ALBANY — Westover High School football coach Octavia Jones and his coaching staff are having to deal with distractions as the season progresses.
The first-place Patriots (4-2, 3-0 Region 1-AAAA) sit atop the region standings. With four games left, Jones has emphasized to his players not to look ahead and avoid “traps.”
When Herald No. 3 Westover meets Americus-Sumter tonight at Hugh Mills Stadium at 7 p.m., the Panthers (3-3, 2-1) are the last team Westover will play during the regular season with a record of .500 or better. The team’s last three opponents — Dougherty, Worth County and Albany — have a combined record of 4-15.
“We talk to our guys all the time about trap games,” Jones said. “Several teams that are left on our schedule haven’t had the best season in terms of in the wins and losses column, so beating us would definitely make their season.”
Tonight’s game is especially critical to both teams, but more so for Americus-Sumter. The Panthers are still in the chase for a playoff berth. However, their loss last Thursday to Monroe knocked them out of a first-place tie and sent them into a logjam of teams with one region loss.
“This is a really big game for both of us,” Jones said. “They’re fighting for an opportunity to get into the playoffs, and we’re fighting for the opportunity to host one. It’s important for us to continue to focus. Our job isn’t closed yet.”
One thing Jones hopes his team will trim is penalties. The Patriots committed nine penalties for 75 yards in their 17-3 victory over Crisp County.
“We’ve talked a lot about those boneheaded penalties,” Jones said. “A lot of things our guys did last week was retaliation for the things (Crisp County) was doing. But we have to eliminate those mistakes.”
NADAS NOT LOOKING AHEAD: Monroe coach Charles Truitt wants to enjoy his team’s 34-10 victory over Americus-Sumter last week. He’ll have another week to relish the victory. The Herald No. 4 Tornadoes are open this week.
“Going into a bye week, we couldn’t have played a better game,” he said.
Monroe threw itself back into the postseason chase with the win. However, when Monroe returns to action on Oct. 25, it will face a gauntlet of teams beginning with Crisp County.
The Tornadoes then play their final two regular-season games on the road against Cairo and Worth County.
MITCHELL SURGING: The latest Class A power rankings are out and Mitchell County is 14th, which means that if the playoffs were to start today, the Eagles would be in the postseason along with fellow region member Seminole County.
Mitchell (4-3, 3-0 Region 1-A) has won three straight and four of its last five after starting the season 0-2 against Class A power Clinch County and Class AA Pelham.
“You never know about those power rankings,” said Mitchell County coach Larry Cornelius, whose Eagles play host to Stewart County on Saturday night for homecoming at 6:30 p.m. at Centennial Stadium.
“I feel like if we run the rest of the table, we’ll get it. Even with a loss, we still should be able to get in.”
The Eagles are on the downhill slide of their schedule. After Stewart County, Mitchell travels to Edison next week to tackle Calhoun County. Calhoun and Stewart have a combined one win this season. Barring upsets for Mitchell and Herald No. 2 Seminole County, the regular-season finale on Nov. 8 in Donalsonville will decide the Region 1-A champion.
Cornelius likes the way his team has been playing.
“I’ve always felt good about our team,” he said. “Things are coming together. Sometimes it’s later rather than sooner. Our kids are gaining confidence on both sides of the ball.”