Terrell County head coach William Huff, left, and Seminole County coach Alan Ingram may be region foes on the field, but they’ve been friends off of it since 1997. (Photos by email@example.com)
DAWSON -- Fishing buddies ... Football buddies ... And just plain ol' buddies.
That's William Huff and Alan Ingram, a couple of guys who met at the intersection of high school football-and-career paths about 14 years ago, and have been close since.
"He calls me Daddy,'' said Ingram, who has been coaching for four decades.
"And he calls me son,'' Huff said Thursday.
The two friends and coaches will meet on the field tonight in The Herald's Game of the Week when Ingram's Seminole County Indians travel to Dawson to face Huff's Terrell County Greenwave in both teams' Region 1-A opener.
The friendship will take a timeout.
"I want to beat the hell out of him, and he wants to beat me,'' Huff said. "That's the way it is. But we're real close friends.''
Close enough to build a bond over the years.
"We met in 1997. He was at Miller County when I met him,'' Huff said. "We just kind of clicked. We're very similar. We probably talk once a week year-round, and probably talk twice a week, or three times, during football season.
"We go to ballgames together, playoff games, and we go fishing together,'' Huff said. 'We go down to Lake Seminole and fish for whatever's there, catfish, bass ... whatever. But we do more talking than fishing.''
Huff is close enough to Ingram to joke about Ingram's check-waving comment he made earlier in the week when the Seminole coach said he would write a check for $10,000 if he could play Wesleyan again after losing in the final minute, 43-40.
Ingram laughed and said the check would bounce pretty high, but Huff smiled and said, "Oh he's got it,'' and had a laugh.
Only close buds talk like that.
"I have the utmost respect for him,'' Huff said. "He's very successful, and he believes in what he does. I like to pick his brain. If I want to be successful, I want to see what successful people do.''
Ingram said he respects Huff just as much.
"We've been close friends for a long time,'' he said. "We just hit it off when we met and like each other's company. He's a great guy and a great coach.''
They both live in Region 1-A, a tight-knit group of Southwest Georgia teams that battle every year for the four playoffs spots, and tonight's game is an early showdown. Most of the region games don't start until the middle of September.
But both coaches agreed to the early game on the schedule (to do each other a favor), and tonight's game could be a classic. If it's half as good as it was a year ago, nobody will leave early.
Seminole quarterback Antwan Buggs hit Sam Buczek with a pass on the final play of the game last year to lift Seminole to a 32-28 win, and after the game, Ingram said: "The best team probably didn't win tonight.''
That close loss may be enough to give Terrell County a little extra motivation tonight.
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WHO: Seminole County (0-1) at Terrell County (0-1).
WHAT: Region 1-A opener for both.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today.
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"Losing like we did last year, that haunts you,'' Huff said. "I've got two or three seniors returning on both sides of the ball I'm sure they remember that game. It sticks out in my mind.
"Maybe haunt isn't the right word,'' he added. "Sometimes you can win on the field and not on the scoreboard. I feel like that game helped us later in the region games.''
Seminole has its own motivation.
The Indians lost a heartbreaker to Wesleyan, the sixth-ranked Class A team in the state. Ingram was short-handed due to injuries and the suspension of one of his top players, Dee Virgin, and he had to play 10 kids both ways the whole game.
Still, Seminole led until Wesleyan hit a 60-yard screen pass with 1:30 left in the game to beat Seminole, 43-40. Ingram's team also fought fifth-ranked Wilcox to a 28-28 tie in a scrimmage two weeks ago. And yet Seminole (0-1) is not ranked in the state's Top 10.
"They played two top 10 teams, and tied one and pretty much beat the other one and they're not in the Top 10,'' Huff said. "There's something wrong in the system when that happens.''
Huff knows that loss last week will stick with Seminole.
"That's going to haunt them,'' he said. "I look at Seminole coming in here looking to prove something, not to themselves, but to the state. I hope we're up for the challenge.''
Terrell County has a brutal early season schedule.
The Greenwave opened last week with a 26-0 loss to Class AAA Monroe and must play Class AAAA and Herald No. 1 Lee County next week.
That early schedule is more of a testing ground for the Greenwave than anything else. Huff had the same tough schedule to start last season, but his team grew as the season went along and made the playoffs -- and played the top two teams in the region as tough as anyone, losing to Seminole, 32-28, and region champ Mitchell County, 17-15.
"This is the kind of game that can help us in the region,'' said Huff, who believes a win tonight can carry his team a long way.
Terrell County, which is led by Dynamite Dozen selection Dekoven Ware, who plays defensive end and running back, likes to run the ball. Huff lost Raymond Huckaby, who plays running back and linebacker, to an injury last week, but has enough offense left in his running brigade (Ware, Basheer Rogers and sophomore Jatori Jones) and quarterback Jerkerious Scott.
"We have a running back by committee,'' said Huff, who also plays Demarkese Carter and Kemari Carter at running back.
Terrell County should be able to move the ball tonight, but the Greenwave will have to find a way to stop Seminole's prolific running game.
The Indians rushed for 359 yards last week as Buggs (136 yards), Barren Rambo (125 yards) and Chris Brown, who gained 98 yards on just nine carries, combined for all the rushing yardage.
"Coach Ingram, he's going to line up and come right at you,'' Huff said. "We're going to either be good enough to stop them or not. Last year we couldn't stop them, but our offense was good enough to answer every score. I feel like we've got a good chance (tonight).''
It could be another classic -- or at least a game good enough to talk about when the fish aren't biting.