Westover’s Anthony Hill, top left, jumps on the back of teammate Kell Miller and celebrates with Jay Cunningham, right, after Friday’s huge 20-6 win against Crisp County, which was previously unbeaten in Region 1-AAA.
ALBANY --OK, maybe that Gatorade bath was a little premature.
Then again, maybe it wasn't. Stay tuned.
Octavia Jones didn't mind. He was soaked and smiling, and as he said later after his Westover Patriots beat Crisp, 20-6, on Friday: "We're alive and well.''
Better than that.
Jones and his kids want to win it all, the Region 1-AAA title, and if they didn't beat Crisp County, which had been undefeated in the region at 2-0 on Friday, that dream would have ended.
The big Gatorade bath may come later.
That's the plan -- to make a four-game run to end the season as region champs. The first game in that run was Friday at Hugh Mills Stadium, where the Patriots improved to 2-1 in the region and 4-3 overall.
"This was big, real big for us. It was a momentum boost,'' said Westover defensive tackle and Dynamite Dozen player Chris Green, who had nine tackles, including two sacks and three for losses. "If we didn't win we would have been at the bottom of the region, and now we're at the top. We can win the region. That's our goal.''
Greene led a defensive front that sacked Crisp County quarterback Trevor Shealy eight times for 32 yards in losses., and held Crisp's running game to minus 33 yards for the night.
Westover's running game did the rest.
Shannon Saunders, a sophomore who started in place of Dalviness Greene, who was coming back from an ankle injury, had a career night, gaining 199 yards on 20 carries. Greene gained 106 yards on 12 carries, all in the second half as Westover just pounded the ball against Crisp.
"Thunder and Lightning,'' said Jones of his two backs. "They both had real good games. I really didn't want to use him (Greene) because he was coming off the ankle injury, but he kept telling me, 'coach, I'm OK. Coach, I got this.'' So we put him in there and turned him loose.''
Westover took over early. Crisp drove 55 yards to the 12-yard line on the first drive of the night, but Westover sacked Shealy twice, shoving Crisp back to the 26, and just kept shoving. The Cougars went to halftime with a total of 71 yards.
"We knew they were a passing team,'' said Westover defensive end Derrick Akins, who was in on three sacks. "We knew what we had to do. We had to win this game.''
Shealy finished the night completing 19-of-34 passes for 213 yards, and hit Landon Whitman with a 6-yard TD pass with 2:25 left to make it a 20-6 game. Crisp's ground game was in the red with negative 33 yards.
Westover simply dominated the game.
"It was just a good old fashioned butt whooping,'' said Crisp County coach Lee Campell, whose team fell to 2-1 and 4-3 for the season. "We just couldn't get anything going. It's like I said before, they're big and physical and their defensive front does a good job.''
And Westover lives by the run. two running backs amassed 305 yards on the ground. Saunders had 94 yards in the first half and set up Westover's first TD, a 3-yard run by quarterback T.J. Wester, who capped off Westover's first drive of the night, a 74-yard march. Saunders gained 54 yards of them on four carries.
Greene scored on a 4-yard run with 8:12 left in the third to cap a drive that included an innovative run on a fake punt for a first down, and fullback McKenny Martin, who is like a bowling ball as a blocker, scored the final TD with 7:43 left in the game on a 12-yard run.
"We wanted this game. We wanted it bad,'' Saunders said. "It was a game we had to win to get to the playoffs, and it opened the door to us winning the region.''
It was Saunders, who took off on the fake punt on a play he called on a fourth-and-14 at the Crisp 47. He bolted for 36 yards to the 11 to set up Westover's second TD.
"Coach (Coleman) Camp said at halftime if I saw it was open to call that play on a punt,'' said Saunders, who took the direct snap and took off. "I saw it, and I called the play. I got the ball and there was nothing but daylight.''
It was that kind of night for the Patriots, who hope they see nothing but daylight on a possible run to a region title.
"That's been our goal, and we knew we had to win this game,'' said Jones, who had his players on "restriction" all week.
They couldn't talk to the media or even attend the pep rally for homecoming. Jones said he wanted them focused. They were.
"When we met in the afternoon before the pregame meal they were so quiet,'' Jones said. "They were eerily quiet. So quiet it was almost scary. That's how focused they were for this game.''
Westover is 2-1 in the region and 4-3 overall, and would need to win the final three games to win the title. The Patriots will find out in a hurry if they have a chance. They longtime defending region champ and state-ranked Cairo on Friday, back at Hugh Mills Stadium.
"I told them, the region title runs through Cairo,'' Jones said. "They're still the champs until someone beats them. If we want it, here it is.''
Then the Gatorade bath would mean even more.