Corey Joyner, in his first season with Dougherty, leads his Trojans against Lee County's Trojans tonight in the recently renewed Trojan Bowl rivalry.
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WHO: Lee County at Dougherty.
WHAT: Trojan Bowl, 2012 season opener for both teams
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today.
WHERE: Hugh Mills Stadium.
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ALBANY — There are no wooden horses involved, but when Dougherty meets Lee County tonight, it will mean more than just the renewal of an old rivalry.
It’s the Trojan Bowl.
That’s what they have been calling it for years (because both teams’ mascots are the Trojans), and it comes with its own set of bragging rights and even a trophy.
They Trojans haven’t met the Trojans since 2007, and no one even knew where the trophy was, so the two schools got together and bought a new trophy.
“I didn’t even know anything about it when we got them on the schedule,’’ Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio said. “It’s a big deal with a trophy and everything.’’
Fabrizio just started playing the teams from Albany this year, and said he was happy to have the Dougherty County schools on the schedule because of the natural rivalry and proximity.
“We’re playing Dougherty, Albany and Westover, and we wanted to play Monroe but couldn’t work it out on the schedule,’’ Fabrizio said.
Dougherty coach Corey Joyner knows all about the Trojan Bowl.
“We played them when I was playing here,’’ said Joyner, a star WR back in Dougherty’s glory days. “Back when I was playing, Dougherty would win the game, like, 60-0.’’
Dougherty has dominated the series and leads, 10-4, including an eight-year winning streak between 1989 and 1998, when Dougherty won the game, 66-6, and then went on to win the state championship.
Lee County won the first game in 1988 (16-14), then Dougherty took over. During the eight-game winning streak, Dougherty shut out Lee in 1991 (33-0) and 1992 (26-0), and also won its most lopsided game in 1990 when Joyner was a freshman playing in that 66-6 win against Lee County. The two teams didn’t play in 1994 or ’95, and the rivalry also had a hiatus from 2000 through 2004.
Lee County will be the favored tonight when the two teams meet at Hugh Mills to open the season. Lee is now in Region 1-AAAAA, and Dougherty, which has a much smaller enrollment than Lee County, is playing up in Region 1-AAAA, because it wasn’t geographically feasible to play in Class AAA.
Lee turned its program around two years ago and reached the playoffs, and it feels it can make it back to the postseason this year.
Dougherty has fallen on some difficult times of late and is coming off a 1-9 season and a two-year stretch of going 3-17 under Jesse Hicks, who left in March to take a job at Central Macon.
Joyner, a long-time assistant coach and former player who was the community’s choice for the job two years ago when Hicks was hired, got the job last spring, and has brought a new attitude to Dougherty.
“He has made us believe we can win,’’ Dougherty sophomore quarterback Mike Whatley said. “We know it’s going to take hard work, but he is a great motivator, and we’re going to work hard.’’
Lee County enters the game with an explosive offense that has seen the program put up points against everyone over the last two years by spreading the field and throwing the ball all over the place.
Fabrizio has two quarterbacks in senior Matt Mears, who threw for more than 2,300 yards last year, and Stephen Collier, a junior who has the ability to run or throw. Lee County is still adjusting to the loss of Josh Cabrera, a junior who was considered the best receiver in Southwest Georgia. Cabrera’s father, a career Marine, was stationed in South Carolina just before practice began earlier this month.
Kenneth Hurley, a Herald Dynamite Dozen selection who rushed for 618 yards and had 200 yards in receptions, is expected to have a big year, and Hurley said he wants to leave Lee County as the top running back in the school’s history. He gets his chance to make a statement tonight.
“They’re a good team,’’ Joyner said. “We’ve got to stop (Hurley) if we want to beat them.’’
Both teams want to start on a high note in the opener. There has been a lot of optimism around Lee County this year, and everyone at Dougherty — coaches, alumni, players and fans in the community — are excited about Joyner taking over the program.
“It’s going to be a good game,’’ Fabrizio said. “We’re excited about starting the season and seeing where we’re at, and we’re excited about playing Dougherty. It’s the Trojan Bowl.’’