Lee County’s Stephen Collier, right, and Albany High’s Juwon Young are two of the best prep football players in all of Georgia, but only one of their teams will stay undefeated after tonight’s showdown between the Herald No. 1 Trojans and the No. 2 Indians.
ALBANY — Stephen Collier vs. Juwon Young.
Remember the names. Remember the matchup.
“People don’t have to get in their cars and drive a long distance to see future stars of college football,” Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio said. “You can see them right here in Southwest Georgia.”
Tonight, you can see them live and in person at Hugh Mills Stadium. And it’s a show you might not want to miss.
“You have one of the best offensive players in this part of the country going up against one of the best defensive players,” Albany coach Felton Williams said. “Hopefully, the best man wins. And I’ll take my chances with my kid.”
Williams’ “kid” is 6-foot-3, 230-pound Young, a Herald Dynamite Dozen linebacker who has signed with the University of Miami, and his challenger tonight will be Collier, a Dynamite Dozen quarterback who is committed to Ohio State.
One day, the duo might meet up in a national championship game or even on a Sunday afternoon in the NFL. Tonight, they will meet in Albany.
“Who would have thought that two kids from Southwest Georgia would have gone on to those big programs? And possibly after that they could be playing on Sundays,” Williams said.
It’s also a matchup between The Herald No. 1 Trojans and the No. 2 Indians, who are both coming off Week 1 wins. Collier threw four TDs and rushed for two more in a 55-6 win against Dougherty last week, while Young shined on defense and offense against Greenville when he rushed for four TDs in a 30-20 victory.
The winner will sit atop of The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll after Week 2, and Williams believes either Young or Collier will ultimately decide who comes out on top.
“I think it’s going to be about how each of those guys get their teams up and motivates their teammates,” Williams said.
Young, whose Indians lost to Lee County 52-13 last season, said Thursday he is up for the challenge.
“If my teammates believe in me, we can beat Lee County. Because (the Trojans) aren’t world-beaters,” Young said. “My intensity will have to be up. I will have to play my best game and bring the team on. That’s my job, because when my intensity is up, their intensity is up. If they follow behind me, we can be a team that nobody can stop.”
But can anybody stop Collier?
“That’s the question right there,” Collier said before practice Thursday.
If anybody can stop the Trojans before Lee County heads into Region 1-AAAAA play in October, it might be Young and the Indians, who won just two games last year but might be in store for their best season since Williams took over the program in 2009.
Much of the hype surrounding the Indians sits squarely on Young’s shoulders.
“He’s a freak, and I mean that in a good way,” Collier said about Young, who was rated one of the Top 20 linebackers in the nation this summer and is coming off a junior season when he had 115 tackles. “He is an athlete. He’s big, physical, strong and fast and can do a lot of things with his body for his size.”
Young and Collier spent time together this summer visiting Florida State before either of them committed to their colleges, so Collier knows firsthand just how much of an athlete Young is — both from this summer and from last year’s Albany vs. Lee County game when Young knocked Collier to the ground on a linebacker blitz.
“He straight-up leveled me,” Collier said. “I remember that vividly. I was parallel to the ground when he hit me. I was able to complete the throw for the two-point conversion, but he absolutely destroyed me.”
Collier, however, also absolutely destroyed the Albany High secondary in that game, throwing for three TDs.
“Collier creates challenges as far as running it and throwing it,” Williams said. “He is probably one of the best athletes we have seen in a while and probably the best we will see this year. You can’t cheat with him. You have to play sound, fundamental football.”
The Indians won Saturday’s season opener with some of that fundamental play on defense, but they also ran all over Greenville. Young led the way with four TDs, three two-point conversions and 86 yards, and starting RB Jonathan Jefferson had a game-high 165 yards in the win.
“They ran the ball pretty good last week,” Fabrizio said of the Indians. “They used a number of different running backs that they rotated in there. They were able to run the ball effectively, and that’s definitely something we will have to account for. We feel like we played well defensively (vs. Dougherty), and we feel like we are up to the challenge (tonight).”
Sticking with the ground game might be Albany’s best chance to knock off Lee County.
“We don’t want to play fast-paced football,” Williams said. “We don’t want to be in a shootout, because we won’t win a shootout. We want to slow it down.”
Over in Lee County, Fabrizio offense was unrelenting against Dougherty last week, scoring on the third offensive play of the game and never letting off the gas until the first unit came out of the game in the fourth quarter.
“Having big plays last week was great, but it doesn’t give you any guarantees going into the following week,” Fabrizio said. “Hopefully we can continue to play at a high level. It’s something every team wants to do in every game they play.”
Nobody is more hopeful heading into tonight’s showdown than Young, who said he hasn’t talked to Collier at all in the weeks leading up to their matchup.
“Next time we meet up, we will be bigger, stronger and faster,” Young said about a possible meeting between himself and Collier in college or the NFL one day. “But all I can think about right now (is tonight).”