DONALSONVILLE — A lot is riding on tonight’s Region 1-A game between Herald No. 2 Seminole County and No. 4 Mitchell County with the winner claiming the Region 1-A title and an automatic berth in the Class A public school state playoffs.
But don’t tell Mitchell County coach Larry Cornelius and Seminole County coach Alan Ingram that tonight’s game in Donalsonville is big.
The pair have been trying to downplay the game all week.
“We’re trying to treat it like any other game,” Cornelius said. “We don’t want our guys getting too amped up before kickoff.”
Then it was Ingram’s turn, whose team can cap off an unbeaten regular season with a victory. It would match the 1972 Seminole County squad’s unbeaten year, believed to be the last Indian team to roll through the regular season undefeated.
“Our kids and our staff have tried to handle all of our games the same,” Ingram said. “This one will probably be a little more emotional. We just try to get our kids to play hard every week.”
While Seminole (9-0, 5-0 Region 1-A) is trying to match history, Mitchell will be trying to win its first region title under Cornelius and first since 2010 when the Eagles went unbeaten in region play. Mitchell was the last team not named Seminole County to win the Region 1-A title.
Ingram said Mitchell’s speed is a concern. Quarterback Bruce Bryant leads the team with 790 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Bryant has also passed for 564 yards and five touchdowns. Running back Anfreenee Williams has rushed for 744 yards and eight touchdowns.
One of Bryant’s top targets is wide receiver Josh King, who has hauled in 19 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns and is a big-play threat the Indians will have to stop.
“One of our goals is to always go undefeated in the regular season and win region,” Ingram said. “Those two things are riding on (tonight’s) game. Those are things we want to accomplish, which makes (tonight) such a big game.”
Mitchell County (6-3, 5-0) has won five straight after starting the season 1-3. During that stretch, the Eagles have outscored opponents by a combined 218-43. However, they haven’t played a team the caliber of Seminole County.
Cornelius, in his second season, said the Indians’ resiliency is what impresses him the most.
“I’ve watched eight of their games, and they never give up,” he said. “It’s rare for one kid on their team to take a play off. When they played Early County earlier in the season, I think they were down like 13-0 heading into the fourth quarter. They ended up coming back and winning the game.
“They never quit.”
Seminole County’s defense has been key all the season. The Indians have recorded three shutouts and had two other games where they allowed only seven points.
“They’ll line up and play a cover zone all night,” Cornelius said. “And they’ll try to take your run game away. But we feel like if we can give our quarterback enough time and some of our wide receivers will be able to get open, we can have success. We may miss some, but hopefully we may be able to hit a home run, too.”