Herald High School Writer Mike Phillips
I keep hearing how Cairo is going to clobber Monroe, how it’s not going to be close.
Someone told me Cairo would win by at least three touchdowns. Someone else said it might be worse.
Maybe Monroe should just stay home and forget about playing tonight.
That’s what tradition does to people. Doesn’t matter what sport or at what level, teams with winning traditions show up and have a big edge. They show up believing they’re supposed to win. Their opponents believe it, too. They just don’t talk about it.
Last year Westover had Cairo down, 20-0, at halftime.
Everything was going right for Westover, and nothing could go right for the Syrupmakers.
So what happened?
Cairo won the game 28-20.
Cairo coach Tom Fallaw said after the game that he never talked about the score or about winning the game at halftime. He said he just told his kids to go out there and play with pride.
That’s one of the differences between Cairo and everybody else. It’s about character and pride and doing it the Cairo way. When kids show up the first day of practice, their first day on the team, they know they’re expected to win.
When Gary Sheffield, who played for a variety of teams in the major leagues, came to the Atlanta Braves, he said the minute he walked into the Braves’ clubhouse he felt different. Sheffield said the Braves had an aura about them, a quiet confidence. No one doubted they would win. No one questioned it.
I think that aura of winning is even bigger and more important in high school sports. I went to a high school like that. I could go anywhere in the state of Illinois and tell people I went to Thornton, and they would say: “That Thornton.’’ We never thought we were supposed to lose to anybody. When Kevin Garnett was an All-American in high school and one step from the NBA, his team didn’t win the state title. They lost to Thornton.
Garnett’s team was a lot better.
When I was in college in Texas, I went to a high school playoff game in Texas Stadium to watch Odessa Permian play. That’s the team that the book and movie “Friday Night Lights” are based on. Permian was legendary, and I couldn’t wait to see what this powerhouse team looked like. Then Perimian took the field, and my mouth dropped wide open.
That can’t be Permian, I thought. Their offensive line is so small. There was nothing special about them. Then the game began, and I watched Permian beat a bigger, faster team from the Dallas area.
Pride, tradition, whatever you call it. It’s real. They call it Mo-Jo in Odessa, Texas.
In Georgia, they say, “Well, Cairo is Cairo.’’
Everyone knows what that means.
That’s what Monroe wants. That’s what the kids there crave for, what they dream about. They want to be that team — the one everyone points to, the team everyone respects.
Monroe linebacker Anthony Smith said this week that Cairo wins because the Syrupmakers, “are disciplined,’’ because they “are fundamentally sound” and “listen to their coaches,’’ and because they play hard and “sacrifice.’’
He sounded like a speaker at a football coaches workshop.
Cairo is Cairo, and that’s what Monroe wants to be. Truitt has done wonders in his tenure as the coach there, taking the Tornadoes to the state playoffs and making strides in a program that hadn’t won much since current Westover principal William Chunn coached there in the 1990s.
It’s simple: Monroe wants what Cairo has. The Nadas can’t win it all tonight, but they grab a piece of it with a win tonight.
Truitt told his kids: “This is our chance to be a great team.’’
Almost everyone in Georgia is picking Cairo in this game, and I understand why. And everyone who reads this column knows I’m picking Monroe.
PREDICTION: Monroe 21, Cairo 10
TIME TO SETTLE THE FEUD: The biggest game of the year down south is in Donalsonville tonight. You gotta love the game they call the “Backyard Brawl/Family Feud” between Miller County and Seminole County. I vote for both in the state Top 10 poll because I think both are that good, and I have picked Seminole to win every week after the Indians suffered that 55-20 loss to Early County on opening night.
Everyone buried the Indians after that loss, but I told people two things: 1) Early is that good, and, 2) Seminole will get a lot better.
Alan Ingram’s kids were so young back on opening night. Miller coach Frank Killingsworth said this week: “That team that lost 55-20 to Early County doesn’t exist anymore.’’
He’s right. Seminole looks ready to win the region title in tonight’s showdown between two unbeaten teams in Region 1-A. Miller (8-1) has put together a remarkable season and has won seven in a row after losing, 21-6, to Early in the second week of the season.
So who wins?
I hate picking games like this. I can’t win. It’s so close between the two teams, and this game is so rich in tradition and the rivalry couldn’t be any better. When it’s a coinflip game like this one, I almost always go with the home team. The game is in Donalsonville.
PREDICTION: Seminole County 26, Miller County 24
BEST OF THE REST:
Lee County 55, Northside Columbus 14
Deerfield-Windsor 48, Tiftarea 0
Albany High 28, Crisp County 14
Westover 35, Worth County 30
Westwood 40, TAE 28
Terrell County 28, Stewart 14
Randolph-Clay 28, Calhoun County 20
Randolph Southern 31, First Presbyterian 7
Early County 40, Pelham 7
Bainbridge 31, Dothan (Ala.) 20
Valwood 45, SGA 14
Robert Toombs 35, Crisp Academy 30
Southland 28, Bulloch 21