Albany Herald High School beat writer Mike Phillips
Take a hat -- no, make that a cap -- and throw it over five teams in the Region 1-AAA race. They'd all fit. That's how close Americus-Sumter, Worth County, Westover, Monroe and Crisp County are this year.
Cairo is going to win this region. Nothing new there.
The Syrupmakers get their kids early, bring them up the Cairo way, and by the time they reach high school they not only know what's expected of them, but they expect to win.
But what's fun (well, at least for guys like me) is how close the pack is that lines up behind Cairo.
There are five teams trying to win the other three playoff spots. Two of those teams are going to be left standing outside, hands and noses pressed at the glass, looking through the window when the playoff party starts next month.
It's musical chairs, only a lot more fun.
Americus-Sumter is almost there already with a 2-0 record, but both wins were just-this-close. The Panthers had a career night from Bryce Benton and came back from a 22-0 hole to beat Worth County, 36-29, as Benton threw for 311 yards. But Benton didn't do much against Monroe last week. Still, the Panthers edged Monroe, 6-0, to jump out to that 2-0 record. One more win, and Americus-Sumter is in the playoffs.
The Panthers, who think they can go unbeaten and win the region title, might get that tonight against Crisp County. I think they will, but if Crisp (1-0) pulls off the upset at home, the Cougars can shake up the entire race for the playoffs.
The kids and coaches at Monroe and Worth wouldn't mind that at all. Monroe is 0-2, but the Tornadoes have lost to what might be the two top teams in the region, falling to Cairo and Americus-Sumter.
But a win tonight at Worth County puts Monroe right back in the playoff hunt.
Worth needs this game almost as much, because if the Rams win they're 2-1, and need just one more victory to reach the playoffs with games against Cairo, Dougherty (0-2 in 1-AAA) and Crisp left on the schedule.
The key game for Worth was last week when the Rams beat Westover, 23-18. If Worth loses tonight, it means the Rams have to win two of their last three games to get in the playoffs.
Monroe, meanwhile, can turn its season around with a win tonight because the Tornadoes have a bye week next week and then finish the season against Crisp, city rival Dougherty, and wrap it up against another city rival, Westover, in a game that might decide who heads to the postseason and who heads home.
See how much fun this is?
Westover's Patriots (1-1 in region) believe they can still win the region title, and they can if they win the rest of their games, but they would have to upset Cairo and also beat Americus-Sumter, Crisp and Monroe and hope someone else beats Worth. They need two wins to get to the playoffs. The Patriots are off this week, but they will be watching the scoreboard a bit.
Americus-Sumter can still win the title by running the table and beating Cairo -- in Cairo -- on the last night of the season, but I can't see that happening. Nothing against the Panthers, I just think Cairo will be even tougher at home on the final night of the season.
Stay tuned. The next four weeks in Region 1-AAA might be as good as in any region in Georgia. The games will be close. The games will carry a ton of weight every week. And no one knows how this will shake out until the final play on the final Friday night of the season.
What's better than that?
DRAMA TO THE SOUTH: There's some drama in Camilla tonight, but very little drama there Saturday. Mitchell County plays Miller at home tonight in a big Region 1-A game at Centennial Stadium, and Westwood will stay unbeaten at home on Saturday night in Camilla, where the unbeaten Wonders (6-0) will stretch their winning streak to 20 games with a win against Randolph-Southern. It won't be close.
Mitchell County is coming off a tough 49-21 loss to Seminole County, but the Eagles might not see a better team the rest of the year (yes, I am including the playoffs).
The guess here is that the Eagles bounce back against Miller and start a run. I don't see Mitchell losing another game in the regular season, and coach Dondrial Pinkins' team will go deeper in the playoffs this year as the No. 2 team out of Region 1-A than Mitchell went last year when the Eagles won the region.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Deerfield-Windsor lost to one of the top teams in Florida last week, and the Knights will jump right back into the win column this week with a one-sided win against Pinewood on the road to start a new winning streak. How many games will the defending state champion Knights win in a row? I won't jinx them, but leave that Friday night open after Thanksgiving. That's the date for the GISA Class AAA state championship game.
INSTANT CLASSIC?: It should be a classic at Terrell County tonight when Randolph-Clay shows up for a big Region 1-A game against the Greenwave, who will have to find a way to slow down running back Dontravious Bolden. The guess here is the Greenwave will score enough to beat the Red Devils and take another step toward reaching the playoffs.
THIS WEEK'S PREDICTIONS: Here is the full list of picks for this week:
Monroe 21, Worth County 20
Deerfield 35, Pinewood 6
Mitchell County 35, Miller 24
Westwood 55, Randolph-Southern 21
Seminole County 50, Pelham 21
Northside, Warner Robins 45,
Lee County 14
Bainbridge 21, Northside, Columbus 7
Fitzgerald 28, Early County 20
Terrell County 35, Randolph-Clay 28
SGA 28, Arlington 21
Cairo 28, Dougherty 14
Calhoun County 35, Jeff Davis 7
Dawson Street 21, Terrell Academy 20
Bulloch 28, Sherwood 21
Americus-Sumter 28, Crisp County 21
Westfield 35, Southland 21