LEESBURG -- Under second-year coach Dean Fabrizio, the goal at Lee County nowadays is to take the program to a level far beyond where it's ever been.
But if it means rushing a star player back to help reach that goal, Fabrizio will take health over 'Ws' every single time.
Such is the case with RB Denzel Eckles, who, according to Fabrizio on Wednesday, was given a clean bill of health during his doctor's visit Monday. This, after Eckles took a hard hit during Friday's opener against Baconton and subsequently was rushed to the hospital.
"He's been cleared to go, and we'll see how he feels (today), but he's been held out of contact all this week simply as a precaution (for his well-being)," the coach said. "I'll tell you what: He feels fine. He said he was fine. Everything seems fine. But we're just going to wait until (today), talk to our trainers and make a decision.
"We'd love to have him back, but we're being very cautious."
If Eckles can't go Friday during Lee's game against Class AA Crawford County, the Trojans will miss a guy who -- combined -- racked up a little more than 1,000 yards rushing and receiving last season.
Eckles had one carry for 12 yards in the opener last week against Baconton, but after going down on the play, he went to the sideline, proceeded to cough up blood and then was quickly ushered off to Phoebe Putney.
Also of note on the injury report for the Trojans is the progress of their leading tackler last season -- as just a sophomore -- Thomas Wright. Wright tore his MCL in the preseason, and Fabrizio said Wednesday he hopes to have Wright back in "a few weeks."
And they may miss him Friday against Crawford -- a team the Trojans are complete polar opposites of.
"You could say that," laughed Fabrizio. "They run the Wing-T, have three good running backs and keep it on the ground. We like to spread it out -- and live on the edge a little."
PATS' LEWIS DONE FOR SEASON?:
The news is not looking promising at Westover's camp, where it appears Division I prospect and Herald Dynamite Dozen selection Chuck Lewis may be out for the season.
Lewis had an MRI on Monday on his shoulder that was injured during the Patriots' season-opening loss to Mitchell County, 26-14, last Friday.
But first-year Westover coach Octavia Jones isn't holding his breath -- for more reasons than one.
"Well, it's an injury that he could've had surgery for over the summer but he decided to go ahead and try to play. And even if he did have it (over the summer), he would've been out for the year. So he gave (playing this year) a shot instead," Jones said. "We're just waiting on the results, but right now it's highly likely we're not going to have him for the rest of the season."
The other factor besides the MRI result is Lewis' family, Jones said. Lewis' father wants his son to have the surgery, according to Jones, and begin looking ahead to college -- schools like Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn, which have all expressed interest. Jones said he's just staying out of the way of the decision right now and letting the Lewis family weigh the options once the MRI result comes on.
"Of course, Chuck wants to play, but I'm not going to advise or persuade him one way or the other because I don't like to get involved in household decisions," Jones said of the injury to Lewis' shoulder, which continues to pop out of its socket during contact. "Because even if we get the results back and (the doctors say), 'Look, surgery isn't needed and won't correct the problem, this is something you'll have forever, go ahead and play,' I still wouldn't feel comfortable.
"I mean, we're talking about a situation where I don't want (him playing this season) if it's going to affect his future. We don't want that football future to be over (before it really ever starts)."
BOBCATS' CAMERY RUNNING LIKE A JAGUAR:
Early County might be off to an 0-1 start after losing a heartbreaker to Bainbridge in the final seconds last Friday, but if running back Camery Flowers has anything to say about it, the Bobcats won't be winless for long.
Flowers did everything but make the team's Gatorade last Friday in Early's 14-7 loss, rushing 34 times for 160 yards. And Friday, coach Trey Woolf expects him to be a big factor once again against Miller County in a matchup that's become one of Southwest Georgia's most exciting rivalries.
"Camery is the same good, solid running back as last year, only a little stronger and a little bigger," Woolf said Wednesday. "I wouldn't say he was dominant (against Bainbridge) because we're kind of inexperienced up front, but when we got him a crease, he found it. He really ran hard all night."
