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Monroe stays No. 1; Americus back in Fab 5 poll

Monroe running back Devontay Stephens gained 74 yards Saturday against Fitzgerald and made a game-saving play on defense in the Tornadoes’ 35-28 overtime victory.

Monroe running back Devontay Stephens gained 74 yards Saturday against Fitzgerald and made a game-saving play on defense in the Tornadoes’ 35-28 overtime victory.

Fab 5 Poll

1. Monroe (2-1)

The Tornadoes had to go to overtime to beat AA state-ranked Fitzgerald, 35-28, and after playing three state ranked teams, Monroe is a Hail Mary away from being unbeaten. Next: vs. Westover, 7 p.m. Saturday at Hugh Mills.

2. Bainbridge (2-1)

Daniel Provence kicked a pair of extra points, and the defense stopped No. 4 Early County on a two-point conversion run in the final seconds to win the Fab 5 showdown, 14-12, last week. Next: vs. Westlake, 7:30 p.m., Friday.

3. Lee County .... (3-0)

The Trojans, the only unbeaten team in the poll, rallied to beat Westover, 42-28, to sweep the three Albany schools on its schedule, scoring 143 points in three games. Next: vs. Morrow, 7:30 p.m., Friday.

4. Early County ..(2-1)

The Bobcats aren’t penalized in the poll after losing, 14-12, to No. 2 Bainbridge, which hasn’t lost to anyone in Georgia. Next: At Calhoun County, 7:30 p.m., Friday.

5. Americus .........(2-1)

The Panthers replace Westover (1-2) at No. 5 after an impressive 34-18 win against Macon Central. Next: vs. Albany High, 7:30 p.m., Friday at Hugh Mills.

ALBANY — It took overtime and a great defensive stand by Monroe’s Green Wall (that’s what the kids call their defensive unit) but Monroe beat state-ranked Fitzgerald, 35-28, to stay atop The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll.

Monroe have had three non-region games this year and have played three teams that are ranked in the Top 10 in the state in their respective classification.

Brooks County is ranked No. 2 in the Class AA state poll and Fitzgerald has been ranked No. 2 or No. 3 all year in the same poll. Wilcox County was ranked No. 2 in the Class A state poll before losing to Monroe, 28-14.

Beating Fitzgerald not only kept Monroe at No. 1, but it gives the Tornadoes momentum going into Region 1-AAAA this week.

“That was a big win, because the kids kept fighting and never gave up,’’ Monroe coach Charles Truitt said. “When Fitzgerald came back we could have rolled over, but we didn’t. We came back and kept fighting.’’

Now Monroe begins region play this week against city rival Westover, which was knocked out of the poll this week and replaced by Americus-Sumter after a 42-28 loss to Lee County

“That was a big, big win (against Fitzgerald),’’ said Monroe’s Devontay Stephens, who played running back for the first time and gained 74 yards. He gained eight yards on the first play in overtime to set up Brenton Truitt’s 1-yard TD run, and it was Stephens, who starts at cornerback, who made the final play of the game, forcing Fitzgerald out of bounds on a fourth-and-four play, just short of the first down.

“We had to make that play,’’ he said. “We had to win that game. We needed that going into the region.’’

Monroe meets Westover at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Hugh Mills for what should be one of the best games of the year. Westover, which was ranked No. 5 in the poll, dropped out after losing to Lee County, which is ranked No. 3 in the Fab 5 poll.

The Patriots (1-2) would be unbeaten if games ended at halftime. They had state-ranked Jonesboro down 12-8 at halftime before losing two weeks ago, and they were leading, 28-20, at halftime before losing 42-28 last week to a Lee County offense that has put up 143 points in three games.

The Fab 5 showdown was as good as advertised as both teams combined to score 70 points.

Lee (3-0) stays at No. 3, right behind its Region 1-AAAAA rival Bainbridge, which beat Herald No. 4 Early County, 14-12, when the Bainbridge defense stopped a two-point conversion run in the final seconds to hang on against the Bobcats.

Bainbridge (2-1) hasn’t lost to a team in Georgia. The Bearcats lost to Florida powerhouse East Gadsden on opening night and then beat state-ranked Cairo, 17-14, on a last-second field goal, and state-ranked Early with a last-second defensive stand.

Early County, which moved into the Class AA state poll last week at No. 9, looks like one of the best AA teams in the state, and quarterback Jacori Taylor looks like one of the top players in Southwest Georgia so far. The Bobcats (2-1) stay at No. 4 after the big Fab 5 showdown game against Bainbridge.

The only change in the poll comes at the No. 5 spot, where Westover drops out and Americus-Sumter, which began the season ranked No. 4 in the poll, moves back in after an impressive win against Macon County.

The Panthers (2-1) will open Region 1-AAAA play this week against Albany High (1-2), which is coming off a big win against Mitchell County and could have a chance to move into the Fab 5 poll with a win against Americus at Hugh Mills on Friday.