CAMILLA -- The Mitchell County football team is taking a bit of a vacation this week.
But it's not by choice.
It's no secret by now that the Eagles won't play Friday night in their highly anticipated Region 1-A showdown with Seminole County, which had to forfeit the game after the Indians had all but nine players suspended for one game by the GHSA this week in the aftermath of a benches-clearing brawl against non-conference opponent Daleville (Ala.) High School last Friday.
And while, on paper, it goes down as a win for Mitchell in its tightly contested region, Eagles coach Dondrial Pinkins had one thought Wednesday when asked how he felt about the bizarre scenario.
"We'd rather play. That's for sure," he said. "But since we can't, the message all this week to the kids has been, 'Look, let's still go out and compete hard in practice against each other like we are still going to play and just try to stay focused.'
"We've got Miller (County) next week, so we'll just use this week to strive to get better."
But Pinkins is slightly worried about too much down time.
After all, having an extra bye week doesn't do much to keep the competitive juices flowing in Camilla, especially considering the Eagles (4-1, 2-0) just had a bye two weeks ago, then routed Stewart County, 50-6, in a cakewalk last week during a game in which most of the Mitchell starters didn't even see the field in the second half.
"Our kids were definitely looking forward to (Friday's) game," Pinkins said. "Especially since the last time we played a really tough team in Thomsville (on Sept. 10), we had an off night (and lost badly, 44-6). I think our guys wanted the chance to go out and show this is a different team (since that loss) -- and do it against a good team like Seminole."
Pinkins added that he'd been in close contact with Seminole coach Alan Ingram in the days after the fight, and that their initial talks made him feel like the game would still be played.
"We talked Saturday morning right after it happened, and he didn't expect to have as many guys (suspended) as he did," Pinkins said. "Then he called me Monday and told me, unfortunately, they had to forfeit."
There was, however, a silver lining in the dark cloud for all those affected, Pinkins said.
"It's a valuable lesson for everyone: us, Seminole -- really anyone," the coach said. "And that's to be good sports every game, win or lose. Hopefully that will never happen to us, and I think Seminole's learned its lesson and it won't ever happen to them again. (In light of this), showing good sportsmanship is something we've stressed to the kids all week because this is a good example of what can happen if you don't."
As for what Pinkins and his players plan to do with their free Friday night?
That's easy, the coach said.
"I'll be going to Pelham to watch (the Hornets) play Miller, and I've encouraged all of my guys to do the same," he said. "That's the best way we can prepare at this point."
Miller, however, may be the team that needs to do the most scouting for the Oct. 9 showdown in Colquitt. That's because -- other than the "off night" against Thomasville Pinkins eluded to -- Mitchell has been fairly dominant this year since dropping down from Class AA, outscoring opponents on offense in their three wins (vs. Westover, Dougherty and Stewart) by a combined 94-26.
That includes last week's huge performance by receiver and Georgia commit Justin Scott, who returned a punt for a TD and caught a score from quarterback Cedrick Spooner. Spooner also threw another touchdown to Jaylin Mathis and ran one in himself.
Of course, the Eagles' defense is no slouch either, scoring twice in the win vs. Stewart.
"We looked like a different team last week, and that's why it was unfortunate that this game had to be canceled," Pinkins added. "Like I said, win or lose (against Seminole), we'd of rather played."
DALEVILLE DEALT WITH BY AHSAA:
Don't worry, Seminole ... you weren't the only ones punished harshly for what happened last Friday in Donalsonville.
After reviewing the tape of the brawl between the two teams, the Alabama High School Athletic Association handed down its punishment to Daleville on Wednesday, suspending 11 of its players for two games, fining the school $2,500 and putting it on probation. The probation, however, will only affect Daleville if it has another incident this season like the one that happened against Seminole, and thus could bar the Warhawks from postseason play.
"Daleville High School cooperated with the AHSAA, agree with the sanctions imposed and deeply regret that the altercation occurred," Daleville City Schools Superintendent Andy Kelley said in a press release. "Good sportsmanship is something we pride ourselves in at Daleville, and we will not allow unsportsmanlike conduct to go unpunished. This was an unfortunate event for both schools, and we sincerely hope that the young men involved will learn from their mistakes."
