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PREP FOOTBALL PREDICTION COLUMN: Big games on tap for Week 4

Herald High School Beat Writer Mike Phillips

Herald High School Beat Writer Mike Phillips

The Herald’s Game of the Week may be in Blakely, where Herald No. 4 Early County hosts No. 2 Bainbridge tonight, but Deerfield and Stratford is as big as any regular-season game in GISA this season, and Monroe faces a huge test Saturday night against Fitzgerald.

Take the home team in all three.

Then there’s Lee County and Westover at Hugh Mills.

Lee County has scored 101 points in two games with its NASCAR offense, but Westover — which gets Dynamite Dozen linebacker Don Mills back this week — will slow down the Trojans. Mills, who has been out with a hamstring, returned to practice this week, and Westover coach Octavia Jones said the minute Mills walked onto the practice field his whole team felt the difference.

But will it be enough to slow down Lee County’s no-huddle, hit-and-run offense that uses two quarterbacks and Kenneth Hurley, another Herald Dynamite Dozen selection who has been electric in two games?

“You have to be ready on every play with the offense they run,’’ Jones said this week. “If you’re not, you will look up and it’s 21-0.’’

It won’t be 21-0, and Lee County won’t put up 52 points like the Trojans did last week against Albany High.

This game should be close, and fun to watch. Westover is going to challenge the Trojans’ blitz and throw the ball more in this game than in the first two. Look for Westover QB T.J. Cromer to put up some impressive numbers. My guess is this game ends with something in the 30s with the Trojans having a slight edge.

Prediction: Lee County 35, Westover 32

DEERFIELD ABOUT TO RUN THE TABLE: Just for the record, I’m picking Deerfield-Windsor to win the GISA Class AAA state title right now.

That could mean a rematch in the state final with Stratford, which shows up in Albany tonight looking to stay unbeaten. Could be a long ride home.

The way things are shaping up, Deerfield might just face Southland for the state title (stay tuned).

Since I’m picking the Knights to win another state title, guess who I’ve got tonight? Sure Stratford beat DWS twice last year, including the state semifinals, but I’ve got news for you: This year’s Knights are a better team.

Dynamite Dozen selection Kh’Ron McClain is dangerous every time he gets near the ball — as a tailback, receiver, defensive back or kick returner — and QB Dallas Margeson is a year older, more mature and cool enough (he doesn’t rattle easily) to get the Knights to the title game. And the best offensive lineman you haven’t heard about is Patrick Forrestal, who is still upset about last year’s loss to Stratford.

They kids at DWS hung the score to that loss to Stratford in the weight room, and looked at it all summer — all summer.

Think coach Allen Lowe’s kids will be ready tonight?

I do.

Prediction: DWS 20, Stratford 17

BOBCATS WIN THE CAT FIGHT: I think Early will knock off Class AAAAA Bainbridge, and here’s why: The Bobcats, who debuted in the state poll this week at No. 8 for the first time this season, are explosive with Dynamite Dozen QB Jacori Taylor, who threw for 287 yards and three TDs last week, and tailback Ladonis Bryant.

But Early wins this one on defense. Trey Woolf’s kids play the run as tough as anyone, and that’s how Bainbridge makes its living — banging away with a veer offense that features Dynamite Dozen tailback Terry Lewis and Damian Bouie. No one is going to move the ball much against Early County, which didn’t allow an offensive touchdown to Miller County last week.

Prediction: Early County 14, Bainbridge 13

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER: Now let’s move to Saturday night, and Monroe’s opening night at home. That’s right, the Tornadoes may need some help finding Hugh Mills after traveling to Tift County for a scrimmage and to Brooks County and to Wilcox County to open the season.

They didn’t pick a patsy to open with either. Monroe played Brooks County, ranked No. 2 in the state in Class AA, and Wilcox, which was ranked No. 2 in the state in Class A, before playing the always dangerous Purple Hurricanes.

Fitzgerald is the No. 3-ranked Class AA team in the state but might not be next week. The Purple Hurricanes like to run the ball, and that’s where this game should be won or lost. If Monroe can’t stop the run, the Tornadoes won’t win.

Monroe’s defense hasn’t given up much in two games, but it also hasn’t played nearly as well as it did at the end of last year. That’s Monroe’s challenge, because if the defense regains its dominating style that took Monroe into the playoffs a year ago, it’s going to be awfully tough for anyone to beat the Nadas.

The guess here is Monroe’s D shows up Saturday, and Herald Dynamite Dozen QB Charles Stafford throws three TDs.

Prediction: Monroe 21, Fitzgerald 7

ALBANY HANGS ON: Albany High and Mitchell County? Here’s a couple of teams headed in opposite directions. Mitchell is coming off a sky-high 13-0 win against county rival Pelham to give coach Larry Cornelius his first win at the school. Albany High is coming off a 52-13 loss to Lee County’s NASCAR offense.

So where do we go from here?

Albany High has dropped enough passes in its first two games to last the season, and the feeling here is the Indians hang on to the ball a little better tonight. That’s good news for Dynamite Dozen QB Emmanul Byrd. who completed 82 percent of his passes last year, but who has nothing but bad luck this season. If not for a couple of dropped passes on two-point conversions, the Indians would have beaten Greenville on opening night. Instead, Albany had to swallow a 20-18 loss and then face Lee County in the Trojans’ first home game.

This is the third road game in a row for Albany, so the kids should be used to the out-of-town atmosphere by now.

Mitchell is better than anyone thought, especially after losing 15 seniors. The Eagles had just 12 kids on the team last spring, but Cornelius has done an incredible job. Mitchell lost a tough one on opening night, falling to Clinch County, 36-20, on the road, and rebounded against Pelham.

This will be Mitchell’s first home game and Cornelius’ first chance to play a game at Centennial Stadium since taking over the program late last spring. His kids will play tough all night, but the Byrdman is due, and so is Albany High.

The feeling here is the Indians hang on to the ball for Byrd, who will throw three TDs, and hang on to win tonight.

Prediction: Albany High 21, Mitchell County 14

BEST OF THE REST:

Seminole County 28, Clinch County 21

Miller County 21, Pelham 14

Terrell County 26, Central Talbotton 7

Turner County 24, Calhoun County 22

Americus-Sumter 21, Macon County 20

Tift County 35, Worth 21

Valdosta 28, Crisp 7

Westwood 45, Windsor 14

Southland 35, Sherwood Christian 20

Randolph Southern 28, John Hancock 14

SGA 21, Tiftarea 7

Terrell Academy 30, Fullington 21

Crisp Academy 45, Covenant 7

Telfair County 14, Baconton Charter 7