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PREP NOTEBOOK: Lee County moves on, looks toward Harris County

Lee County’s Willie Kelly (16) scores the Trojan’s first touchdown Friday night at Thomas County Stadium as TCC’s Austin Parmer (99) gives chase. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)

Lee County’s Willie Kelly (16) scores the Trojan’s first touchdown Friday night at Thomas County Stadium as TCC’s Austin Parmer (99) gives chase. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)

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Early County’s Antonio Jackson intercepts a pass in front of Thomasville wide receiver Javier McGriff as Demetrius Lewis looks on Friday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. (Thomasville Times Enterprise/Special to The Herald)

THOMASVILLE — After Lee County players sang the school’s alma mater, then headed for the dressing room, coach Dean Fabrizio stayed behind to talk to a reporter.

His facial expression said it all after the Trojans lost 45-14 to Thomas County Central Friday night at Thomas County Stadium in a battle of Region 1-AAAAA unbeatens.

Fabrizio wasn’t saying his team could have beaten the Jackets. However, he said he’d like to have seen the outcome had his Trojans not turned the ball over six times, five of them leading directly to TCC points.

“We moved the ball on them,” Fabrizio said. “They did a good job of protecting the football. We didn’t.”

Lee finished the game with 159 yards rushing, including touchdown runs by Ohio State commit and Herald Dynamite Dozen QB Stephen Collier and Willie Kelly. They also added 90 yards passing, but the team was overshadowed by TCC’s 361 yards rushing.

The Trojans (6-1, 1-1 Region 1-AAAAA) must clean up the mistakes and get ready for another critical showdown this week as Harris County, the defending Region 1-AAAAA champion, visits Leesburg. The Tigers (6-1, 2-0) have won six straight since dropping their season opener to Houston County.

“That is going to be another huge game against Harris County next week,” Fabrizio said. “We’ve got to get back up. I know these kids will. They’ll be back at work on Monday, working to get better.”

With three games left in the regular-season, the Trojans are still in the thick of the postseason hunt. However, cutting down on turnovers is something Fabrizio said the Trojans will work on extensively this week.

“We’ve got to do a better job with our ball security,” Fabrizio said. “But I told our guys we have a lot of big games coming up. Our effort was there against TCC, we’ve just got to work on cleaning some things up.”

Lee County linebacker Dextric Green was upset with Friday’s loss, especially considering Lee put itself in several bad positions with turnovers. He said the team needs to move quickly to put Friday’s loss behind them.

Against Thomas County Central, two miscues in the game’s first four minutes put the Trojans in an early 10-0 deficit. While Lee tried to rally, they never overcame the early mistakes.

“Everybody wanted to win the game so badly,” Green said after Friday night’s loss. “But we can’t let this loss get us down. We’ve still got a lot more football to play.”

And it starts with Harris County next week.

SEMINOLE STAYS UNDEFEATED: The Herald No. 2 Seminole County Indians, 31-6 winners against Calhoun County on Friday, improved to 7-0 and are off to their best start since the team went 10-0 in 1973.

They jumped ahead early against Calhoun (1-6, 0-3 Region 1-A) and took a 24-0 lead into halftime during their homecoming night, but the Indians came out “not very inspired” in the second half and won by 25 points — their smallest margin of victory in a month.

“It was homecoming, and I guess their minds got involved in the festivities or something,” Seminole coach Alan Ingram said about his team’s play in the second half. “We didn’t play great in the second half. But like I told my kids after the game, it’s all right as long as we are smart and learn from it.”

Seminole racked up 255 rushing yards in the win and got a game-high 101 yards and a TD from Robert Speight. Also scoring for the Indians were Alex Fudge on rushes of 1 and 9 yards and Danny Rambo on a 5-yard run. Indians place kicker Matt Williams drilled a 23-yard field goal and was 4-for-4 on PATs.

Calhoun’s only score was a 1-yard run from DaJohn Williams.

Seminole, which improved to 3-0 in the region and stayed tied atop the standings with Mitchell County, plays again Friday at home against Randolph-Clay, while Calhoun is in action Friday at home against Mitchell County.

BAINBRIDGE GETS HUGE WIN: The Bearcats are alive and well in the Region 1-AAAAA playoff hunt with Friday’s 29-12 win against Hardaway, which improved Bainbridge to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the region.

Hardaway jumped ahead 12-9 at halftime, but Bainbridge came out inspired in the second half and scored 20 unanswered points to pick up its first region win of the season.

“We had a sense of urgency (Friday),” Bainbridge coach Jeff Littleton said. “We had to win this game to be thought about for the playoffs. We came out a little flat, but our kids kept fighting and kept fighting and never gave up. Finally we started clicking and played good football like we know we can.”

The game was knotted up at 12-12 heading into the fourth quarter, but Bainbridge took the lead on a Tavarous Bowens 32-yard TD catch from Preston Norris and then extended its advantage with a 28-yard field goal from Daniel Provence and a 99-yard fumble recovery for a TD from Tremaine McCray.

It was a big night for both McCray and Provence.

McCray not only had the long fumble return in the final minute, but he scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter and blocked a Hardaway field goal. Provence nailed two of his PATs to raise his career PAT total to 100 and also hit three field goals. Provence now has 18 career field goals, setting a new program record.

Bainbridge has another big night Friday at home against Region 1-AAAAA foe Northside Columbus in a game that the Bearcats need to win to keep their hopes alive of hosting the first round of the playoffs.

EARLY CAN’T HOLD LEAD: After being held scoreless for nearly three quarters Friday night, the Thomasville Bulldogs tallied touchdowns on their final three possessions to beat Early County 21-6 in a key Region 1-AA game at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Thomasville coach Leroy Ryals entered the game concerned about the Bulldogs’ propensity for sluggish early play. Last week, Thomasville fell behind 13-0 against Berrien before rallying for a 35-13 victory.

“I think (one of the reasons for the slow start this time) had something to do with who we were playing,” Ryals said. “Early County is pretty good, especially defensively. I think they are pretty stout.”

The Bobcats (3-4, 1-2) held the Bulldogs (5-2, 3-1) to just 62 yards on 13 first-half snaps. Thomasville had eight plays on the Early County side of midfield but was undone by an interception at the goal line and a fumble.

Early finally got into the end zone in the third quarter on a Jatavis Lyles TD run, but Thomasville finally got on the board on the final play of the third quarter to take an 8-6 lead and then scored twice in the fourth quarter to hold on.

— Herald sports editor John Millikan and Thomasville Times-Enterprise’s Mark Latsinger contributed to this report