Herald High School Beat Writer Mike Phillips
Is there a bigger GISA week in the regular season than this one?
Nope, no way. Not even close.
We've got two winner-take-all games tonight, and one of those could produce a perfect 10-0 season.
I'm talking about a classic showdown in Camilla, where the state's top-ranked team and defending GISA Class A state champ Westwood meets Terrell Academy to decide the Region 2-A title.
Westwood is perfect, and has been perfect for a while. The Wildcats went 13-0 last year to win it all, and take a 22-game winning streak into tonight's game. They're 9-0 and can wrap up the regular season with the region title and a 23-game winning streak.
But Terrell Academy stands in the way.
The Eagles have just gotten better and better every week, and enter tonight's game with a chance to knock off the champs. Honest.
Forget about TAE's 4-4 overall record. Doesn't count. Doesn't mean a thing. And it will mean even less if Bill Murdock's kids win tonight. Terrell Academy is 4-0 in the region race with an eye on the title.
The Eagles have already handed Murdock his 200th career win this season, and believe they can win the title. Icing on the 200th win cake? You bet, sweetest icing in two years for the Eagles, who won the state title just two years ago.
That's right, the last two state champs meet tonight.
I've got to go with the Westwood Wonders. They took all that pressure of being unbeaten and trying to win 26 in a row to repeat as state champs and have carried it on their shoulders just like it was nothing. They don't look back and they don't look forward. That's tough to teach in the NFL, and top colleges fall every Saturday because of too much pressure or too much looking ahead.
Not these kids. They just know how to win. They know how to make this play -- the play. That's why they score so easily. There's talent everywhere, but Westwood tends to have the right person in the right place more than any team in SW Georgia. That's just coaching and discipline.
This may sound stupid, but I walk the sidelines during games, and I can almost always tell you if a high school team is any good or not just by the sidelines. If it's chaotic and kids are standing in the wrong place, and not into the game and I have trouble getting up and down the sideline, I can almost guarantee you that team is in trouble on the field.
If the kids are disciplined enough to stand in a straight line while being focused on every play (yes, I've seen it) and it's easy for me to get up and down the sideline, I can almost bet that team has a winning record.
It's so simple. Just a bit of discipline where you would never look for it -- sideline behavior. But in most cases when it's there on the sideline, it's there on the field. Westwood's sideline is always disciplined.
It may not mean anything, but it says a lot for the kids and their coaches. Westwood isn't the only team that's like that, but the Wildcats have made me notice it over the last two years. It's part of why they win so much.
The Eagles know how to play the game, and TAE also has some of the most disciplined athletes in the area -- both on the football field, and basketball court -- so this one will come down to a break here or there, a block that frees a big play or a some player or players who just play better tonight than in any other game.
It will be close, and it will be fun.
But I have to go with Westwood. The steak will live at 23.
PREDICTION: Westwood 35, Terrell Academy 28.
DEERFIELD VS. WESTFIELD -- 'NUFF SAID: The other huge GISA showdown is in Perry, where Deerfield-Windsor meets Westfield for the GISA Region 2-AAA title. The Knights (7-2, 5-0) have lost just one game in Georgia -- a tough 14-10 defeat to Stratford in the second game of the year.
But these are not the same Knights. They're older, wiser and just plain better. Yes, even that loss to Sunshine State power North Florida Christian helped. The playoffs are what it's all about for Deerfield, where these kids are trying to win back-to-back state titles. A win tonight won't just give the Knights another region title -- they're fifth in a row and 14th overall -- but it's all about getting some momentum going into the playoffs right now. The region title also means DWS will be at home for two playoff games.
It's a road game, but DWS coach Allen Lowe will have his kids ready. DWS has been rolling over everybody lately (so has Westfield, which has scored 175 points in the last four games) but this is a big game, and nobody knows more about playing in big games than Deerfield.
PREDICTION: Deerfield 35, Westfield 21.
1-AAA SHOWDOWN: Westover and Americus-Sumter meet in a critical game in Region 1-AAA tonight in Americus, where the Patriots can all but assure themselves of a playoff spot with a win. Westover (4-4 overall, 2-2 in region) can get the all-important third win in the region, which usually guarantees a playoff spot. The top four teams go to the playoffs, and there are six teams trying to grab the four spots with two games left.
Americus (5-3, 3-1) can still have a shot at winning the region title with a win tonight. The Panthers play first-place Cairo (4-0) in the finale next week. If Cairo beats Crisp (3-1) and Westover wins tonight, there would be a three-way tie for second place in the region between Westover, Americus-Sumter and Crisp -- all at 3-2. If that happens, Worth County, which has a bye tonight and sits at 2-3, and could climb into the pack with a win against Crisp next week. Monroe is still in the hunt at 1-3, but the Tornadoes need to beat Dougherty and beat Westover in the finale next week to have a chance.
That's why so many eyes will be on the game Americus tonight.
PREDICTION: Westover 14, Americus-Sumter 7.
DON'T FORGET THE BORDER WAR/FAMILY FEUD: And of course there's the Border War/Family Feud game -- a classic of classics. Miller will give Seminole is toughest test in the region, but this Seminole team is just too talented, and the Indians will improve to 8-1 and take a 33-32-3 lead in the 68-year-old series.
PREDICTION: Seminole 42, Miller 28
BEST OF THE REST:
Bainbridge 21, Lee County 20
Monroe 28, Dougherty 14
Mitchell 28, Pelham 21
Terrell County 25, Stewart 7
Calhoun County 28, Randolph-Clay 21
Bethesda Day 30, Southland 21
SGA 28, Flint River 20