ALBANY -- Westover's football team has one win so far this season (against Albany High), but the Patriots picked up a big victory Tuesday when the GHSA overturned its original ruling to make one of the team's senior leaders, Trent Brown, eligible.
Brown, a 6-foot-7, 310-pound lineman who lives a few blocks from Westover, was declared ineligible at the beginning of the season because of a technicality. He attended Albany High as part of the school's magnet program as a freshman, and then left the public school system to attend Deerfield-Windsor last year before enrolling this fall at Westover for his senior year.
The GHSA has a rule that states that if a student leaves a private school and re-enters the public school system he or she must return to the original public school.
But Albany High's magnet program does not allow a student to return if he or she leaves the program, so Brown couldn't return to Albany High and was ineligible to play any sport at any other public school.
Westover applied for his eligibility and presented its case three weeks ago and was turned down. But Westover officials appealed and Tuesday the GHSA appeals board overruled the original decision and declared Brown eligible.
"He will start against Dougherty on Friday night,'' Westover coach Octavia Jones said Wednesday at practice. "We're real happy he won the appeal and they waived his migrant status. It makes us a lot tougher. He will help give us some push on his side (of the line). We have been running the ball, and if we wouldn't have gotten him back I think we would have been OK, but getting him back is like icing on the cake.''
It's a huge victory for Westover, which has seen its share of bad breaks this season. The Patriots didn't have Brown for the first four games and it appeared they lost their top player, Dynamite Dozen selection Chuck Lewis, for the season.
But Wednesday, Jones even gave Lewis' return an outside chance.
Lewis, a super-speedy defensive back who also lines up at receiver, re-injured his shoulder during the opening game, and decided to have season-ending shoulder surgery. Lewis had the surgery last Friday, and now it looks like there's a chance he might return this season.
"The doctor said he might be able to come back this year,'' Jones said. "We will have to wait and see.''
Lewis, a highly recruited D-I prospect, has seven weeks before the end of the regular season. Westover has six games left and a bye week (Oct. 8) and ends the regular season on Nov. 6 against Monroe.
THE 'WRIGHT' STUFF FOR LEE:
Lee County gets linebacker Thomas Wright back for Friday's huge Region 1-AAAA opener against Northside, Columbus. The Trojans (3-0) can use Wright -- who led the team in tackles a year ago -- because Northside also comes into the game undefeated. And the Patriots, who execute the option, love to run.
"I'm just excited to be back in there with my teammates,'' said Wright, who led Lee County last year with more than 100 tackles. "It was exciting on the sidelines watching us win, but I really wanted to be in there.''
Wright injured his left knee this summer and wasn't expected back for another two weeks, but he pushed himself during his rehabilitation.
"Being injured is a mental thing,'' said Wright, a junior. "I just stayed focused on what I needed to do to get back. I can't wait for the first game, to go out there and knock heads.''
Spoken like a true linebacker.
EVERYONE CHASING LEE:
Lee County's fast-paced, no-huddle offense leaves teams on their heels, and the Trojans know it.
"We know we are in better shape than the players on the defensive line we are going up against,'' said Dakota Wilson, who plays left tackle on the Trojans' offensive line. "We're always going 100 mph. This offense can make a star defensive end into a mediocre defensive end.''
Lee County not only lines up in a hurry-up offense, but the Trojans throw the ball all over the field, meaning defenses encounter serious trouble regrouping.
"It kills the other team,'' said right guard Carlton Thomas, who loves the high-octane approach. "We just go so fast all the time. We practice fast so we can play fast.''
MILLER'S JONES DRAWING COMPARISONS TO GRANT?:
It had to happen, and now more than ever Miller County defensive end Juwan Jones, a Herald Dynamite Dozen selection and one of the top defensive ends in Southwest Georgia, is hearing comparisons to Charles Grant, a former Georgia and Miller County defensive end who went on to have great success in the NFL.
Jones says he knows Grant, and even asked him for advice.
"When I talked to him, he told me to stay focused on my grades and everything else would take care of itself,'' Jones said.
Jones paid attention. He not only has good grades but he has already posted an SAT score good enough to qualify for a football scholarship.
"I'm not worried about (colleges) right now,'' Jones said. "I just need to play well and keep my grades up and I'm sure (Grant is right) that will take care of itself.''
ALBANY OFFENSE STRUGGLING HEADING INTO REGION OPENER VS. FITZGERALD:
Albany High has won only one game this season, but the Indians are vastly improved from last year, and have been in every game. Now they have to enter what is arguably one of -- if not the toughest -- Class AA region schedules in Georgia.
"We not only have our region opener this week, but it's against Fitzgerald, the top team in the region and maybe the top team in the state,'' said Albany High coach Felton Williams, who has turned the program around. "I just hope our first four games have prepared us for this.''
The Indians' biggest problem has been scoring in the red zone. They haven't scored three of the last six times they have been inside their opponents' 10 yard line, including twice last week against Randolph-Clay and once against Monroe two weeks ago.
They will need all the points they can muster Friday against Fitzgerald, which is ranked seventh in the state poll.
"Fitzgerald is a machine, just a machine,'' Williams said. 'They run the Wing-T. It's smash-mouth football with them. They run it right at you, three-yards and a cloud of dust. They have one school (in town) and they start running that offense in the middle school. They know how to run it. We have to find a way to slow them down. And when we get down there in the red zone, we've got to get points.''
DWS, WESTWOOD STILL NO. 1 IN GISA COACHES' POLL:
There's not much to update in the state polls this week. Deerfield-Windsor is still No. 1 in the GISA Class AAA state poll, and Westwood is the clear choice at No. 1 in the GISA Class A state poll.
Then there's the curious case of Terrell Academy, which has yet to win a game, but is ranked No. 2 in Class A. Talk about getting respect. The Eagles, the two-time defending state champs, must carry a lot of weight across Georgia considering they're 0-2-1 on the season.
Deerfield-Windsor's Banks Kinslow is the leading passer in Region 1-AAA. Kinslow is heads above everyone, completing 29 of 44 passes for 459 yards and eight TDs. DWS' Davis Moore is the leading rusher in the region. Moore, who also plays cornerback, has gained 475 yards on 58 carries and scored four TDs. Southland's Colin Holloway is the second leading rusher in the region with 324 yards on 43 carries and two TDs.
GSWA STATE POLL:
There were three Southwest Georgia teams getting votes in the GHSA poll this week. Lee County has been getting some votes for a couple of weeks in the Class AAAA state poll, and Randolph-Clay and Mitchell County both received votes in the Class A poll this week.