The Lee County Middle School football team recently capped an 8-0 season with an area championship by beating Albany in the title game.
LEESBURG -- Tim McPherson wasn't sure what to expect out of his Lee County Middle School football squad this season one year after going 3-4 and losing in the first round of the playoffs.
But he found out quickly that they very well could be one of those once-in-a-lifetime teams.
"We won three games (in 2010) after the program had gone winless the two previous seasons, so we felt good about that, but then (last year) we sent a lot of those kids to high school and didn't have a lot of (returning experience), so we weren't really sure what they were gonna do," said McPherson, who just finished his second season as the Trojans' head coach. "But then we beat (two-time defending champ) Merry Acres in our season opener, and I said to myself, 'OK, we might be pretty good after all.' "
Pretty good? Try great.
The LCMS Trojans just wrapped an 8-0 season last week, beating Albany Middle School in the championship game, 28-20, to complete the unbeaten year and win the title in their first year in the local Southwest Georgia league that included Radium Springs, Albany, Merry Acres, Baconton Charter, Dougherty and Southside. Lee had played in a different league for the last six years that included teams that were further away, but when that league realigned this past offseason, Lee was left without a home.
That is, until Lee County High School head football coach Dean Fabrizio took matters into his own hands.
"Coach Fabrizio called me and asked if they could join our league," Dougherty County Director of Athletics Johnny Seabrooks said. "And because we had five teams in the league -- which forced each of those teams to have a bye week (with there being an odd number) -- Lee County joining gave us six teams and no byes. It worked out good for everyone."
Especially Lee, which dominated the league all year -- outscoring its eight opponents, 238-60 -- with the largest roster of any team with 72 kids.
"We had the biggest roster, but we played a lot of kids in every game this season because we wanted it to be a good experience and to be fun for everyone," McPherson. "So just having the most kids wasn't the deciding factor because all the teams we played had talented kids. We just felt fortunate to do as well as we did."
After Lee beat Albany, 26-6, during the regular season, the Indians fought their way through the playoffs for a rematch with Lee and nearly pulled the upset. But two TD runs by the Trojans' Devontae Seay -- younger brother of former LCHS star receiver and current Georgia Bulldog freshman, Sanford Seay -- proved to be the difference. LCMS grabbed a 14-6 lead before halftime and never looked back thanks to running scores from Seay and Kendall Jackson, and one passing score from QB Garret Morrell to Trey Eafford.
Lee's defense was led in tackles this season by Chris Caldwell at middle linebacker and Ronald Wilson at defensive end, and McPherson credited his assistant coaches -- Trey Haynes, Kevin Taylor, Pat Friarson, Brandon Brock, Jason Wilkes -- with helping lead the Trojans to their unbeaten season.
"It was a blast. It was fun," said McPherson, who is also LCMS' athletic director, as well as the high school's varsity boys basketball coach. "My hope is these kids keep progressing and go onto high school and help our 9th-grade, junior varsity and varsity programs from here."
Success breeds success, as the saying goes, and the chances of more of that is good, said Lee County High School A.D. Rob Williams, who credited McPherson on a job well done, as well as Fabrizio's efforts to promote the sport at the lowest levels and call for big turnouts.
"Tim did a nice job with them, and having as many kids as we did was a great turnout -- it was one of the best turnouts ever. Plus, coach Fabrizio has done a good job getting the word out and getting these kids enthusiastic to play football at Lee County," Williams said. "It's great for our middle school (to win the title), and that in turn should be great for our high school program (in the future)."