After a 3-7 record his first year and a 4-6 mark in Year 2, Octavia Jones seems to have the Westover football program on the right track after it finished 8-4 this year and reached the second round of state.
Seminole cruises in playoff opener; next up dangerous Dooly
DONALSONVILLE — Seminole County used a combination of smash-mouth running and shutdown defense Friday night in a relatively easy 36-7 win against Commerce in the first round of the GHSA Class A state playoffs.
But Round 2 is about to be a whole lot harder.
Coming to Donalsonville next week is Dooly County (9-2), which beat Turner County, 19-8, in its opener and features one of the most highly recruited defensive tackles in the country in 6-foot-4, 310-pound front-line beast Montravius Adams.
Seminole coach Alan Ingram said Saturday he would’ve rather faced Turner County — a team that’s coached by his good friend Eric Soliday and one that the Indians have already beaten this year (34-32 on Sept. 7) — but he said his guys will suit up Friday and try to do the same thing to Dooly it did to Commerce: dominate.
“They’re all good this time of year,” he said. “If Dooly’s next, then that’s who we’ll play. But we have to play better against them than we did against Commerce.”
Seminole jumped out to a 23-7 lead then, according to Ingram, sleepwalked through the second and third quarters before coming alive on a goal-line stand late in the third.
“That was the high point, that stop. We really bowed up there and showed some life,” the coach said.
Ingram singled out the play of linebacker Alex Koonce, who the coach called “the best player, on any side of the ball, in our region.” Koonce forced two fumbles, one of which led to a Shavone Wiggins TD return that sealed the game in the fourth quarter.
Thomas Aiken and Dequan Hamlet each scored rushing touchdowns for Seminole and Jakhari Martin found the back of the end zone twice. Aiken finished with 103 yards on 12 carries, Martin had 71 yards on nine carries and Hamlet finished with 54 yards on 13 carries.
Koonce finished with nine tackles, Parker Miller had 12 and Jonathan Hudson led the way with 13.
Seminole (9-2) will now host Dooly on Friday in the second round at 7:30 p.m.
ALBANY — There was only one thing that could bring a smile to Westover head coach Octavia Jones’ face Saturday following a gut-wrenching, season-ending loss in the second round of the state playoffs Friday night.
“I’m watching Georgia beat up on Georgia Tech right now,” he began, “so that made me feel a little bit better.”
Nothing, of course, could fully wash away the disappointment of seeing the Patriots’ historic season end earlier than Jones and the rest of his team expected.
After all, this was South Effingham, a No. 4 seed that had to come to Albany and knock Westover off on its home turf.
And it did just that, 41-28.
“I knew they were better than their seed. They beat a No. 1 a week earlier, so I didn’t let my team get caught up in thinking this was going to be easy,” the coach said Saturday. “They’re a good, scrappy football team, and they put it on us (Friday).”
Two early fumbles put Westover in a 14-0 hole, but Jones said the team’s energy was renewed when it bounced right back to tie it thanks to a T.J. Cromer TD run and pass to Jackie Childs.
“We climbed out of the hole, but between the second-half turnovers and not being to stop them on defense, it put us in a bad situation,” Jones said. “And when we lost (one of our two-way linemen to injury), it gave them a lot of room to run. And their running back (Josh Mercer) just hurt us.”
Mercer, a North Carolina State commit, rushed for 125 yards in the game, including three touchdowns, and he also caught a TD.
“He’s their go-to guy, and we focused a lot of our attention on him, but it wasn’t enough,” Jones said. “It was tough to fight our way back into the game several times, then we weren’t able to stop Mercer.”
Westover, which hosted a state playoff game for the first time a week ago and was making more history with its second Friday, ends its season ay 8-4, marking the fifth winning season in school history.
Even more impressive, however, is the progression of the program since Jones took over three years ago.
Westover finished 3-7 in Jones’ first year, then 4-6 a year ago. So 2012’s 8-4 record — coupled with a second-place finish in the region and the honor of being able to call itself city champs after beating Albany, Dougherty and Monroe — was something Jones was especially the proud of.
Just not as proud as he had hoped he’d be.
“When I woke up (Saturday), I can’t say I felt satisfied. I feel like we should still be playing,” he said. “However, when I take a look at the overall progress we’ve made, I feel good. I feel excited. I think we have some great players coming down the line, and our juniors and underclassmen are all very talented.
“We achieved a lot with this group of seniors, and I appreciate every thing they did for us.”
