After starting the season 11-0, the South Georgia Noles lose their second-round playoff game Saturday to the Henry County Horsemen.
ALBANY -- Life is pretty good right now for the South Georgia Noles (10-0), who went undefeated in the regular season, outscored opponents 388-74 and just got fitted for brand new rings engraved with "Southeastern Division Champions."
"We got one ring out of the way, and now we have five games to go to get the next ring," said Ivory "Tricky" Williams, who coaches the Noles, a semi-pro football team in the Gridiron Developmental Football League with a roster full of former high school and college players from the Albany area.
That "next ring" Williams is referring to would be for the GDFL National Championship, and the Noles' quest for that title starts today in Dawson at 7 p.m. in the first round of the playoffs.
The Noles, who are ranked sixth in the nation, are seeded second in the Xtreme Conference and will play the Georgia Jets today at tonight at Terrell County High School. The Jets finished the season with a 6-1 record and are ranked 13th.
The only team to beat the Jets was the Henry County (Ga.) Horsemen, who have the No. 1 seed in the Xtreme Conference and are ranked fourth in the league.
Want To Go?
WHO: Georgia Jets at South Georgia Noles.
WHAT: GDFL first-round playoff game.
WHEN: 7 p.m. today.
"I am kind of nervous right now, but I will put our defense up against anybody," Williams said. "The Jets' quarterback played in the NFL, and they have a shifty running back. If we can contain those two, we can handle everything else. They are a good team and well coached, but I would put my coaching staff and players up against anybody in the country right now."
And Williams' confidence in his defense is well founded. In the last six games, the Noles have outscored opponents 205-11, including last Saturday's 10-8 win against the Jefferson County Warriors that secured a division championship.
"Our defense is very good," said Noles quarterback Marcus Brooks, a Macon native who played for Fort Valley State and Shaw University (N.C.). "We have faith in our defense that they will do their job every play.
"We know our defense is going to keep it close for us. They will keep them out of the end zone. My goal as the quarterback is to drive the ball down the field and keep the defense from being put in bad positions."
With 1,592 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and just nine interceptions this season, Brooks has been living up to his end of the bargain. His offense has scored 30 or more points in all but two games and is four wins away from playing for a GDFL championship in Atlanta on Oct. 2. The championship game, which will pit the Xtreme Conference champ against the Impact Conference champ.
"Being a first-year team, we are excited with how this year went. But we know we aren't finished yet. We are trying to be the first first-year team to win a national championship," said Brooks, who has completed passes to nine different receivers this season. "It's going to take dedication, sacrifice and unity. We have the talent. We just have to come together and play as one team."
And that's "one team" stocked full of talented players, including receiving leader and Albany native Dontarrius Thomas (298 receiving yards, seven TD) and rushing leader and Tift County grad Lanarius McKinley (442 rushing yards, eight TD).
The Noles' defensive leaders in the secondary have been former Dougherty and Fort Valley State's Courtney Love and Early County grad Elbert Lee, who each have seven interceptions.
Up front, the defense is anchored by Westover alum Michael Anderson, Monroe's Justin Smith, Bainbridge's Brian Hughes and Colquitt County's James Trimble.
Five South Georgia players -- Lee, Hudson, Albany High grad Kenny Jordan, Monroe grad Chavius Jackson and Terrell County grad Dontell Glover -- have received scholarships from colleges because of exposure they received from being on the Noles.
Near the beginning of the season, Williams told The Herald that exposing players to colleges and professional teams was the ultimate goal of the first-year program.
"Of course, we want to win a championship, but our championship is to get these guys signed into a junior college or get them into an arena league by the end of the season," Williams told The Herald in July. "When we see guys do that, we have done our job."