Albany High's Calvin Jackson dives into the end zone past Red Devils' Gary McCrae for his career touchdown night against Randolph-Clay.
ALBANY -- Feels good ... Feels great ... Feels awesome ...
Feels different ...
Pick a word, any word -- or all of the above -- and write it on the front of Albany High's football program. Use capital letters and make sure to put an orange and green exclamation point at the end of it.
That's what it's like at Albany High these days, where the Indians are off to their best start in years, a 3-1 start that carries its own emphatic punctuation after Thursday's 41-0 win against Randolph-Clay at Hugh Mills Stadium.
That's right, 41-0! (Pardon the exclamation point.)
"It feels great to be 3-1,'' said Albany High coach Felton Williams, who took over for good last year after being an assistant and interim head coach. "It's a feeling I'm not accustomed to, but it's a feeling I can used to to.
"It's been a long time,'' he said. "It's been a while.''
Well, 14 years, but who's counting? That's the last time the Indians got off to a 3-1 start, back in 1997. To get an idea just how far this program has come, consider this: The previous coach, Reggie Mitchell, won only two games in three years.
"Coach Williams has done a wonderful job there,'' said Randolph-Clay coach Daniel McFather, whose team beat Albany 20-6 last year. "We beat them last year, but they stuck it to us this time. They have done a 180. They're big. They're fast. And they're good. I take my hat off to them.''
He can tip his hat to his running back, too.
Randolph-Clay sophomore Dontrevious Bolden not only runs to daylight -- he is the light at the end of R-C's comeback tunnel.
Randolph-Clay came into the game at 2-0 with one of the youngest teams in Southwest Georgia. The Red Devils saw 22 seniors graduate from last year's team and have youth everywhere, including five freshmen and seven sophomores who start.
And one of those is Bolden, who rushed for 193 yards on 29 carries, including a busted play on a fumble that saw Bolden pick up the loose ball and head right, and then bolt left, circling the field and running about 70 yards on a highlight tape 43-yard run.
"That's a good team, but we have to play better,'' said Bolden, who never mentioned his big night. "We've got to commit. We've got to come back next week and get a win.''
It was a night of firsts for the Indians as three players all scored the first touchdowns of their careers, including freshman Quentin Sapp, who gained 123 yards on 14 carries and scored three touchdowns.
That's right. Westover is the only team to beat Albany High this year, in a tough 13-7, city rivalry game.
"I just take my anger out on the field,'' said Sapp, who scored on 6-, 4- and 43-yard runs. "I just pretend like the other team is Westover. They're the only team to beat us.''
Sapp got a pep talk from Calvin Jackson before the game, and sure enough, Sapp had a big night, and Jackson scored the first touchdown of his career.
"I just told him he was a freshman, but it doesn't matter right now. I told him it's time to step up,'' Jackson said. "I told him it's time to fill the shoes. I told him it was his time.''
Jackson did everything but prepare the team meal. He gained 74 yards on seven carries and scored on an 11-yard TD run. He also started at linebacker and made 10 tackles, including two for losses and -- in an emergency -- he became the team's kicker, and kicked five of six extra points (the other one was blocked). If that wasn't enough, it was Jackson, who started the night with his pep talk to Sapp, who led the team in prayer after the game.
Go ahead and give him his own exclamation point: Calvin Jackson!
Andrico Carter deserves one, too. Carter scored the first touchdown of his career and set the tone for the night when he picked off a pass and returned it 75 yards to lift Albany to a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game. Carter picked off another pass with a diving catch at the Albany 4-yard line to stop Randolph-Clay in the second quarter. He's got four interceptions this season, including three in the last two games, but nothing felt better than that 75-yard ride into the end zone.
"It was great, awesome,'' Carter said. "All I could see was touchdown, and when (teammate) Elliott Martin yelled 'cut back,' I cut back and that was it.''
Give Martin an assist. You remember Martin. He's the defensive back who made the game saving play to stop Monroe at the six-inch line on the final play of last Saturday's 14-13 Albany High win.
The Indians went from heart-stopper to just plain old stomping in just five days.
Albany High quarterback Emmanul Byrd didn't even need to throw much. He started the game hitting three of his first four passes for 64 yards in the first quarter, and then finished the night just 4 of 7 for 67 yards. He did rush for 36 yards, including a 2-yard TD run.
The Indians hit quickly and scored 20 first quarter points off Carter's interception and two fumbles as Byrd and Jackson each scored TDs.
"We weren't focused like we should be,'' McFather said. "They got three quick scores and we got into a big hole early. We moved the ball, but we just didn't get any points. They're pretty darn good.''
Good enough to be 3-1 -- with or without the exclamation point.