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PREP FOOTBALL PREDICTION COLUMN: Playoffs start tonight, Monroe

Herald prep football beat writer Mike Phillips

Herald prep football beat writer Mike Phillips

I've never been a big fan of the cliche, "backs against the wall.'' Shouldn't it be in the corner, or down in the well, or something worse than merely standing against the wall?

Guess it would be pretty bad if you were up against the wall, facing a firing squad.

That's where Monroe is tonight. Pick the cliche: Backs against the wall, cornered, looking for a life raft.

It's more like the wall has fallen on the Tornadoes, who somehow must find a way to lift themselves up, toss the wall off their backs and start walking away from the wall and toward the playoffs.

Monroe doesn't just need to beat Crisp County tonight at Hugh Mills, the Tornadoes need to win their last three games to even have a chance to reach the playoffs.

Let me be the first to say, yes, they can do it. Sure they can. Just watch them, and check back here in three weeks.

I've got news for the Tornadoes, though. You're in the playoffs right now.

I'm serious.

Every game is a playoff game, starting tonight. You win, you've got a chance at the postseason. You win next week, you still have a chance. You run the table, you're not only in the playoffs, but in with enough momentum to make this one of those magical seasons kids never forget.

You lose tonight, no postseason.

It's sudden life every time you walk on the field. You don't need a life raft, you need to beat somebody. Forget about how you got here.

Forget those closes losses, or those missed plays. Forget who didn't do this and didn't do that. Don't point the finger at anyone, and don't look back.

Go into this game just like it was a playoff game. It's your season, Monroe. It's right in front of you. Don't just reach out for it -- grab it! Snatch this season and make it yours. It belongs to you. All you have to do is claim it.

And it starts tonight against Crisp.

I'm not just picking Monroe to win tonight. I'm picking Monroe to run the table and win the last three games, and that means beating Dougherty and Westover after tonight.

See ya in the playoffs, Monroe.

PREDICTION: Monroe 26, Crisp County 20.

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TCC AT LEE COUNTY:

Two Top 10 teams within three weeks? Who made this schedule, one of those Lee haters who leaves those childish online comments about the Trojans?

This is the toughest region in Georgia, and Lee is stuck with playing No. 1 Northside and No. 10 (I voted Thomas Country Central No. 5 this week) TCC in a three-week stretch.

TCC's defense will be better than the one Northside brought to Leesburg two weeks ago, but the Lee County kids might not have those opening-night jitters again. The atmosphere is going to be about the same -- electric. Expect a packed house again, but don't expect the same start from the Trojans, who dropped passes and looked a little out of sync early against Northside.

Expect TCC to use the same strategy Northside used: a jailbreak pass rush led by the best defensive end this side of the SEC. That's Ray Drew, the No. 1 recruited player in Georgia and regarded as the 18th best prospect in the nation.

If Lee has any hope of winning, QB Justin Walker, the leading quarterback in the state, has to have a big night (he always does) and that means he has to have time. He didn't have any time against Northside.

Speaking of time, the Trojans need to speed everything up. That's when they're at their best, running a no-huddle offense with Walker slinging the ball all over the field.

This one is simple: The Trojans' offensive line has to do a better job of protecting Walker, and somebody has to make some big plays for Lee. That didn't happen against Northside, and if it doesn't happen tonight,

Lee will go down again.

The guess here is everyone plays a little better tonight, and Sanford Seay and James Terrell come up with a few more catches to keep the chains moving.

This one could go down to the wire, so get there early and plan on being there for a wild finish.

PREDICTION: Lee County 28, TCC 27.

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MILLER COUNTY AT RANDOLPH-CLAY:

It's going to come down to just how healthy R-C's Johnny Foster and Cardaryle Curry are tonight, and how much they can run away from Juwan Jones. Miller's T.T. Barber is coming off a monster 255-yard night against Calhoun.

That scoreboard is going to light up tonight. Lots of points, lots of big runs, lots of drama. R-C has dropped two in a row and needs this one to get back into the playoff picture, and the Red Devils are at home.

This one is just about as even as it gets. Tim Stringer may be the difference. He punts, kicks off and kicks extra points for Randolph-Clay. He also plays tight end and defensive end. If Stringer makes more than one big play -- and the guess here is that he will -- then Randolph-Clay wins.

PREDICTION: Randolph-Clay 42, Miller County 35.

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TIFTAREA AT DEERFIELD WINDSOR:

Now this is the way to enjoy homecoming: Stay perfect with a big win and clinch at least a first-round home game in the playoffs. That's what happens tonight. The Knights go to 8-0 and they have gotten here with style and class, mixed talent with heart and some savvy coaching. And they have made it look easy.

There's not a program in the country that could lose a kid like Tony Zenon and not drop off the next season. But DWS might even be better. Yep, that's what I said. Nothing against Zenon, but instead of worrying about replacing the superstar with another superstar, they all jumped in and everybody stepped up. It's amazing what can happen when kids do that.

It's been an amazing season at DWS.

Enjoy the ride, Knights -- and enjoy homecoming.

PREDICTION: DWS 42, Tiftarea 14.

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TERRELL ACADEMY AT WINDSOR:

TAE has slowly come back from that slow start and is unbeaten in GISA's Region 2-A race. And a win tonight against a stubborn, tough, ball-controlling Windsor team sets up a first-place showdown next Friday in Dawson against Westwood.

They're already talking about that game in Dawson, where they played and won the state title game last year. The Eagles want to get back, and they will keep the first-place date with the Westwood Wonders, who will stay perfect with a big win against Crisp Academy tonight.

PREDICTION: Terrell Academy 21, Windsor 14.