While parts of the state may not know what they're missing when it comes to great, action-packed football in Southwest Georgia every Friday night, the tremendous pool of talent doesn't escape us here at The Herald.
And while we know the 2010 prep football season is half over, it's never too late to give even more recognition to our local stars than ever before.
That's why -- starting today -- The Herald's sports staff will begin a new feature called "The Albany Herald Gridiron Player of the Week."
So how does it differ from how we used to do it? It's simple: Instead of the sports staff sifting through Friday's outstanding stats and pulling out our hair as we try to pick just one performance from Friday night in our weekly high school football "Prep Peek" released every Tuesday, we're now not only picking four candidates -- we're also leaving the decision up to you, our faithful and loyal readers, to decide the winner.
All you have to do is log onto albanyherald.com each Monday following Friday night's action, and choose who you think should win.
To cast your vote, select the player of your choice in the dropdown list below the player descriptions. Ballots will be up by 8 a.m. every Monday during the season and voting continues through 5 p.m. on Thursdays. We'll announce the winner online and in the print edition of The Herald every Friday.
However, unfortunately for those with teams rare games on Saturday nights, outstanding performances from those contests will only be eligible for the follow week's "Gridiron" honor.
FROM FUTBOL TO FOOTBALL: It didn't take a detective or a scouting party, but Worth County's football program has finally found a kicker.
The Rams thought they had solved their kicking problems at the beginning of the season by using an old-fashioned flat-based shoe to kick extra points. But when a trio of kickers kept struggling Worth coach Scotty Ward finally went to the one place he was sure he could find some help: The Worth County boys soccer team.
That's where he corralled freshman Aaron Sinclair last week. It took some time to make sure he was eligible and Sinclair, who had never been on a football field, had only five days of practice before suiting up for real on Friday night against Westover.
It was the first football game of his life.
You couldn't tell. Sinclair booted four extra points in Worth's 28-15 win against Westover, and all of the kicks had more than a little to spare. The Worth coaches say he kicks 50 yarders in practice.
"Looks like we've solved the problem,'' Ward said after the game.
GOING FOR THE CYCLE: Juwan Jones has scored a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a punt return touchdown this year. Actually he's got multiple scores in each category.
Mind you, he's one of the best defensive ends in Class A, if not the entire state. The only thing left for Smiley Jones is a defensive score.
"If we can get him to scoop a fumble and run it back that would be great," Miller County head coach Frank Killingsworth said after the Pirates' 21-0 win over Pelham Friday.
Jones had nine tackles (five for loss unofficially) and a sack, as well as several quarterback pressures. With Jarrett Rahymes at the other defensive end spot, teams can't double team both, which has made for a long night for opposing offenses.
Pelham couldn't do much offensively Friday, but the second-half defense kept the Hornets in the game. Aside from Jones' 59-yard touchdown run late, his second rushing touchdown on two carries this season, Pelham held Miller County to just 33 yards of offense in the final two quarters. The Hornets actually outgained the Pirates 100-33 in the second half.
A DEVINE PLAN: Americus-Sumter had a defensive plan Saturday in its 14-6 win over Monroe and it didn't exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out. Slow down Devine Noel, slow down Monroe.
"If we shut down No. 7 (Noel), if we contain him, we pretty much destroy their offense," Panthers' senior defensive tackle Pat Fields said.
Americus didn't shut down Noel -- he threw for 151 yards and ran for 73 -- but they did contain him, especially in the second half when it counted most. Noel was held to just 16 yards rushing and 51 yards passing in the final two quarters.
"I told the coaches at the half, 'We don't need to panic,'" said Panthers' first-year head coach Michael Pollock, whose team trailed 6-0 headed into the fourth quarter. "I felt like the second half we would start to wear on (Monroe)."
There were a combined 15 punts in the game. Americus had eight, Monroe seven.
Monroe had six penalties for 60 yards.
The Tornadoes had two touchdowns called back due to penalties, and both drives ended in zero points. Johntavious Strum scored on a 14-yard pass late in the second quarter, but a penalty on the play backed them up to the 8 and then an intentional grounding call killed the drive.
The Tornadoes scored again in the fourth quarter with less than 30 seconds to play on a Terevious Hudson TD catch, but another penalty backed them up and forced a 4th-and-12 that resulted in a sack.
"We had opportunities to win the game," Monroe head coach Charles Truitt said. "(Critical penalties are) the same thing we've been dealing with all year."
Monroe junior running back Brandon Gordon got the start over Dominique Reid and ran for 14 yards on four carries.
Reid, a Herald Dynamite Dozen selection, ran five times for six yards and caught one pass for two yards.
TRYING TO GO DEEP: Calhoun County only has 500 students from 6th to 12th grade, so it's no surprise the football is lacking in the numbers department.
Because of that, the Cougars inevitably struggle on the field if someone gets injured or tired late in the game, as there aren't enough quality players to back up the starters.
There was no better example of that fact than on Friday, when the Cougars (2-3, 1-2) dropped a game to Terrell County, 48-22, after the Greenwave (2-4, 1-2) went on a big fourth-quarter surge after only leading 26-22 earlier in the game.
Calhoun coach John Williams said the only way his team is going to fix its problem is by increasing the depth -- no matter how long it takes.
"The year's going to be difficult," Williams said. "We've been working all year on trying to increase our depth, and right now (it's) pretty shallow.
"We're going to (have to) increase the number of guys that we're playing somehow to give some guys some rest."
The Cougars have only three seniors on the team.
Herald staff writers Daniel Kay, Mike Phillips and Matt Stewart contributed to this report.