Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Birth is always blissful, wonderful, magical and more, but sometimes re-birth feels just as sweet -- especially when it is long-awaited.

"This feels great, really great. It feels awesome,'' belted out Westover quarterback Justin Taylor, who was trying to find words to describe the Patriots' first victory of the season, a convincing 21-7 win against city rival Albany on Friday night at Hugh Mills Stadium.

It just wasn't the first win of the year, it was the first for Octavia Jones, who left one of Georgia's premier track & field programs and his alma mater last spring when he said goodbye to Monroe to take the football job at Westover, where the Patriots have had four winning seasons in 40 years.

Jones all but vowed to change that, and just about everyone at Westover believes in time that he will. He got No. 1 on Friday, and instead of being soaked in Gatorade, his kids showered him with praise.

"This one is for our coach,'' shouted a pack of Westover players after the game.

"He deserves it,'' added tailback Steve Bowens, who rushed for 140 yards and scored two second half touchdowns to put the game away. "He was with us when we didn't believe in ourselves, and he made us believe. He pushed us. He never gave up on us.''

Taylor went on step further.

"This was for our coach,'' he said. "This is the beginning of a new era.''

Taylor meant it, and Westover acted like it. Bowens and Westover's offensive line took over in the second half. Bowens had 10 yards at halftime, and Westover was clinging to a 9-7 lead.

"I told them at halftime that all the conditioning that we have done was going to pay off in the second half,'' Jones said. "I told (two-way lineman) Sam Newman to go out there and have fun. I told them the second half was going to be ours.''

It was.

Westover made the statement of the night with an 11-play, 87-yard drive that ate up 5:04 off the clock and ended with Bowens darting into the end zone with a 7-yard TD run to lift Westover to a 15-7 lead. The extra point was blocked, leaving the door open for Albany, but Westover slammed it.

Westover's defense held Albany to just 60 yards all night, and just 13 in the second half, and stopped Albany's passing game with an unrelenting pass rush that sacked Emmanul Byrd five times and held him to negative yardage in the air.

Byrd threw for 131 yards last week in Albany's 16-14 win against Dougherty, but he managed to complete just two passes all night. The first went for two yards and the second was a screen that went for a five-yard loss. He finished the night completing 2-of 12 for negative three yards.

Westover didn't just win, the Patriots won going away.

"It all came down to the line of scrimmage,'' Albany coach Felton Williams said. "We didn't control the line of scrimmage. They wore us out. They whipped us up front.''

Williams was still lamenting over dropped passes that hurt his team, but gave all the credit to Westover.

"We're still dropping the ball,'' he said. "But this is truly a good check for us to show us what we have to do. Congratulations to Octavia and his program.''

That's the attitude this year with the city-rivalry teams, in part because all four coaches are Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers. After the game, both teams huddle together on the field and prayed together.

The city championship is wide open. Albany and Westover both have wins, Dougherty has a loss, and Monroe plays its first city-rivalry game next Saturday against Albany.

Right now, Westover is in first place.

"It just feels great to win,'' Jones said. "When we lost last week to Mitchell County it left a bad feeling for them, and they went out and had a great week of practice.

And even a better second half.

Westover scored early when a high snap on a punt skipped out of the end zone for a safety, and then Dalviness Greene took the ensuing free kick and returned it 65 yards for a TD. Danny Brown's PAT made it 9-0 with 6:29 left in the first quarter.

"When the ball was in the air all I was thinking about was 'don't drop it,' '' Greene said. "My team just kept throwing blocks for me. They blocked all the way.''

Albany had 44 yards of offense in the first half, but had 47 on the Indians' only scoring drive. Bryd had a 13-yard scramble, and Tyuis Smith had a 9-yard run before scoring on a 25-yard run with 9:40 left in the half. Daniel Castaneda's PAT closed to 9-7 and it stayed that way until Westover took over with the 87-yard drive in the third.

The Patriots followed that drive up with a 73-yard scoring drive, thanks to Bowens, who just kept coming at Albany all night. He gained 67 yards on four carries, including the dagger -- a 37-yard tackle-breaking run down the right side that lifted Westover to a 21-7 lead with 10:50 left in the fourth.

"The first half I was just slipping,'' Bowens said. "I was a little tense. This is a big game. But in the second half, I just felt like I had to do it.''

Westover's glad he did. Bowens finished with 140 yards on 22 carries and Taylor ran for 57 on 10. He also completed 4-of-5 passes for 36 yards -- and three of those came on the 87-yard drive.

"That was (key) drive. It really feels good to get the win,'' Jones said. "We're going to celebrate, but then we have to get right back to work. We've got Bainbridge next week.''