long coaching career, was still shaking his head about Saturday.

"It was 7-7 with 20 seconds to go and we were playing for overtime. We actually had a fourth down and five yards to go and we punted it," he said. "We just assumed (overtime was where) that game was headed."

Instead, the Bobcats made the mistake heard 'round Blakely.

Deep in their own territory with 7.3 ticks left, and the game tied 7-7, Early County quarterback T.J. Allen -- rather than take a knee and head to extra-time -- had a play called in from the sideline to try a swing pass out in the flat.

The result was Bearcats linebacker Brandon Lindsey picking off the pass and taking it 35 yards to the house for the game-winning score.

So why gamble at that juncture? Pilcher says it's not his place to judge why Bobcats coach Trey Woolf and his coaching staff made the call.

"I understand what he was doing: His kids were wore out and he was thinking that he might be able to get the ball to his best athlete, No. 25 (Camery Flowers) -- who had a really good game -- and take one final shot and see what happened," Pilcher said. "I didn't talk to Trey afterward about the call -- because that's his call. I will never second-guess a coach when he tries to make something happen with a big play (and it goes wrong). He had a bunch of kids playing both ways and they were trying to (end the game). Early played really tough, they really did. All the credit to their kids."

Attempts to reach Woolf on Saturday were unsuccessful.

Next up for Bainbridge is a huge game against Cairo at home Friday and Pilcher knows you can count on the Syrupmakers to make the Bearcats pay for every mistake they make.

"It's a big game, no doubt," he said. "It's going to be quite a challenge."

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MONROE, TERRELL REFLECT ON OPENER:

Terrell County outrushed Monroe 128 to 96, excluding the 60-plus yards the Greenwave lost on botched punts, in the Tornadoes' 32-12 win Friday in Dawson.

Monroe head coach Charles Truitt fed the ball to Herald Dynamite Dozen running back Dominique Reid 19 times, but he only managed 44 yards rushing. With a solid offensive line led by Georgia Tech signee Bryan Chamberlain, Truitt said he expects Reid's numbers to improve, especially if junior running back Brandon Gibson, who ran five times for 19 yards, emerges.

"We feel Reid is a big time runner for us," Truitt said. "If they concentrate on one guy, we've got to have another."

Neither team's special teams were impressive in the opener. Monroe failed on three extra point attempts and punted three times for an average of 24 points. Terrell County mishandled an extra point snap and missed another, as well as the three botched punt snaps that allowed Monroe to easily win the field position game.

The Greenwave will travel to face an angry Seminole County team, which lost its opener to Wesleyan, Friday in an early Region 1-A game

that will have late-season

implications. Seminole will likely be without start running back Chris Brown, who is expected to be out indefinitely after being injured in the preseason.

"We've got to get better effort," Terrell County head coach William Huff said.

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LEE COUNTY LEERY OVER ECKLES' INJURY:

Trojans coach Dean Fabrizio knows that RB Denzel Eckles is one of the toughest players on his entire roster.

But after Eckles suffered a jarring hit Friday night during Lee's 49-8 win against Baconton in the first quarter -- which left the RB coughing up blood on the sideline and eventually sent him to the emergency room at Phoebe Putney -- Fabrizio is now taking a wait-and-see approach.

"Right now, (his diagnosis) looks pretty positive -- they thought he may have punctured a lung, but that wasn't it -- but we're going to be very cautious with him and wait and see what the doctors say Monday," Fabrizio said. "The funny thing is, he was never really in any pain. He just came off the field and probably would've gone back in if we'd let him.

"But when a kid starts coughing up blood, you know it's serious."

Eckles took a helmet below the shoulder pads on a routine, 12-yard run up the middle in what Fabrizio called a "freak" hit that looked completely normal.

"No one of the team

or the coaches knew what happened until someone came up and told me his dad was taking him to the hospital as a precaution," Fabrizio said. "(There was no big scene or anything), he just kind of slipped out and we went back to the game and awaited word."

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GOOD AND BAD:

Fabrizio said he was impressed with QB Justin Walker (three TD passes) and his receivers (James Terrell, Sanford Seay, TJ Thomas, Andrew Stroud, Drew Carr and Josh Cabrera), but was thoroughly unimpressed by the number of penalties his team amassed.

"Over 150 yards? That's ridiculous," Fabrizio said. "We have to clean that up. Baconton's touchdown came after we had three 15-yarders on one series. We can't do that."

Speaking of Baconton, Fabrizio is pulling for the first-year Blazers.

"I was impressed. They didn't quit," he said. "And they've already shown improvement from Week 1. They had eight turnovers vs. Pelham and only one vs. us."

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Herald sports editor Danny Aller and staff writers Mike Phillips and Matt Stewart contributed to this report