According to Ingram, the incident got out of hand -- and eventually spread to the stands as fans from the schools started to fight -- when, after a bad snap on a PAT in the third quarter by the Indians, a Daleville player picked up the ball and began to run with it. Instinctively, a Seminole player tackled him -- although he didn't need to because the play was, by rule, officially dead once the PAT had failed -- and that's when all hell broke loose.
"My holder tackled him, then a Daleville player jumped on (the holder) and my holder open-handed slapped him on the helmet," Ingram told the Dothan (Ala.) Eagle on Wednesday.
The entire mess could've -- and should've -- been avoided, Ingram told The Herald last Friday just hours after the incident.
"The crazy things is that neither team (was agitated) up to that point," Ingram said. "It just kind of exploded."
The referees, who initially ejected three Indians players and four from the Warhawks, then called the game after they saw that fans were also brawling in the stands.
Kelly told The Eagle that, in his opinion, the additional fighting among spectators is what caused the game to be called with Daleville ahead, 28-13. However, Kelly added that he was pleased with how each program's coaching staff handled themselves in the heat of the moment.
"The thing that disturbed me most were the fights that occurred outside the fence," Kelley said. "That is what I believed caused officials to end the ball game. (But) I thought both coaching staffs responded in a quick manner to get things under control."
Seminole was also fined for its part in the brawl (only $500, though), and Ingram said he has already told Pinkins and Mitchell County the Indians would forgo hosting the game in Donalsonville next year, and instead play it in Camilla to help the Eagles make up for the revenue lost from having to forfeit.
THERE'S PLENTY OF 'D' AT LEE:
The Lee County offense may be getting most of the attention these days, but as the Trojans showed last week in their 31-14 win against previously unbeaten Northside, Columbus, their defense is pretty good, too.
Lee County (4-0) stopped the Patriots eight times Friday, and now have 31 stops on the season.
They've also halted opponents on third down 31 times out of 43 chances, and have forced three and outs 22 times, which is more than half of the total series the Trojans' "D" has played.
"Defensively, a lot of our guys have stepped up (this season)," head coach Dean Fabrizio said after Friday's win. "We're really proud of their efforts."
But it gets even better.
The Trojans have 255 tackles on the year (averaging just under 64 a game) and have allowed only 141.3 yards of total offense per contest, plus they have six sacks and 31 tackles for a loss as a team.
Yet, despite all the success, the defense will have to be on its toes Saturday when the team plays Houston County (4-0) in the second region game for both squads -- and first road game in 2010 for Lee.
"We have another tough region game (coming up)," Fabrizio said. "So we just have to continue to try to improve."
A MUST-WIN FOR CALHOUN, TERRELL:
Friday night's Region 1-A showdown in Edison is as big as it gets for Calhoun County (2-2, 1-1) and Terrell County (1-3, 0-2).
After all, the loser of the game will almost certainly be on the outside looking in when the postseason comes around.
And that's a fact Cougars coach John Williams has stressed to his team all week in practice.
"The kids know it, and we understand this is a game we have got to have," said Williams, whose program already has one loss in the region -- a 62-18 thrashing by Seminole County back on Sept. 17 -- and simply can't afford another. "Our thing is we just can't give up the big play. The big play has killed us all year, and we know that Terrell has some guys who can make a big play."
To keep that from happening, Williams said the Cougars are working tirelessly this week on getting pressure on the quarterback -- something they've failed to do in their two losses (vs. Lanier County and Seminole) in which they were outscored by a combined 102-32
To make matters worse, Terrell County quarterback Jerkerios Scott can pretty much do it all -- and Williams knows it.
"We've got to get to him before he gets rid of it or does something else (like run on us)," Williams said. "That's the goal, anyway."
The Greenwave, meanwhile, already have two losses in 1-A -- one to Miller and another to Seminole -- meaning a third would pretty much seal their fate as far as the playoffs are concerned.
Herald staff writer Daniel Kay contributed to this report.