Herald prep football beat writer Mike Phillips
Just for the record, I always vote Cairo the No.1 team in the GSWA State Poll every week. It's because it's hard for me to believe the Syrupmakers, who brought back a truckload of players from last year's team that went to the third round of the playoffs, aren't the best AAA team in Georgia.
Talk to anyone, and they will tell you about all that tradition down in Cairo.
"I've known about the Syrupmakers since I was growing up,'' said Americus-Sumter coach Michael Pollock, whose team meets Cairo tonight for the Region 1-AAA title. "I played against them every year when I was at Mitchell-Baker. They have great tradition. They grow up in Cairo wanting to be a Syrupmaker. They grow up hearing about the Syrupmakers, and they expect to win when they get there.''
And this year's Cairo team is, once again, loaded with talent and speed.
"They are very well-coached and they play with a lot of discipline,'' Pollock said. "When they walk out to the field, they all look about the same size, and they are all fast. This year's Cairo team is the fastest team I've seen in a long time. Just look at the numbers on the defensive line. They have low numbers, like running backs. They're middle linebacker is their third tailback. They're all fast.''
You can't teach speed, but you can instill pride and tradition in a program, and you can definitely teach discipline -- and Cairo has it all. It's hard for me to think the Syrupmakers (you gotta love that name) won't win the state title.
That's why I'm picking them against an Americus-Sumter team that has been one of the best stories in this part of the state.
The Panthers, who have overcome so much this season to fly into the playoffs, may not be able to overcome Cairo tonight, but this game will be closer than expected, and the guess here is Americus-Sumter wins next week in the playoffs.
PREDICTION: Cairo 14, Americus-Sumter 7.
MONROE VS. WESTOVER:
OK, no one is headed for the playoffs in this hard-luck season for Albany's teams. But this game means a lot, because the winner will have bragging rights to the city championship. That means a lot more than you think.
And it's Monroe and Westover. You can almost hear the basketballs bouncing in the gyms already, and Monroe and Westover are going to stage another season-long epic rivalry in hoops (by the way ... lets put those games at Darton, where they belong), so there's plenty at stake.
The guess here is that Monroe just has more offense than Westover, and that will be the difference when they meet at Hugh Mills on Saturday night. They tell me it's going to be cold, but no ones going to feel colder than the loser of this one.
I don't have to pick this game. I've already picked it. Three weeks ago, I said Monroe would run the table and reach the playoffs. If not for a bitter, one-point loss to Crisp, the Tornadoes would be in that spot tonight.
But it has been a hard, hard, hard luck season in Albany.
PREDICTION: Monroe 21, Westover 14.
SEMINOLE COUNTY at RANDOLPH-CLAY:
Here are a couple of teams going in opposite directions. After an inspiring start, R-C just ran into too many injuries to stay unbeaten and has fallen all the way out of the playoff picture. Seminole has not only recovered from a controversial decision that cost the Indians a forfeit against first-place Mitchell, but the Indians have grown as a team.
I'm just going to say it: Dee Virgin is a man. At least he acted like one, and stood up to what might have crushed some other kids. Virgin was the one in the heat of the altercation against Daleville that ultimately resulted in the forfeit. He went to his teammates and apologized. He took it like a man. And guess what.? The kids at Seminole not only forgave him, they grew closer because of the tough spot they were in, and haven't lost a game since. They now look like one of the top Class
A teams in Georgia.
And with the return of Chris Brown, who sat out the season with a dislocated hip after gaining 1,400 yards last year, I'm wondering just how far Alan Ingram's kids can go. They've already come further than most programs ever come, because they've grown up so much this season. Give Ingram and his coaches a lot of credit for that, and watch out for Seminole in the playoffs.
PREDICTION: Seminole 35, R-C 21.
DEERFIELD at SOUTHLAND:
It's a big rivalry, but the game won't be close. DWS will put the final touch on a perfect 10-0 season and go into the playoffs with some momentum. I hate to say this about Southland, but the Raiders might not score in this one. The Deerfield defense is just that good. It's a little cold for ice cream but Allen Lowe, who likes to treat his team to ice cream when the Knights get a shutout, may be calling the Good Humor man next week. Make mine, hot chocolate.
PREDICTION: Deerfield 24, Southland 0.
BROOKWOOD AT SOUTHWEST GEORGIA ACADEMY:
This is an easy one. Just wanted to spend a minute talking about the remarkable job David Bell has done this year. After a last-second loss to the Westwood Wonders on opening night, the Warriors have ripped off eight wins in a row. They make it nine tonight and enter the GISA AA playoffs with a chance to win it all. Taylor Tabb and his cousin Troupe Tabb and QB Dillon Driver are just three reasons why this team has played so well this season. You can bet there will be a group hug after tonight. Every kid on this team deserves it. And they're just getting started.
Prediction: SGA 40, Brookwood 7.
TERRELL ACADEMY at RANDOLPH SOUTHERN:
The winner gets the No. 2 seed behind unbeaten Westwood and a home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but even without all of that hanging in the balance, this game would still mean a lot. This is one of those down-home rivalries that's just fun to watch.
TAE is coming off a loss to Westwood, but the Eagles are running the ball and the clock as well as just about anyone right now. They've won the last two GISA Class A state titles, and coach Bill Murdock will have his team ready for another postseason. It starts tonight. Give the edge to TAE.
PREDICTION: Terrell Academy 21, Randolph Southern 14.
TERRELL COUNTY at MITCHELL COUNTY:
The Eagles look better every week, and this is Week 11. They'll be at home to celebrate a 9-1 season because they will edge a Terrell County team that had to hustle and come back from a slow start to reach the playoffs. The Greenwave is in the postseason, win or lose, and that's what counts the most in Dawson.
PREDICTION: Mitchell 35, Terrell County 20