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Mutual respect

Tornadoes, Cougars impressed by each other

Monroe receiver Kimetric Parks gains yards after a catch during a game earlier this season against Americus-Sumter. Parks and the Monroe offense have sparked the Tornadoes to three straight wins. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

Monroe receiver Kimetric Parks gains yards after a catch during a game earlier this season against Americus-Sumter. Parks and the Monroe offense have sparked the Tornadoes to three straight wins. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

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Crisp County quarterback Witt Campbell, the reigning Herald Player of the Week, has passed for 670 yards and seven touchdowns this season for a Cougars team hoping for a big win tonight to help their playoff chances. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

ALBANY — By the time Monroe High School football coach Charles Truitt and Crisp County coach Lee Campbell finished talking about each other, one might get the feeling they aren’t suiting up to face each other tonight.

Instead, they’re suiting up to play the University of Alabama. Or maybe the Denver Broncos.

Tonight’s Region 1-AAAA game between the two at 7:30 p.m. at Hugh Mills Stadium will go a long way toward determining the postseason picture. But Truitt and Campbell seemed more interested in heaping praises on their opponent this week.

“They’re record is not indicative of the type of football they’ve been playing,” Truitt said of Crisp County, which enters tonight’s game at 4-3 overall and 2-2 in Region 1-AAAA.

“This is a scary game. We’ve got to be ready to play.”

Then almost like one adolescent trying to outdo the other in a pickup basketball game, it was Campbell’s turn.

“Charles Stafford in big bold print,” Campbell said in reference to Monroe’s Dynamite Dozen quarterback and reigning Herald Player of the Year.

“He throws the ball as well as anybody, and he’s got wide receivers to go and get the ball. They’re going to throw and catch … we’ve just got to tackle them when they catch it. We can’t give up the big plays.”

Stafford has thrown for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rushing for 187 yards and five scores. His top targets are Daryl Brown (33 catches, 219 yards, four TDs) and Emmanuel Davis (42-469-2).

Brown also concerns Campbell. In addition to catching the ball, he’s also the team’s leading rusher, tallying 526 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior Devontay Stephens has 316 yards rushing.

Tonight’s game pits perhaps the region’s two most-improved teams. Monroe (4-3, 3-1) has won three straight and is tied with Cairo for second-place in the region standings. Meanwhile, Crisp County has won two of three and is tied with Americus-Sumter for the final playoff position.

The Cougars only loss during that span was a 17-3 setback to region leader Westover. However, that game wasn’t decided until the late in the fourth quarter.

“We’re nowhere close to what we can do,” Campbell said. “But, it’s getting better.”

Crisp is led by reigning Herald Player of the Week Witt Campbell who has passed for 670 yards and seven touchdowns this season. The Cougars’ leading rusher is Jarkevious Glover with 325 yards and three touchdowns.

A concern for Truitt is that Monroe sometimes starts its game slowly, then improves as the game progresses. Crisp has shown the opposite, playing its opponent tough before faltering down the stretch. That was evident in their loss to Westover two weeks ago, as well as in earlier losses to Valdosta and Crisp County.

Truitt hopes Monroe doesn’t come out rusty, considering it has been 15 days since its last game — a 34-10 victory over Americus-Sumter.

“Our coaches are conscious of that,” he said. “The off week gave us a chance to get some people healthy. But we can’t come out and start slowly.”