Jones said that was his basic message to his team as they knelt on the field after the loss: Don’t hang your heads — you have a lot to be proud of.
“I thanked them for all they did for the program and believing in me and what we’re trying to do here,” Jones said. “I challenged them to take the reins three years ago when I got here, and each senior class has done that. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Westover loses a total of 24 seniors — eight of them starters — but none bigger than running back Dalviness “Deion” Greene and linebacker Don Mills, both of whom are Herald Dynamite Dozen selections.
“They will be missed,” Jones said of Mills and Greene. “They led on their side of the ball, and it will be hard to replace them.”
Greene scored once in Friday’s win, while Mills led the defense in tackles and tackles for loss. Westover’s other scores came from Cromer on a QB sneak and a Cromer-to-Jackie-Childs TD pass that knotted the game at 14-14 in the first half.
One of those future players Westover will be counting on next year, backup QB Ta’Keevian Harris, even got in the mix during mop-up time and capped Westover’s scoring with a TD run with under a minute left.
Jones said the plan going forward is simple.
“Take a week off and get back in the weight room,” he said. “For as far as we’ve come, this is going to be an important offseason.
“We can’t stop now.”
Early in state quarters; DWS, Westwood set to play for state titles
BLAKELY — At around 5 a.m. Saturday morning, a tired and weary Trey Woolf got off the bus following a five-hour ride back from Sylvania and headed home.
But at least he went home a winner.
The Bobcats, for the second week in a row, went on the road and upset a higher seed in the GHSA Class AA state playoffs Friday night, this time No. 1 Screven County, 28-7.
“I thought we played really well. We were real pleased with the way we played on both sides of the ball,” Woolf said Saturday. “It was a good win.”
Early now heads back out on the road to face Greater Atlanta Christian (9-3), the No. 2 seed out of Region 6 that pounded Heard County in its second-round game Friday, 52-21.
When asked Saturday what he knew about his quarterfinal opponent, Woolf’s reply?
“Pretty much ... absolutely nothing,” he said with a laugh. “I know we played them in 2002 in the state semifinals in the Georgia Dome and lost (21-19), so they’re traditionally a heck of a football program.”
Early is too.
And after several up-and-down years, the Bobcats — who last made the state quarters in 2006 — are a program once again on the rise.
To figure out why, look no further than senior quarterback and Herald Dynamite Dozen selection Jacori Taylor, who was a one-man wrecking crew Friday. Taylor rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and threw for 147 yards and two touchdowns, each to the other half of Early’s 1-2 punch, RB/WR Ladonis Bryant.
“He’s really improved back there for us. He’s gotten a lot more patient, he’s hanging in there longer and he’s just learned so much,” Woolf said of Taylor. “But you have to give our offensive line credit for a lot of (Jacori and Ladonis’) success. Those guys continue to get the job done.”
Early faces another long ride Friday, this time four hours. Woolf said he won’t mind if it ends like the last trip home.
“We’re playing good ball right now,” the coach said. “Now we just gotta keep it up.”
WESTWOOD, DEERFIELD PREP FOR STATE TITLE GAMES: By virtue of their wins Friday — Westwood beat Brentwood, 40-28, and Deerfield downed Stratford, 24-17 — Southwest Georgia’s two powerhouse private schools will play for state titles in their respective classes Friday.
For Deerfield (12-1), the opponent — Heritage — is a bit of a wild card.
“We don’t know much about them other than they’re a very good team that just thumped Westfield,” DWS coach Allen Lowe said Saturday. “We’ll have our hands full.”
DWS, which will host the title game, beat Westfield earlier this year, 28-7.
Lowe praised the play of the defense, along with QB Dallas Margeson, RB Kh’Ron McClain and WR Rich Fallaw in the win, but he also made sure to give a special shout out to Coleman Butler. It was Butler who recovered Stratford’s onside kick attempt to end the game and thwart the Eagles’ final threat.
“Oh, man ... I’m telling you, I was glad to see that ball settle in his arms,” Lowe said. “He was just one of many guys who made big plays.”
Westwood’s opponent, meanwhile, is a familiar one: the unbeaten Valwood Valiants (13-0), who stomped Westwood by 30 points (48-18) back in October.
The Wildcats (11-2), who won the last two GISA Class A titles before moving up this offseason, will have to go on the road in this one and will be looking for another big game from star running back J.T. Edore, who scored four times in Friday’s win.