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SUNDAY PREP FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Greenwave get first win, lose two star players for one game

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

DAWSON -- Mark one in the win column for the Terrell County Greenwave football team.

And while you're at it, put two more marks under 'L.'

That was the case Friday night after previously winless Class A Terrell County picked up its first victory of the season with a solid, 20-6 performance against Class AA Spencer.

But the Greenwave lost two key players in that game -- not to injury -- but because they were thrown out for their parts in an altercation with players on the Spencer sideline during a punt return.

Safety/receiver Tray Stephens, a preseason Herald Dynamite Dozen selection, was tossed from the game in the second half after he was hit hard and pushed out of bounds on the Spencer sideline while returning a kick. According to Greenwave assistant coach Louis Cobb, that led to words being exchanged between both squads and eventually an altercation ensued. Stephens and teammate Dekoven Ware were primarily the ones involved in the fracas, as far as the officials saw it, and each were tossed from the game -- along with two Spencer players. That now means, per GHSA rules, both Terrell stars will miss next week's game against Miller County -- a huge Region 1-A contest the Greenwave (1-3 overall, 0-1 in region) desperately need to win if they hope to have a shot at the postseason. Terrell already dropped one region contest earlier this year to Seminole County, which beat the Greenwave on a last-second rainbow pass on fourth down with nine seconds left.

The good news is that Terrell has plenty of talent to fill in, although Ware's running ability and Stephens' knack for big, game-changing plays -- he picked off nine passes a year ago and already has two this season -- will be missed.

Jacolby Calloway, Basheer Rogers and Alvin Brown -- all of whom scored rushing TDs on Friday in Terrell's win -- will need to step up against Miller, which enters the game 1-0 in region play.

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WHAT IF FOR PANTHERS:

First-year Panthers head coach Michael Pollock sat behind his desk, drenched in sweat, late Friday after a demoralizing 23-19 loss to Houston County, which scored 17 unanswered points to win. Pollock didn't play in the game, but it was clear he'd been in a hard fought battle.

Pollock was calm and classy when he clearly could have been agitated after the Panthers gave away what they feel should have been back-to-back wins over Troup (a 17-14 loss) and Houston.

"We really feel like the last two weeks we gave the game away," he said.

Americus-Sumter (1-3) had a first-and-goal at the Houston County 3 with less than two minutes remaining and was driving for the go-ahead touchdown. From there, the play sequence went like this: Offensive offsides pushed the ball back to the 8; Thomas Haugabook run for a loss of one; and Haugabook sacked for a loss of 12 on third and goal at the 9.

On fourth-and-goal from the 21, Haugabook was pressured and had to toss the ball to tackle Kyle Champion as he was being sacked. That's not legal, although is was fun watching the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Champion rumble down inside the five before being knocked out of bounds and turning the ball over on downs.

"We've got a lot of inexperience at key positions," Pollock said. "They're kids and they're going to make mistakes."

One of the biggest mistakes actually came from the stands and nearly cost Houston County the game. Americus-Sumter faced a fourth-and-eight at the Bears' 43 on that final drive, but was awarded a first down unsportsmanlike penalty that was called against the Houston County band. The band had been warned about playing during Panthers' possessions and was flagged for continuing to play as Americus lined up for the fourth down conversion.

Americus might have been in position to kick a game-winning field goal on that late drive, but two missed extra points early in the game from one of the best kickers in Southwest Georgia, Adam Heath, proved costly.

"Very uncharacteristic," Pollock said of the misses, which sailed well over the tops of the goal posts but missed their mark. "We've still got the most faith in him in the world. He's one of the best kickers I've ever had."

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NUMBER OF THE NIGHT IN CUTHBERT:

The punter for Randolph-Clay could have taken the night off against Albany, because the Red Devils won the game, 20-6 -- and never punted once.

"We've got a punter,'' said Randolph-Clay coach Daniel McFather, who gambled four times on fourth down in the first half. "It was just one of those nights when we didn't (have) to use him.''

The Red Devils went for it on a fourth-and-one at their own 39 yard line on their first possession, and Cardaryle Curry broke away for a 61-yard TD run. There was a penalty on the play, but it was marked from the spot of the foul, and Randolph-Clay got the ball at the Albany 44. They scored six plays later on Johnny Foster's 1-yard run.

McFather gambled again on the next possession when Randolph-Clay faced a fourth-and-one at the their own 44 yard line. This time Curry broke free for a 15-yard gain to the Albany 41. Foster scored on the next play.

The Red Devils went for it again late in the second half when they faced a fourth-and-six at the Albany 36, but Albany's Roscoe Byrd came up with a big play for the Indians and stuffed the runner at the line of scrimmage to stop R-C.

Finally, Randolph-Clay went for it one last time with 14 seconds left in the half. The Red Devils faced a fourth-and-six at the Albany 48, and QB Caleb McFather hit Foster with a screen pass. Foster gained 30 yards on the final play of the half, but it was wiped out by a holding penalty.

By the way? Randolph-Clay's punter is Tim Stringer, a tight end who also kicks off for the Red Devils. He has a big leg and put a couple of kickoffs into the end zone.

"We just felt good (about going for it) on those fourth downs,'' McFather said. "We were running the ball pretty good and they were short yardage plays.''

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INDIANS ROLL THE DICE:

Randolph-Clay wasn't the only team that gambled in the game. Albany pulled off the biggest gamble of the night in the fourth quarter when Albany coach Felton Williams' squad successfully executed a fake punt play on a fourth-and-five from his own 43 yard line. Calvin Jackson took the short snap and rumbled for an 8-yard gain to keep the drive alive.

The Indians eventually drove to the R-C 8 yard line. But a penalty backed them up to the 13, and R-C's Dujaun Gilbert ended the threat with a sack on fourth down with 7:09 left in the game.

Gilbert was pretty excited about the sack, and even more excited about Randolph-Clay's 3-0 start.

"Starting 3-0 feels great. It feels excellent. It feels magnificent. It feels fantastic,'' he said.

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BIG BYRD?:

Albany quarterback Emmanul Byrd, a sophomore, grows a little with every game. He showed a lot of versatility against Randolph-Clay, completing 7-of-14 passes for 85 yards and he also rushed for 54 yards on 11 carries. Byrd's ability to run sparked a couple of long drives for Albany.

"I ran a little more (in this game),'' said Byrd, who seemed to take advantage of what the defense showed him. "It wasn't enough. I think we're getting better, but we have to work harder. We just have to work harder.''

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Herald sports editor Danny Aller and staff writers Mike Phillips and Matt Stewart contributed to this report.