ALBANY -- Go ahead Westover, stick out your chest and start bragging.
That's what Saturday night at Hugh Mills Stadium was all about -- about beginnings and endings, and a football program that promises to rise above its critics and doubters and emerge as a force in Southwest Georgia.
It was about bricks and a non-existed trophy (that now exists) and about a program that may have seen the first signs of light at the end of a tunnel -- staring from the other side of town.
No one knows just how far Westover's program might go in the next few years, but the Patriots made their biggest step Saturday, beating Monroe, 28-18, to claim the city title.
In Albany, it's an unofficial title -- but one that feels very official to the kids on the Northwest side of town.
"This is our playoff. This is our Georgia Dome,'' said Kenneth Townes, who caught a 15-yard touchdown pass in the opening moments of the game to set the tone for the rest of the night. "This was our championship. There was a lot of emotion in the game. This is what we've been waiting for.''
They didn't wait long. It took Westover just three plays and 42 seconds to cover 70 yards. Steve Bowens ripped off an 18-yard run, then flew past Monroe for a 37-yard run to the Tornadoes' 15 yard line on the second play of the game.
Justin Taylor hit Townes, who was wide open for the 15-yard TD and Danny Brown kicked the first of his four extra points. And just like that, Westover, which hadn't beaten Monroe since 2007, took a lead it would never relinquish.
"We felt like if we came out an hit them early that they would shut down,'' said Townes, a junior who will be back next year. "We talked about winning the city championship at the beginning of the year, and no one thought we would win it. This is the foundation, the foundation for next year.''
That foundation comes complete with a brick.
Honest. Westover coach Octavia Jones, who celebrated his own special homecoming, took a brick from Hugh Mills to symbolize what the city title means to his program.
"We're bringing the brick back to Westover, because this game is our foundation,'' said Jones, who left one of the top track programs in Georgia and his alma mater last spring when he said good-bye to Monroe to take the Westover football job. He came back to Monroe on Saturday.
"It's always sweet when you get a chance to defeat your former school and alma mater,'' Jones said. "And one of my mentors of course is (Monroe coach) Charles Truitt, who I learned so much from (when I was an assistant coach at Monroe).''
Jones, who took over a program that has had only four winning seasons in its history, talked about winning the city title back in August and his Patriots beat Albany, Dougherty and Monroe. They won only three games, but they meant a lot to Jones and his kids.
"Winning the city championship means everything,'' Jones said. "It means we have bragging rights for 365 days, and winning this is our foundation. That is the first brick to building our program. We are going to celebrate for a week, then we're going to get back to work. Our first goal was to win the city championship. Our next goal is to win a region title.''
There is no trophy for wining the city championship, but there will be one at Westover.
"There's going to be a trophy,'' Westover principal William Chunn said. "Because I'm going to buy it. It's going in our trophy case. It's going to stay there. It's a permanent trophy.''
The kids at Westover left no doubt about the outcome. They led 21-0 at halftime, and were up 28-12 when Monroe's talented freshman quarterback Charles Stafford hit Terevious Hudson with a 48-yard TD pass with 39 seconds left in the game. Stafford completed 15 of 42 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns, but he was intercepted twice, and Kerry Bryd returned one 35 yards for a TD with 10:32 left in the half to give Westover a 21-0 lead.
The Patriots (3-7) also scored on a 5-yard run by Dalviness Greene and on a 12-yard reverse by Jackie Childs, who are both sophomores. Greene and Bowens, who gained 107 yards on 15 carries, controlled the clock in the fourth quarter. Noel Devine scored on a 1-yard run for Monroe to close to 21-12 with 7:45 left, but Westover ran the clock down to 1:53 before Childs scored. The night simply belonged to Westover.
"We came out sluggish and just got in too big of a hole early,'' said Truitt, whose team finishes 4-6 and misses the playoffs. "It's been a tough season. But we are going to get this turned around. That's my job and we will be back next year. I can guarantee we will turn it around.''