Westover star defensive lineman Trent Thompson, far left, and a handful of his Patriot teammates bring down a Stockbridge running back in the second round of the Class AAAA playoffs in late November. Westover lost the game, 35-0, to end a season that saw the Patriots earn the team’s first region title in school history. (Herald file photo)
The large team picture of the 2013 Westover High School football team hangs in the hallway in front of the gymnasium.
Underneath are the words “2013 Region 1-AAAA Champions.”
Meanwhile, many Lee County football players wore their 2013 Region 1-AAAAA championship hoodies proudly.
For a pair of local schools known more for their basketball and baseball talents, region football titles were a big deal for both schools in 2013. Seminole County also won the Region 1-A title after a perfect regular season, and it’s the combination of those three special football seasons that makes this story rank third in our countdown of The Herald’s Top 10 sports stories of 2013.
Westover won its first region football title in school history, winning its last seven games to finish unbeaten in region play.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” said Westover head coach Octavia Jones after his team defeated Worth County on Nov. 1. “We told them when they were freshmen that one day they’d be region champs. That dream became a reality.”
It was also similar at Lee County, where the Trojans won their first region title and played host to a state playoff football game for the first time since 2005. Lee County won its last three region games and ended the regular season in a three-way tie for first-place with Thomas County Central and Harris County.
The Trojans won the tie-breaker, then played host to Effingham County in the first round of the state playoffs as the top seed.
“I was really proud of the kids,” Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio said. “They knew what was at stake.”
The Trojans held the top spot in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll all season, becoming the first time in the history of the poll to go wire-to-wire as No. 1. They won their first six games before their only loss at Thomas County Central. But the Trojans rebounded the following week, thumping Harris County for what started as a three-game winning streak to close the regular season.
Lee County outscored its final three opponents — Harris County, Hardaway and Bainbridge — by a combined 137-21.
Westover started the season 1-2 with losses to Tift County and Lee County. But the Patriots caught fire, beating playoff teams Monroe, Cairo and Crisp County in consecutive weeks to take over first place in the region standings. It was a spot they would never relinquish.
Then they defeated Americus-Sumter, Dougherty, Worth County and Albany. The victory over Albany High to close the regular-season gave the Patriots the city championship.
“That’s what we play for — city championship first, region champions then state champions,” Jones said. “Our guys did a good job.”
The Indians ended the year No. 2 in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll after finishing 10-0 in the regular season, but they were knocked out in the second round of the playoffs in a 42-0 rout by Charlton County, putting an end to the best Seminole County season in four decades.
“I’m proud of our little country runts,” Seminole coach Alan Ingram said after the loss. “They’ve played together all year and played with big, big hearts.”
It was a historic season for all three programs, which is what makes this The Herald’s No. 3 sports story of 2013.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Herald’s sports staff has chosen, in our eyes, Southwest Georgia’s Top 10 sports stories from 2013. Today marks the eighth of the 10 we’ve picked as having a significant impact as we count down to No. 1, which will appear in the Jan. 1 addition. Look for No. 2 in Tuesday’s Herald.