PREP FOOTBALL PREDICTION COLUMN: Crown ’em now --- Monroe-Westover winner will take 1-AAAA title

Herald High School Beat Writer Mike Phillips

Herald High School Beat Writer Mike Phillips

Is there a bigger game than Monroe-Westover? Don’t think so.

What a way to kick off the Region 1-AAAA race. Throwing Albany’s two biggest rivals at each other Saturday night is a great idea. Wish Albany State was out of town this week, because the crowd for the Nadas and Pats would be huge at Hugh Mills. It will be big enough for a game that will not only decide the city championship (that’s right, I’m picking the city champ in September), but it will give the winner the first step toward the playoffs and a possible region title.

Westover is good enough to win its first region title ever, and the Patriots will know just about everything they need to know in two weeks. They play Herald No. 1 Monroe on Saturday and face defending region champ Cairo next week in Cairo. If Octavia Jones’ kids start 2-0, you heard it here first: They’ll win the region.

We can talk about quarterbacks and how it will be up to Charles Stafford to win it Saturday for Monroe or T.J. Cromer to win it for Westover, but everybody knows that, so let’s talk about linebackers instead. Two of the best in Southwest Georgia will have a lot to do with who wins this one.

Westover’s Don Mills and Monroe’s Anthony Smith are both Dynamite Dozen guys, and both can dominate. Smith had a dozen tackles, including five for losses and a sack last week against a Fitzgerald offense that can move the ball against anyone.

Even in a loss last week, Mills and Westover put a lot of pressure on Lee County’s passing game, and Stafford is going to see some heat Saturday night.

Nobody throws a better ball than Monroe’s No. 12, and if it hadn’t been for some dropped passes last week against Fitzgerald, that game wouldn’t have been close. (Monroe had to win in OT).

Stafford, who puts everything on the money, threw for only 164 yards last week, but he would have racked up 200-plus if not for pass interference calls, including one that probably cost Monroe a game-winning TD in the closing minutes of regulation.

There’s not a better receiver in Southwest Georgia than Monroe’s Kevin Williams, and if Westover stops him the Pats win the game. Simple game plan, but there’s nothing simple about stopping Stafford from finding Williams. No one has done it yet.

Cromer, meanwhile, has emerged as a dangerous QB, and his ability to pick teams apart gives Westover a chance to score against anyone, because Dynamite Dozen running back Dalviness “Deion” Greene is going to get his yards. He gives Westover a big edge in the running game.

This game is always impossible for me to call, and it cost me dinner last year when I picked Westover to beat Monroe on the final game of the season. Monroe won and stormed into the playoffs. It’s still impossible to pick, but Monroe, which moved into the Class AAAA Top 10 state poll this week, has been The Herald’s No. 1-ranked team all year. I think the Tornadoes will still be there next week.

PREDICTION: Monroe 28, Westover 27.

GAME OF THE WEEK: The only region that opens play this week is Region 1-AAAA, because with the addition of Albany High, there are now eight teams. Four will go to the playoffs, and four will stay home.

Tonight’s Albany High game against Herald No. 5 Americus-Sumter is big for a number of reasons. The Panthers are without coach Michael Pollock, who has been temporarily relieved of his duties after an incident at practice, but the Panthers beat Macon County last week without Pollock. I agree with Albany High coach Felton Williams, who believes Americus will play with even more emotion to prove a point.

This is easy to pick: If Albany quarterback Emmanul Byrd has a big game, the Indians make their debut in AAAA with a win. The Byrdman had 18 balls dropped on him in the first two games, but Rantiez Williams caught 10 out of 10 passes last week, and the feeling here is that Williams, who also had two picks and scored three times (twice on receptions and once on an interception) last week, stays hot.

Americus-Sumter QB Bryce Benton can win it for the Panthers, but the most dangerous kid on the field is Jonathon Thomas, who plays everywhere (DB, WR and RB) for Americus. Player with the most impact on the field? That’s Albany linebacker Juwon Young.

Greg Cote, one of the best sports writers in the country, picks NFL games every week, and he always has his famous Upset Bird pick of the week. This is a tough one to call, but I’m going with the Byrdman and the upset.

PREDICTION: Albany High 27, Americus-Sumter 24

O VS. D: Herald No. 2 Bainbridge and Herald No. 3 Lee County are both stepping up and playing Class AAAAAA teams at home this week, and the feeling here is they both win.

Lee County wins with its offense.

Prediction: Lee County 35, Morrow 21

Bainbridge will win with its defense.

PREDICTION: Bainbridge 20, Westlake 10

ROAD WARRIORS?: Deerfield hits the road, where the Knights keep rolling with a big win against GISA Class AAA defending state champ Tattnall Square. The DWS kids have to come down from an emotional win against Stratford last week, but if you read this column you already know what I think about Allen Lowe and the rest of the coaches over on Nottingham. This won’t be close.

PREDICTION: Deerfield 38, Tattnall Square 14

The best of the rest:

Early County 28, Calhoun County 14

Worth County 27, Dougherty 22

Cairo 28, Crisp County 14

Terrell County 28, Schley County 20

Miller County 21, Marion County 20

Seminole County 27, Pelham 14

Brooks County 28, Mitchell County 18

Randolph-Clay 30, Stewart County 21

Southland 28, Terrell Academy 14

Randolph Southern 24, Griffin 21

Westfield 35, SGA 14