Seminole County coach Alan Ingram and his players would give their right arms to play Wesleyan again after Friday's 43-40 loss. Or in Ingram's case, he'd give up some cold hard cash.
DONALSONVILLE -- Seminole County coach Alan Ingram says he would pay $10,000 to get a chance to play state-ranked Wesleyan again.
"I told my players after the game that I don't have very much money but that I would write a check for $10,000 if we could play them again,'' said Ingram, whose Indians lost, 43-40, when Wesleyan -- ranked No. 5 in the preseason GHSA poll -- scored on a 60-yard screen pass with 1:30 left in the game.
Ingram then added with a laugh: "I would write the check, and the check would bounce -- it would bounce real high. But I would love to play them again.''
So would his team.
Injuries and a suspension to Dee Virgin, a defensive back and receiver whom Ingram says is one of the best cornerbacks in the state, left Seminole short on bodies and short of breath.
"We just ran out of gas,'' Ingram said. "We played 10 players both ways, and by the end of the game we were dead because of the heat. We had two players leave the game because of dehydration during the game, and they had to take an IV.''
Ingram lost two players to injuries in last week's scrimmage and on Thursday he found out his No. 2 offensive tackle had his wisdom teeth pulled and couldn't play against Wesleyan. Then Friday morning, Ingram made the tough decision to bench one of his top players because he said Virgin broke team rules.
"Our thing is the individual is not bigger than the team,'' Ingram said. "We're teaching life lessons here. (Virgin) is very humble about it.''
With Virgin out of the lineup, Ingram had to use Chris Brown at cornerback, and that affected his game plan.
Brown, a Herald Dynamite Dozen player who gained more than 1,400 yards and scored 26 TDs as a sophomore before sitting out most of last season with a hip injury, was limited to just nine carries and 98 yards.
"We had to use Chris on every play on defense because they have those big wide outs,'' Ingram said of Wesleyan's high-powered offense. "And that took him out of the equation on offense. We usually would give him the ball 30 to 35 times, and he carried it only nine times.''
Brown still scored twice, and quarterback Antwan Buggs gained 136 yards on 26 carries while fullback Barren Rambo gained 125 yards on 19 carries. Buggs played both ways and even played on special teams, holding the ball on kicks.
"I knew we were short on players and we tried to slow the game down and just let Antwan and Barren run the ball at them,'' Ingram said.
It worked for a while. Seminole ate up more than 11 minutes on the first drive of the game and took a 7-0 lead on a Rambo TD run, but Ingram said his kids were already slowing down before halftime, and Wesleyan took advantage of a bad snap on a punt (Seminole was down to its third-string deep snapper) and scored twice near the end of the second quarter to take a 28-14 lead.
"We got a break at halftime to catch our breath, and then we got some freshmen in the game on special teams in the second half to help, and we stormed right back,'' Ingram said.
Seminole came back and took its final lead when Buggs broke free on a 60-yard run with four minutes left in the game to lift the Indians to a 40-35 lead.
"I told my coaches when he scored that we scored too early,'' Ingram said.
He was right. But even after Wesleyan scored on the screen pass with 1:30 left, Brown broke free from his 20-yard line to inside the Wesleyan 35 with his longest run of the night.
"But they called the play back because they threw a flag and called a block in the back,'' said Ingram, who was beyond frustration with the call. "In the eight years I've been here we have never lost a game we should have won until this one. We've lost close games, but this is the first time we've lost a game I felt we should have won.
"I'd love to play them again.''
Seminole County travels to Dawson next week for its Region 1-A opener against Terrell County in a Herald Game of the Week nominee.
YOUNG WORSHAM OK: The news in Camilla couldn't be much better for Westwood freshman running back Chason Worsham, who left Friday's game after hitting the ground hard against Southwest Georgia Academy and was rushed to the hospital.
"We thought it was a concussion,'' said Chason's father and head coach Ross Worsham. "But the CAT scans were negative. He will be re-evaluated on Monday, but from what they said he might miss (only) next week. It's probably a mild concussion.
"We're very relieved. I was a little worried (when it happened). Trying to be a coach and a daddy at the same time was a tough spot.''
Ross Worsham has two sons who play for Westwood. Mason, a senior, is a four-year starter at quarterback. The younger Chason, according to his father, takes after both his parents.