Bearcats coach Ed Pilcher noticed, making it a point to mention Flowers when asked over the weekend about what stood out to him about both teams in the win.
"That guy's impressive," Pilcher said of Flowers. "He's their best athlete."
Flowers rushed for a little more than 500 yards last year and scored four times, although he never found the end zone in a sloppy game Friday (12 turnovers, six by each team) that saw Bearcats linebacker Brandon Linzy pick off an Early pass with 7.3 seconds left and return it 35 yards to win the game.
Woolf said the Class AA Bobcats have shaken that disappointment off with one simple mantra the coaches have been preaching since preseason camp about opening up against a bigger, Class AAAA opponent.
"We had some chances to put it away and we didn't and, sure, the kids were disappointed," Woolf said. "But I told them (over and over) before that game that no matter whether we won or lost, we would build on it and get better. And that's what we're doing this week."
The Bobcats will host a Pirates team also looking for its first win after falling to Class A state No. 1 Wilcox County in their opener.
And Woolf knows, something's gotta give.
"It's been a pretty long, exciting and competitive rivalry between (Miller and Early)," Woolf said. "I mean, we're right next to each other, and they've won their share, and we've won ours. It should be another good game."
KEEPING TABS ON TABB:
SGA's do-everything running back/defensive back Taylor Tabb, The Herald's only private-school Dynamite Dozen selection this season, is undoubtedly one of the best players in all of GISA, no matter the class.
But Warriors coach David Bell took his praise of Tabb one step further Wednesday.
"I would say, honestly, he's the best safety in South Georgia -- GHSA or GISA," Bell boasted. "He's a physical kid who, I think, could start for any team in this area in their secondary. He's just that good."
Tabb rushed for more than 100 yards and one TD in the loss to Westwood in SGA's opener last Thursday -- and then went on defense and racked up 12 tackles. Unfortunately, three turnovers inside the 20-yard line cost the Warriors dearly as they fell to the smaller, Class A Wildcats, 19-18.
"If we hang on to the ball and do what we're supposed to, that's a different game," Bell said. "Taylor played great though; averaged 6 or 7 yards a carry and led us on defense all night."
But last Thursday wasn't the first time this season Tabb's skills were on display -- and stood out to a coach. Two weeks ago, SGA opened earlier than everyone else in Macon at Tattnall Square in a non-region game that was called at halftime due to lightning. But after it was over,
Bell said renowned Trojans coach Barney Hester approached him and shared his thoughts on Tabb.
"(Barney) told me that of all the kids he's seen, outside of his (highly recruited) running back Marquez Lemon, Taylor might the best player in GISA," Bell said. "He also saw Taylor on film last year. (But during our game), he said he couldn't believe how physical he was."
Tabb, a senior who wants to both play football and go to medical school when he graduates, had a great junior year with 590 rushing yards, 183 receiving and was second on the team in TDs behind SGA's 2,000-yard rusher Nile Knapp. On defense, Tabb -- who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs in at 190 -- was even better, recording 72 tackles and intercepting four passes.
"He's valuable to us on offense, but he's the best defensive player I've ever coached," Bell said. "I think he has a real chance to play at the next level."
Bell just hopes Tabb takes it to another level Friday when SGA travels to face another Class A school, Terrell Academy -- the two-time defending state champ.
INTERESTING FACT ABOUT THE LAST TIME ALBANY BEAT DOUGHERTY:
Albany High's opening-night, 16-14 victory against Dougherty this past Saturday not only marked the first time the Indians had beaten Dougherty in 22 years, but Albany head coach Felton Williams was a big part of both wins.
Williams won his first game as the head coach of the Indians -- he was the interim head coach last season -- and actually scored his first high school touchdown in the previous win against Dougherty in 1988.
"I was a junior and a backup quarterback and backup wide receiver,'' Williams said Wednesday. "It was 1988. I got in the game and scored a touchdown.''