Herald High School Writer Mike Phillips
Get to Hugh Mills early Saturday night and just look up.
That's where this game is going to be won -- in the air.
Enjoy it, because not enough teams in Georgia throw the ball. Just look at what's going on in the three biggest football states in the nation. In California and Florida everyone throws the ball. And in Texas? It's insane the number of quarterbacks who are coming out of there. It's because all the good programs have great passing games.
There's a reason the quarterback at the University of Georgia is from Tampa, and the guy who had the Bulldogs ranked nationally before him (Matthew Stafford) is from Highland Park, just outside Dallas. I know Cam Newton is from Georgia, but the one-of-a-kind Newton tends to be the exception to every rule.
Now, back to Hugh Mills. That's where Monroe sophomore quarterback Charles Stafford and Albany High junior Emmanul Byrd will air it out come Saturday night when the two city rivals meet under the lights.
Both are young with tremendous futures. And they're fun to watch right now. Stafford has emerged as a sophomore. He threw for 239 yards in the 26-0 opening-night win against Terrell County and then for 174 yards in a 14-6 win against Northeast Macon last week. He also ran for the clinching TD in that game to put Monroe at 2-0.
Byrd hit five passes in a row and had 181 yards and four TDs in the first half against Dougherty in Albany's season opener, and then was smothered last week. Westover sacked the Byrd-man 10 times, and he just never had time to throw.
It's my fault. I wrote here last week that I had to flip a coin to decide the winner of the Westover-Albany game, and the coin landed on Byrd. That got the Patriots worked up and their defense landed on Byrd.
The feeling here is that on Saturday night, Byrd gets more time, throws for a few TDs and Stafford matches him in a game you don't want to miss.
This could be one of those games in which the team with the ball last wins.
PREDICTION: Albany 28, Monroe 27.
GROUND AND POUND: They might not need a scoreboard tonight at Hugh Mills.
That's how stingy they are at Bainbridge and Westover, a couple of programs that live by the run and thrive on stopping it.
Don't look for much passing in this one. Westover's defense, led by Herald Dynamite Dozen defensive tackle Chris Green, had 10 sacks last week against Albany High, and held the Indians to just 97 total yards.
Westover running back Dalviness Greene gains almost that many yards just rolling out of bed every morning. Greene (they call him "Deion") gained 274 yards on 30 carries last week, and has picked up 476 yards on the ground in just two games.
Yeah, but whose counting?
Not Greene. He was shocked to find out what he gained last week. Almost as shocked as some of Westover's critics that the Patriots are 2-0.
Whoever wins this game should be ranked in the Top 10 next week when the Class AAA and Class AAAA polls come out. We'll see what happens.
Westover is rolling.
PREDICTION: Westover 14, Bainbridge 10.
INTERESTING GAME IN SEMINOLE COUNTRY: There's a pretty intriguing game in Donalsonville, where Seminole County hosts Early County. That's the same Early County team that held Seminole's biggest rival, Miller County, to just 34 yards last week in a 12-8 win. Early also played Class AAAA Bainbridge close in a 16-12 loss.
The Bobcats swarm and don't give up much. So what happens when they meet arguably the most prolific Class A running game in the state?
Seminole looks unstoppable after scoring 40 against state-ranked Wesleyan and 50 against Terrell County.
So can Early stop Dynamite Dozen running back Chris Brown, who has gained 161 yards on just 11 carries, and teammate Barren Rambo, who has gained 233 yards in two games and is coming off a 108-yard night on just eight carries? Then there's Dee Virgin, who scored every time he touched the ball last week, finding the end zone on a 75-yard kickoff return, a 29-yard reception and a 51-yard run. Or what about quarterback Antwan Buggs, who gained 136 yards on the ground in the opener?
Got to go with the Indians in this one. I don't think these guys are losing again -- well, maybe deep in the playoffs. And that's a big maybe.
PREDICTION: Seminole County 35, Early County 21.
DWS TRIES TO REBOUND: There are some other big games tonight. Deerfield will bounce back after being upset at Stratford last week. The Knights have a lot of new players trying to fill some big shoes, and after winning the opener against rival Sherwood Christian, they took a week off. My guess is that week hurt them, because they are still trying to find out who they are.
OK, they got shocked last week. But look for a big win tonight at home against Bethesda. Let's see, how about 45-14?
REST OF THE BEST:
Here's a look at the rest:
Lee County 40, Terrell County 28
Dougherty 28, Clarkston 20
Thomasville 28, Mitchell County 21
Westwood 40, Sherwood 20
SGA 50, Randolph Southern 14
Randolph-Clay 35, Baconton Charter 14
Calhoun County 32, Stewart County 14
Brooks County 35, Pelham 14
Cook 21, Worth 20
Miller County 21, Northview, Ala. 14
Troup 28, Americus-Sumter 21
Pinewood 28, Southland 14