"He's hard-headed,'' Ross joked Saturday. "He gets that from me and his mother.''
Chason made an immediate impact Friday when he was in the game and healthy. The first time he touched the ball, he let them know he had arrived. After SGA's first touchdown, the Warriors kicked off and Worsham fielded the ball at his 12. He darted up field and returned the ball 34 yards to the 46. He finished the game with 60 yards on just seven carries and also had a reception for 28 yards.
WESTOVER'S WALLOPING A LONG TIME COMING: When Westover opened the season with a 42-7 rout against Mitchell County it prompted the obvious question: When was the last time Westover beat anyone by 35 points?
You have to go back to Sept. 12, 2003 -- just about eight years. Westover beat Turner County that night, 41-6.
That gives the Herald No. 2 Patriots' opening night win even more significance, and this team showed every sign of being for real against a talented and fast Mitchell County team, which started the season ranked No. 5 in the Fab 5 Poll, but will likely drop when the new poll is released Tuesday.
Westover's defense gave up just 66 yards on the ground all night, and that includes a 35-yard scramble by Mitchell QB Tevin Watkins on the final play of the first half.
"We want people to know it's going to be hard to run the ball against our defense,'' Westover coach Octavia Jones said.
Westover's defense also forced two fumbles and picked off three passes, not to mention blocking one punt and tackling the punter at the line of scrimmage on another punt.
When Westover principal William Chunn was asked how long it had been since Westover had such a big blowout win, he paused and laughed a bit.
But he knows what a winning football program can mean to his school, and was beaming on Friday night.
"We have high hopes for our football team this year,'' Chunn said. "I applaud coach Jones and the other coaches. I applaud the players, and I applaud our fans.''
Westover did bring a large crowd to Camilla for the opening night game, and will no doubt bring a big crowd this week when the Patriots face Herald No. 3 Albany High on Saturday night at Hugh Mills.
Albany routed Dougherty on Saturday, 39-7, in the first in the city rivalry series.
Westover won the city title last year by beating all three city rivals -- Albany High, Dougherty and Monroe.
TERRELL COUNTY'S RUNNING GAME GOES NOWHERE: The Greenwave had little trouble moving the ball through the air in Friday's 26-0 loss to Monroe with quarterback Jerkerious Scott connecting on 14-of-22 passes for 125 yards, but it was the Greenwave's running game that had coach William Huff shaking his head afterward.
The Greenwave rushed for just 13 yards on 24 carries, and most of those positive yards came in the first quarter.
"We just need to get better play up front," Huff said. "If we don't get better on the offensive line, it's not going to matter what we do on defense."
Basheer Rogers was the leading rusher for the Greenwave with 16 yards on six carries, but three other Terrell County players had negative yards on the ground.
MONROE CAUGHT SLEEPING: Terrell County successfully executed trick plays twice on special team plays in Friday night's game against Monroe.
The Greenwave started the game by recovering an onside kick and then got a first down in the third quarter on a fake punt.
"Coach (Huff) pulled out all the tricks (Friday night)," Monroe coach Charles Truitt said. "We were expecting that first one, the onside kick. Our coaches were looking for that, but we just couldn't recover the kickoff."
It was Joe Ward who jumped on that loose ball to open the game, and it was Rogers who ran seven yards on the fake punt to give the Greenwave a first down.
A NIGHT FOR THE DEFENSE: Monroe's win against Terrell was the Tornadoes' first shutout since Oct. 24, 2009 when they beat Westover, 25-0. Monroe posted four shutouts that season, including a 17-0 win against Crisp County and two 40-0 wins against Terrell County and Kendrick.
The Tornadoes have shut out Terrell County four times in the last nine years and haven't lost to the Greenwave since a 20-8 setback in 2001.
On Friday, Monroe quarterback Charles Stafford put on a show with 239 yards and three touchdowns through the air -- but the defense also had a great night, allowing just 13 rushing yards and 125 passing yards.
"We have a lot of returners on the defense, so we should be able to play a little better on that side of the ball each and every week," Truitt said. "We felt good with our game plan. Our coaches did a great job, and the players played loose on that side of the ball."
LEE'S NEW FACE: Lee County had a new quarterback debut in his first start Friday during a 56-0 win against Baconton Charter, but the Trojans' coaching staff also introduced a new offensive coordinator to the Southwest Georgia football scene.
