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PREP FOOTBALL PREDICTION COLUMN: Believe it, folks: Albany, Westover are the real deal

Herald High School Writer Mike Phillips

Herald High School Writer Mike Phillips

City title tomorrow night?

Could be.

That's what Albany vs. Westover means.

Yeah, I know it's just the second week of the season, and yeah, I know this is Westover and Albany High, a couple of programs that have been -- shall we say -- on the wrong side of too many games over the years.

But I know something else: These guys are for real.

Forget everything you think you know about Albany High and Westover. If you haven't seen the 2011 versions, show up at Hugh Mills Stadium on Saturday night.

You will thank me.

Talk about coaching impacts. The folks at Albany High have to love what Felton Williams has done there. He's got them believing in themselves, and that may be the biggest hurdle.

They don't even care what you or me -- or anyone else -- thinks. They have been put down so many times, it doesn't even matter any more.

I wouldn't call them bitter. They're just tired of being ignored. You know how that feels, don't you? Everybody has had a taste of that at some point. You want to shout. You want to scream. You want to beat someone 30-0. Now think about this: Albany High was beating Dougherty, 32-0, last week.

At halftime.

And Westover? Well, it's the same magic in Northwest Albany.

Octavia Jones has them believing at Westover. Just ask Mitchell County, one of the fastest, most talented teams in the area. Westover didn't even blink when Mitchell scored on the fourth play of the game last week to take a 7-0 lead.

The Patriots didn't blink, and they didn't slow down either. When it was over, Westover had a 42-7 opening night win. Beep! Beep!

Jones doesn't just have his kids believing they can win -- they believe they can win big.

If there's a more confident team in Southwest Georgia, I'd like to meet them. Jones told his kids before the game he expected them to score 40 points. That's right, 40 points. They never scored more than 28 last year. In fact, they hadn't scored 40 in a game since 2004.

Now they expect to light up the scoreboard every night.

Jones has done this after only one season. And he got a late start when he took over the program in the spring of 2010.

It's not magic. It's dedication. Williams and Jones both knew it wasn't going to be a 40-hour week. They knew they needed incredible wives who understood what their husbands were taking on when these men took over at Albany High and Westover.

They needed that and more.

Neither stopped believing, and in a very short time both men have made an impact no one expected. Well, no one outside their programs. Everyone behind those walls knew. And those who didn't probably aren't around any more.

There's nothing harder to change than perception, and both these programs are fighting a mountain of doubt because history goes against them.

That's why this season will be so much fun for both, and that's why it's a shame someone will lose Saturday night.

It's also a shame I have to pick a winner here. It's a lot easier to pick the Georgia-Boise State game (the Dogs will win this one and shake up the entire BCS on opening night).

Westover's running game is tough and disciplined and Dalviness Greene, The Herald's Week 1 Player of the Week who gained 202 yards last week, looks like a different runner this year -- tougher, smarter, more mature. Well, he was just a sophomore a year ago.

And Westover's defense is a load, especially against the run.

Jones believes in both his lines, and he should. Dynamite Dozen pick Chris Green is a force at defensive tackle and Jones' "big uglies" (that's what he calls his OL) make life easy for Greene, who will gain more than 1,000 yards this season, easy.

But Albany High has done just about everything right in a scrimmage and an opening-night win. In those two outings, QB Emmanul Byrd has yet to throw a bad pass. He hit five in a row last week and had four TDs and 181 yards in the first half alone. He also ran for two TDs, then sat down for most of the second half.

Albany Dynamite Dozen players Jontavious Morris and Roscoe Byrd, who start on both lines, have been impressive, and Morris has made a half dozen tackles in the backfield already. Albany High had 16 sacks in the scrimmage (10 against Kendrick) and the opener (six against Dougherty). But the Indians won't get many sacks against Westover, which will win or lose this game on the ground.

So who do you pick?

Flip a coin. That's what I did. It landed on Emmanul Byrd.

PREDICTION: Albany High 30, Westover 28.


OTHER BIG GAMES: They're going to find out a lot about Region 1-A tonight in Dawson, where Herald No. 4 Seminole County meets Terrell County in what could be another classic.

Seminole is so upset about last week's 43-40 last-minute, heartbreaking loss to state No. 5 Wesleyan that the Indians will want to take it out on somebody. Seminole Dynamite Dozen player Chris Brown could have a monster night, but it will be close.

PREDICTION: Seminole 35, Terrell County 28.


BAINBRIDGE-CAIRO: Wouldn't it be something if Bainbridge could upset Cairo in the big rivalry game at Cairo tonight?

Bainbridge QB Steven Bench and his father (Bainbridge offensive line coach Steve Bench Sr.) both bolted for Cairo after spring practice, leaving some pretty hard feelings in Bainbridge.

Bench may lead Cairo to the Class AAA state title, and everything points to a Cairo win tonight. But I'm picking Bainbridge in a ball-control upset with new quarterback Quincy Fortner scoring on an option run to pull off the win. (I'll be available to write the miracle finish screenplay later).

PREDICTION: Bainbridge 21, Cairo 14.


BACON BOWL, ETC ..: We have the Bacon Bowl tonight in Camilla, where Baconton Charter plays host to Bacon County, and some decent matchups in GISA, but most of these games look pretty clear to me with Deerfield and Westwood rolling to wins in GISA and Lee County with another load-the-bandwagon win against Crawford County, and Monroe winning big on the road. The toughest pick left is Miller County at Early County, but if T.T. Barber is healthy (and they tell me he is) I'll take the Pirates.

BEST OF THE REST:

Monroe 35, Northeast Macon 7

Mitchell County 28, Dougherty 14

Lee County 55, Crawford County 14

Deerfield 38, Stratford 14

Sherwood 28, Brookwood 21

Westwood 45, Tiftarea 14

SGA 28, Terrell Academy 21

Worth County 21, Turner County 7

Miller County 21, Early County 18

Randolph Southern 24, Harvester's Christian 14

Cook 21, Americus-Sumter 20

Mount de Sales 35, Southland 14

Thomasville 28, Pelham 7

Bacon County 17, Baconton 14

Georgia 41, Boise State 28