Herald High School Beat Writer Mike Phillips
Have you ever seen Octavia Jones' phone?
When Jones turns it on he's staring at the Georgia Dome.
No, he's not a big fan of domes, he just likes this one. Jones went there last year to watch the GHSA football state title games. He stood outside, took a picture and slapped it on his phone. It's been there since.
He says it's going to stay there until Westover wins a state title, right there in the Georgia Dome.
He means it.
Jones is a mentor, and when his kids asked him about the phone-dome picture, he told them what it meant. Now all of his players have that picture of the Dome on their phones.
I like the image of all these kids walking around Northwest Albany, and when they get a call or a text, they're looking at the Dome. That's the idea. Look at the Dome long enough, and it gets closer and closer.
This isn't follow the yellow brick road long enough and you land in Oz, this is the Georgia Dome -- right up I-75, about 175 miles away.
And if Westover wins tonight against rival Monroe, the Patriots are four wins away from getting there. The fifth win would give them a state title.
That's what it takes, five wins in a row.
OK, Westover has never won a region title, but you don't need to win a region title to get to the Dome. Just get to the playoffs and beat four teams. Westover can do that. To be honest, Westover could easily be 9-0 right now. I can take a pocketful of points, and spread them over Westover's season and the Patriots are unbeaten, and everybody is talking about how this team can make a strong run in the playoffs.
I believe they can -- if they beat Monroe tonight.
This may be the toughest win for Westover to get all year. Monroe is so much better than its record, and the Tornadoes have such a lethal passing game they can stand in against just about anyone.
But my hunch is Westover wins tonight to grab the playoff spot that is hanging over this game. And once the Pats get in the playoffs, they're going to be dangerous -- even as a fourth seed. They would play either Baldwin or Peach County in the first round, but if they upset one of those state powers the Patriots could make a run.
I know, I know, you're not supposed to get ahead of yourself in sports, but I do it all the time. That's what prediction columns are all about.
Tonight's game will be a beauty. I always love it when a big crowd shows up at Hugh Mills, and it will be rocking tonight.
Monroe's Charles Stafford throws the prettiest passes in Southwest Georgia, and he's got receivers like Kevin Williams and Treverious Hudson who can get it done. But nobody brings the heat like that Westover pass rush, and Stafford's going to have to be at his best to pull out the win.
Westover has more than 30 sacks and 13 interceptions.
My guess is that Westover's defense and special teams will either score a TD or set one up tonight, and that's going to be the difference. Stafford will throw two touchdown passes, but Westover will get into the end zone three time and get to the playoffs.
Since I'm looking ahead, I've got good news for Monroe. The Tornadoes are going to be the team to beat next season. I mean it.
They might prove me wrong and win tonight and make their own run in the playoffs, and that will be fine with me. I always like to see the Nadas win, and if they prove me wrong tonight I'll buy Charles Truitt's dinner and apologize while he eats dessert.
Everyone knows I hate to pick against the local teams when they play each other. But I have to pick someone, and I'm leaning toward the Patriots because I've seen them lose too many heartbreakers.
Think I'll give Jones a call and tell him -- just so he can see the Dome on his phone one more time.
PREDICTION: Westover 20, Monroe 14.
UPSET OF THE WEEK: It wouldn't be worth writing a prediction column without an upset of the week pick, so here goes. Albany High travels to Cook and beats the Hornets. The kids at Albany High were energized this week when they found out they still had a shot at the playoffs if they beat Cook in tonight's Region 1-AA finale.
The Indians need to win, and Brooks County has to beat Early County, but if that happens Albany, Cook and Early will all be tied for the final playoff spot and will meet at a neutral site Monday to figure out who gets in and who gets left out.
The first domino falls tonight when Albany High upsets Cook.
PREDICTION: Albany 21, Cook 14.
Easy pick of the week: That's Deerfield-Windsor wrapping up the regular season with a win against rival Southland. DWS will take care of Southland in a well-played game, and then have the home field in the first two rounds of the GISA Class AAA playoffs.
Watch the Knights. They get better every week, and these are the weeks that count.
PREDICTION: DWS 42, Southland 20.
PICKING APART THE REGION 1-A MESS: It's a shame Terrell County won't be going to the playoffs because the Greenwave have to beat Mitchell County tonight, and the truth is they're catching the Eagles at the worst time of the season.
The Eagles are twice as good today as they were at the beginning of the season. Coach Dondrial Pinkins likes to talk about playing a tough non-region schedule to prepare his kids, and he's right. They're prepared for the playoffs.
Mitchell will open at home in the playoffs next week against the loser of this week's Charlton County-Clinch County game and wouldn't have to meet Savannah Christian until the third round of the playoffs. Mitchell had to open with Savannah Christian -- the top-ranked Class A team in the state this year -- last season in what has to still be the worst and most bizarre playoff draw in history.
I like QB Tevin Watkins' train metaphor. Watkins says the Eagles are like a freight train, taking out everything in their path.
The guess here is Mitchell's freight train rolls into the playoffs with a win at Terrell County, which probably would have been in the playoffs if not for the finger injury to Dekoven Ware. The rest of the games in Region 1-A will end up sending Pelham and Miller to the playoffs along with Mitchell and Seminole County, which will win its ninth in a row tonight against Randolph-Clay.
Tell the Mitchell fans in Camilla to get on board -- the freight train is rolling.
PREDICTION: Mitchell County 35, Terrell County 20.
REGION 1-AAA TITLE GAME: Americus-Sumter coach Michael Pollock has done an incredible job this season. The Panthers lost their gigantic offensive line and a load of talented skilled players from last year's Region 1-AAA runner-up team. But here they are again at 4-1 in the region with a chance to win the title with a victory against Cairo (5-0) tonight.
If this game was in Americus, I'd pick the Panthers, but Cairo gets a big edge because of its fans. They would travel to Cairo, Egypt, if the Syrupmakers were playing there. And they will pack the house tonight at home to watch Cairo finish another perfect Region 1-AAA season.
PREDICTION: Cairo 21, Americus-Sumter 20
BEST OF THE REST: Here's the predictions for the rest of tonight's regular-season finales:
Warner Robins 35, Lee County 30
Seminole County 50, Randolph-Clay 21
Pelham 28, Calhoun County 14
Bainbridge 28, Thomas County Central 21
SGA 35, Brookwood 20
Crisp County 21, Worth County 14
Brooks County 35, Early County 28
Westfield 40, Sherwood 20
Glascock 21, Baconton Charter 14