The new guy, though, is no spring chicken when it comes to calling the shots. Mike Harville, who came to Lee County last season and was the quarterbacks coach, took over the offensive coordinator position this season after former OC Mike Chastain left for a job at Veterans High in Warner Robins to be closer to his family.
Harville, who has coached in three states, is a former Coach of the Year in Kentucky and coached at some big time programs in South Florida in the past. He came to Lee County after serving as the receivers coach at Georgia Military College, one of the top JUCO programs in the nation.
Junior quarterback Matt Mears said Harville has tinkered with last season's high-flying passing attack some, but not much.
"We've put in some new stuff," Mears said. "Just a few adjustments."
What those new additions to the offense are exactly is under lock and key.
"Coach (Dean) Fabrizio doesn't want me to give away the secrets," Harville joked after Friday's win.
Harville and the Trojans' passing attack continue to use the seminars and terminology of The Tony Franklin System, an offensive ingenuity created by Franklin, a former Auburn OC and current Louisiana Tech OC, that high school and college teams around the country employ.
"You'll notice several thing that we do are identical (to last year), but there are some new wrinkles as well," Harville said.
AMERICUS GOES LONG WAY, COMES UP WITH WIN: HINESVILLE: It was a long ride home for the Panthers on Friday, but a 21-6 win against Liberty County made it a little easier.
The Panthers' front seven smothered the Liberty County offense, and Americus-Sumter took advantage of a pair of mistakes as it won the season opener for a sixth-straight year.
"Anytime you start the season off with a win is a good thing," Panthers coach Michael Pollock said Saturday. "We've got a long way to go to get where we want to be. But we're a young football team that's further along than we probably should be."
The Panthers held Division-I prospect Shadrach Thornton and the Liberty offense to 70 total yards, all on the ground. Three Americus defensive linemen -- Leroy Henderson, Shykeith Johnson and Willie Williams -- combined for 43 tackles, two sacks and seven tackles for a loss.
Americus-Sumter converted a fumble and a failed fake punt into touchdowns, with the last leading to a 9-yard run from Jarod Lewis in the final minutes to seal the win.
The Panthers led, 14-0, at the half behind touchdown runs of 13 yards and one yard by Xavier Willis and Bryce Benton. Benton was 10 of 19 passing for 82 yards, and Jonathan Thomas totaled 125 yards -- 51 on the ground and 74 receiving on seven catches. Lewis had 58 yards rushing.
Americus-Sumter had 205 total yards, but Pollock said those numbers must improve.
"We've got to do a lot better than that against a good defense or bad defense," he said. "Numbers can be misleading. You can have a lot of short drives or good field position. Our goal is to put points on the board, and we feel like 21 points are enough to win every football game we play."
The Panthers will host Cook this Friday, looking to avenge a 42-14 loss last season.
"It's a big game, and we want a big crowd to come out," said Pollock.
YOUNG PELHAM TAKES WEEK OFF: Pelham High, which was off this past Friday after opening a week earlier than most teams around Southwest Georgia, played a young and fledgling Baconton Charter team last Friday in its season-opening 33-7 win, but the Hornets aren't exactly the most experienced team in the area.
Pelham (1-0) started four freshmen in the win, including running back Desmond Parker.
"We're young, too," Hornets first-year head coach Frankie Carroll said.
Parker didn't look it, though. He ran for 34 yards on six carries, including a tough 5-yard TD run in the second quarter.
"He's going to be special for us," Carroll said of Parker.
Still, Pelham's roster of 50-plus and its depth gassed the Blazers (0-2) after a hard-fought first quarter. Baconton has 25 players, and of that number, only about 15 get significant snaps.
The lack of depth made things extremely tough Friday when Baconton was routed by Lee County, which nearly quadruples the Blazers in numbers.
"We knew these early games were going to be tough," Baconton Charter head coach Glenn Palmer said. "We're going to go out and fight and give it everything we've got."
The Hornets have expressed confidence in the early season with the addition of Carroll, who brings a championship resume to a struggling program. But can Pelham compete with Miller County, Seminole County and the other top Class A programs so soon?
"We better," senior defensive end Steve Mango said.
Herald staff writers John Millikan and Matt Stewart, as well as Americus Times-Recorder sports editor Chris Whitaker, contributed to this report