Albany's Rantiez Williams carries the ball against Fitzgerald. Williams and the Indians face state power Thomasville in a big Region 1-AA showdown against Thomasville tonight.
ALBANY -- It's not written in stone, but it might as well be. It's chiseled in Albany High football coach Felton Williams' brain.
"The last time Albany High beat Thomasville was 1941,'' he said. "I don't know if there's anybody who even remembers that game. It's embedded in my mind, 1941 -- 1941, that makes you think ... ''
Williams will try to make a little history tonight when his Indians travel to Thomasville. The Indians aren't just facing the Bulldogs, they're facing a mountain of tradition.
"Tradition can carry you,'' Williams said. "They have tradition at Thomasville. They come into the game thinking they should win it.''
That may be one of Albany High's biggest hurdles tonight. Thomasville beat the Indians, 48-0, last year, and have been a powerhouse in Region 1-AA for years. Still, this is a game the Indians believe they can win, and a game they almost have to win if they want to reach the playoffs.
Both teams are 1-1 in the Region 1-AA race, and both realize this is the most difficult region to win in the state of Georgia. No other region in any class has three teams ranked in the Top 10 in the state poll. Brooks County, Cook and Fitzgerald are all ranked in the Class AA state poll, and Thomasville started the season ranked in the Top 10.
"With this team if we were in another region, we would be sitting pretty at either No. 1 or No. 2, easy,'' Williams said. "This is the toughest region.''
Last year the four teams that advanced to the postseason out of Region 1-AA all made it to the third round of the playoffs. Buford might be the No. 1 ranked Class AA team in the state, but no one has a tougher time getting to the playoffs than the teams in Region 1-AA.
Everyone knows about 1-AA.
Last spring at the state track & field meet Albany's football co-captains and Herald Dynamite Dozen selections Jontavious Morris and Roscoe Byrd heard about it from the other side of the state.
"Two players from Buford came up to Roscoe and Jontavious at the track meet and told them, 'oh, you're from Region 1-AA. We will be seeing you in the playoffs. Good teams always come out of Region 1.' "
It will take four region wins for Albany to reach the playoffs, so tonight's game in Thomasville couldn't loom much bigger. Albany high has beaten Berrien and lost to Fitzgerald. The Indians (4-2 overall) need to win three of their final four games to reach the state playoffs.
"The kids understand what's at stake in this game and where it puts us in the region and in our program,'' said Williams, who has turned the football team around at Albany High.
The fact FDR was in the White House the last time Albany High beat Thomasville isn't as important to these kids as the fact that a win tonight will go a long way to getting Albany High into the postseason.
"I told my kids that Thomasville has tradition, and they expect to win,'' Williams said. "We have to learn to expect to win.''
There's never been a better time to start.
"We know that,'' Williams said. "We know how important this game is.''
WESTOVER LIMPS INTO OFF WEEK: Nobody needed a bye week as much as Westover's Patriots, who watched their bread and butter running back, Dalviness Greene, suffer an ankle injury last week and also watched defensive end Joshua Burton be rushed to nearby Phoebe Putney in an ambulance during their game against Worth County.
Burton was released from the hospital on Saturday and was back in school on Monday. He has yet to practice with the team.
"He needs to go back to the doctor to make sure everything is OK," Westover coach Octavia Jones said. "He had some swelling on his spine. The doctor said there's a chance he might be back by the end of the season.''
Greene, who has been the heart of Westover's offense this season, suffered an ankle injury in the Worth County game and left Hugh Mills Stadium on crutches. He isn't practicing with the team this week because of a death in the family.
Jones said the bye week should be enough to get Greene back in the lineup in time for the Oct. 14 game against Crisp County.
Greene has gained 882 yards on 127 carries and scored nine touchdowns this season in about five games. He sat out about half of the Dougherty game for disciplinary reasons and left last week's game against Worth early in the third quarter.
