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PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Westover wary of Liberty County in playoff opener

Patriots seek to advance to second round for second straight year

Westover receiver Michael Green and the Patriots are a perfect 6-0 this season at Hugh Mills Stadium, where they will host Liberty County tonight in the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

Westover receiver Michael Green and the Patriots are a perfect 6-0 this season at Hugh Mills Stadium, where they will host Liberty County tonight in the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

ALBANY — Westover High School football coach Octavia Jones hasn’t seen Liberty County play in a live game.

But he’s seen enough of the Panthers on film to know his Patriots will have their hands full tonight when they play host to Liberty County in the first round of the Class AAAA state playoffs at Hugh Mills Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

Liberty (8-2) boasts five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan, one of the nation’s top linebacking prospects. In addition, freshman athlete Richard Lecounte, who has already received offers from Florida and Ohio State, is another standout the Patriots will have to contend with.

This is Westover’s reward for winning the school’s first region championship?

“We’ve got our hands full trying to make sure we know where he is,” Jones said of McMillan, who will play in the Under Armour All-America Game later this year. “Just those two guys alone are enough to worry about.”

It could be a game college scouts will drool over, considering Westover has defensive line prospect and Herald Dynamite Dozen selection Trenton Thompson, one of the top prospects nationally in the class of 2015.

With the exception of a brief two-game losing skid to Statesboro and Wayne County, the Panthers have been flawless. That is a concern for the Patriots.

Liberty is averaging 29.5 points per game, while allowing just 15.7. Excluding its two losses to Tift County and Lee County, Westover hasn’t allowed more than 17 points in a game.

Jones said his team wants to focus on themselves to make sure they eliminate mistakes that could cost them in the postseason.

During the last few weeks, Westover missed some opportunities to put its opponents away early.

“We’ve talked to our guys about making sure we don’t leave any points out on the field,” Jones said. “We’ve preached that to our group this week. We’ve stopped ourselves (on offense). We can’t make those kinds of mistakes in the playoffs.”

A big portion of Westover’s success this season was due to its stout defense. During four of the Patriots’ victories, they allowed their opponents to only score in the single digits. However, in Westover’s last two games against Worth County and Albany High, they allowed a combined 31 points.

Jones said the defense will have to do a better job of executing its assignments.

Last year, Westover defeated Jonesboro in its first round game before falling to South Effingham. Jones could like to see a repeat — at least of the first round.

“I’m pleased with how our guys have played this season,” he said. “They’ve done most of the things we’ve asked them to do from week to week.”

Jones doesn’t want his players to get too caught up in trying to play a perfect game.

“We try to look at all games the same,” he said. “We know it’s the playoffs. We’ve got to make sure our guys don’t beat themselves.”