Herald High School Writer Mike Phillips

Herald High School Writer Mike Phillips

Defining moments.

You know they're out there.

That's what this weekend is all about for several teams in Southwest Georgia, games that can turn a season around, games that can spark and ignite and change a team's attitude and future -- games that can define a team.

They're everywhere.

Just look tonight at Hugh Mills, where Monroe meets state-ranked Cairo in the Region 1-AAA opener.

Sure, everyone picked Cairo to win the region title back in August -- maybe even back in May. But Cairo doesn't face many teams that throw the ball. And as good as the Syrupmakers are -- and they swarm to the ball as well as any Class AAA team in Georgia -- Monroe has a chance to pull off the upset tonight.

That's how good the Tornadoes can be.

Charles Stafford can put the football in the side pocket in a billiard room, or bank it in off a backboard in a gym if he has to -- and he sure knows how to find his receivers.

Don't count the Nadas out of this one.

It could be a classic. It could be a Monroe win. It could define the season for Charles Truitt's kids who are in every game they play. They had so much hard luck last year in the Region 1-AAA race, how about a change of luck in the opener?

Prediction: Monroe 21, Cairo 20.

SATURDAY DUEL: What about Bainbridge at Northside, Warner Robins on Saturday afternoon?

OK, OK, nobody beats Northside at Northside, but this Bainbridge team is far better than the writers who vote in the state poll realize. Terry Lewis is a big, tough running back who fits in the veer like he was born to run it, and Bainbridge's defense will hit Northside as hard as anyone this season. And if Bainbridge can keep it close, and I believe Ed Pilcher's kids will make it real close, then the Bearcats have the guy who can win it. Daniel Provence is the best sophomore kicker in the state.

Defining moment? Just wait until Provence kicks in that winner, 17-14. Define that! I'm taking the Bearcats on the road in a stunner.

Prediction: That's right, 17-14, Provence.

COLUMBUS QUEST: Let's go up to Columbus for a minute. That's where Lee County defines its season right away. If the Trojans are going to the playoffs again they almost have to beat Northside, Columbus in tonight's Region 1-AAAA opener.

Northside is 3-0 and has outscored opponents 97-7, so why would anyone pick against these guys -- especially in Columbus? Well, because Dean Fabrizio's kids at Lee County believe they deserve to be in the playoffs (who would have thought that about Lee's program a few years ago?) and that's going to help them pull off the upset tonight.

Prediction: Lee County 34, Northside 31.

BIG GAME IN 1-A: There's a beauty of game at Miller County, where Terrell County meets the Pirates in a must-win contest for both teams. Pay no attention to their records. The pre-region games don't mean much, and both of these teams are much better than their 0-fer starts. Both should make the Class A playoffs, but a loss tonight might mean the difference between getting in or staying home later. That's why this is such a classic showdown. It's almost like a playoff game -- it's just early in the region schedule.

Let me go out on a limb and pick Miller in a thriller.

Prediction: Miller County 35, Terrell County 28.

SHOWDOWNS IN SYLVESTER, THOMSVILLE: Worth County is at home against Americus-Sumter in one of the best Region 1-AAA games of the year. It's a coin flip, and I'm taking the Rams at home, 21-14.

And then there's Early County at Thomasville. Early is the most underrated team in SW Georgia. But not after tonight -- Early 14, Thomasville 7.

BEST OF THE REST: Here's a look at the rest of the games:

Westover 28, Dougherty 21

Deerfield 35, Brentwood 7

Westwood 55, Fullington 14

Randolph-Clay 42, Pelham 35

Mitchell County 35, Stewart 7

Seminole County 35, Daleville, Ala. 24

Sherwood Christian 21, Trinity Christian 7

Southland 35, Tiftarea 7

Windsor 28, Randolph Southern 21