Westover is 3-3 and 1-1 in the Region 1-AAA race, but the Patriots have lost three games by a total of 10 points, and with any luck at all they could be unbeaten.
"We watched the Worth film for two hours on Monday and pointed out one mistake after another,'' Jones said. "We held them to 117 yards of total offense. They had 29 rushes for 48 yards and were 5-of-13 in passing for 69 yards. But we shot ourselves in the foot all night.
"The story of our season is us,'' he said. 'We're our biggest enemy. We've had three losses and every one of them we're in the game until the last play. We just have to separate ourselves from that and make plays.''
STAT STUFFERS: Biggest hit of the season?
It's not from a linebacker or a defensive lineman. The best hit has to be by Seminole County defensive back Dee Virgin, who slammed into a Mitchell County receiver so hard last Friday that the ball popped up in the air about 10 feet. That gave Antwan Buggs plenty of time to run under it for the interception. Buggs returned the ball 20 yards to the Mitchell 15, and Virgin scored later on a 15-yard TD run to help the Indians beat Mitchell, 49-21.
Seminole has scored 18 touchdowns in its last two games against tough opponents, Dalveville, Ala., and Mitchell, which is considered the second best team in Region 1-A behind Seminole, which is ranked 10th in the Class A state poll.
The Indians beat Daleville, 73-28, two weeks ago and the only person who had a tougher night than the Daleville defensive coordinator was Mark Carr.
Carr is a retired teacher at Seminole who keeps up with all of the Indians' statistics. The 73-28 game had Carr doing yeoman's work just to keep up with Alan Ingram's offense.
"I ran out of ink. I ran out of paper,'' said Carr, who was smiling when he talked about the landslide of offensive numbers. "It's a good thing I still had my pencil.''
Carr has been keeping stats for Seminole County for eight years and can't remember a team this explosive.
"They had a real good team the year Baccari Rambo (who now stars for Georgia) was here,'' he said. "But that's the only one that compares to this one. This team really scores a lot of points.''
GOING FOR 2: Lee County hasn't done away with the kicking game entirely, but head coach Dean Fabrizio sure likes to get more points when he can.
The Trojans scored five times and attempted just one extra point Friday in a 34-31 overtime win against Houston County, the second year in a row the two teams have been involved in a wild one.
That one extra point was blocked and it only came after the Trojans (4-1, 1-1 Region 1-AAAA) were penalized while lining up for a two-point conversion and pushed back. Lee County's Thomas Wright, a standout linebacker, ran in two two-point conversions with wide receiver/defensive back Matt Stroud at quarterback in a wildcat-type goal line package. Lee went 2-for-3 on two-point conversion attempts and also faked a punt on fourth-and-15, which Wright took 34 yards for a first down, leading to a score.
"After you score a touchdown, you have momentum," Fabrizio said of going for two. "(Wright) keeps telling us he's a running back. He showed it (Friday). He ran with toughness."
Lee County beat Houston, 45-42, last year in Warner Robins.
"That's two years in a row we've been very fortunate to come out with a win against Houston County," Fabrizio said.
One of the youngest guys on the field, though, wasn't too concerned. Josh Cabrera put up another 100-yard performance at receiver and knew the Trojans wouldn't let another one slip away after falling to Northside Columbus two weeks ago.
"I wasn't worried," Cabrera said. "I knew we could pull it off. We couldn't lose two times in a row."
Cabrera had a big night last week, catching nine passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns, and he is now the leading receiver this season in Region 1-AAAA. He has made 33 receptions for 405 yards and scored six touchdowns to lead the region.
Lee County now has its hands full with a trip back to Warner Robins, this time against Northside-Warner Robins, unbeaten and ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA. The Trojans lost, 42-7, at home last year to Northside, another juggernaut in what Fabrizio says is the toughest region in the state.
"Every week it's a dog fight," said Fabrizio, who evened his overall record at Lee County (13-13). "We've been in two dog fights (in region play) and we've got another big one (Friday)."