Lee County quarterback Stephen Collier (5) runs over Albany's Quontavious Broussard en route to the first of his two first-half rushing touchdowns. The Herald No. 1 Trojans rolled the No. 2 Indians, 42-12. (Larry G. Williams/Special to The Herald)
ALBANY -- They came out with more players. More size. More speed.
And ultimately, that was all No. 1 needed to topple No. 2 on this particular Friday night in Southwest Georgia football.
The No. 1-ranked Trojans proved they’re top dog for a reason in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll, soundly beating No. 2 Albany — on their turf — 42-12.
The game was billed as a battle of top Division I recruits butting heads as seniors one final time. And this go round, like last one, belonged to Lee County QB Stephen Collier, who is headed to Ohio State and once again got the best of Albany star linebacker/running back Juwon Young, a University of Miami commit. The win by the Trojans, who rolled the Indians, 52-13, last season, was their fourth in a row against Albany in the series, although the Indians still lead it all-time, 8-4.
But these are different days, and this is not your Daddy’s Lee County team that began the series against Albany in 1984 with an 0-8 start before breaking through with three straight wins. Coach Dean Fabrizio has forever altered the football culture in Leesburg, and much of that this season is because of Collier. He accounted for five of the Trojans' six TDs, including three scores on the ground and two through the air.
"He's a great player, and it was a great game between those two guys. A battle -- just like I expected it to be," AHS coach Felton Williams said. "You'll see both of them playing on Sundays one day, you can bet on that. But (Friday night) Stephen got the better of us again."
Thanks to Collier’s arm and legs, Lee had Albany — which dressed out roughly 55 players compared to Lee’s 95 — outmatched and Young frustrated. The Hurricanes’ prized recruit scored all 30 of Albany’s point in last week’s win against Greenville — four TDs and three, two-point conversions — but was held in check in this one. He notched just 12 yards rushing on five carries, two tackles and one pass break-up in the first half as Collier and the Trojans had their way, racing out to a 28-0 halftime lead.
"I was just taking what (Albany) was giving us," said Collier, who finished 18-for-26 for 321 yards passing, and he also rushed for 60 yards. "They're a good team, but we gave (ourselves some cushion) by getting up big at halftime."
Collier scored the opening two TDs of the game on his own — short-yardage, read-option plays in the first quarter that had the Indians’ defense going one way, while Collier went the other — nearly untouched both times. The second two Lee County scores came via the air with Collier first finding senior Kevin Hopkins from 23 yards out on 4th-and-8 with 2:33 left before intermission. Hopkins’ catch was a beauty — snatching the ball away from an outstretched AHS defender — but Collier’s pass may have been prettier as he threaded the needle to add to the Trojans’ lead.
After another Albany 3-and-out — its fifth of the first half — the Trojans got the ball back at midfield with less than a minute left.
In other words, plenty of time for Collier and Co.
The senior marched Lee down the field inside Albany’s red zone, and with 25 seconds left, zipped a ball down the middle to senior WR PJ Taylor from 17 yards out as Taylor waltzed in for the score.
Collier finished the first half 13-for-18 for 258 yards, and he also ran the ball for 20 yards and those two early scores. The senior signal caller also spread the ball around plenty early, finding six different receivers in the first half, including a long of 65 yards to senior Shaquille Clark.
"We're happy with the win, but after we got up (by 28), we got relaxed a little bit --- and hat's off to Albany. They didn't quit," Fabrizio said. "They had every reason to lay down when they came out after halftime down, 28-0. But they didn't. They kept fighting. They're a much-improved team."
Albany showed it definitely still had some fight left in it in the second half when sophomore Jordan Jefferson — who rushed for 165 yards in last week’s 30-20, season-opening win against Greenville — returned the opening kickoff 87 yards for the Indians’ first points, although they missed the two-point try and still trailed, 28-6. After a rare three-and-out for Collier and the Trojans on their first possession of the third quarter, Albany drove 55 yards in nine plays — highlighted by a Young 20-yard catch on third down and a 22-yard run up the middle by Jefferson, who broke four tackles along the way — and scored to cut the lead to 28-12. AHS quarterback Malik Mathis, a sophomore, capped the drive with a four-yard pass to fellow sophomore Adarius Mingo, the Indians’ tight end. But the Indians again missed the two-point try.
"Jordan's kick return got everyone hype. It got me real hype, and I'm usually the one who gets everyone hyped up," Young said. "We could've got back in it. We could've, but I think we got a little tired and that has a lot to do with having a lot of guys who play both ways compared to a team (like Lee County) that has nearly double what we got."
Albany forced Lee into another punt on its next possession and was driving into Trojan territory down just 16 points. But a holding penalty on a third-down conversion by Young set the Indians back -- and they never recovered.
"That was big," Williams said. "If we get that (first down) and go down and score, it's a whole new ball game. But it was sloppy by both teams, and those are the kinds of miscues we need to fix. If we don't make a mistake here or there, this could've been a lot closer. But Lee comes at you a lot of different ways, and you have to play mistake-free football to beat them. We didn't do that (Friday night)."
The teams finished the final six minutes of the third quarter scoreless as Lee’s high-powered offense was all but shut down, amassing just 45 total yards in the period and no points. But just when it looked like the Indians may still have life, Albany botched its punt to begin the fourth quarter, and Collier and the Trojans picked back up where they left off after the Lee special teams recovered the ball on Albany’s 35.
Collier began the drive with a four straight runs and two first downs, then the senior capped the drive with his third rushing touchdown of the night with eight minutes left in the game. This one went for seven yards and pushed Lee’s lead back to a three-score margin, 35-12.
Collier and the Trojans would tack on one final score with 4:24 left in the game when Marquiz Williams — who had a big night receiving with 127 yards to go along 52 yards on the ground — walked in untouched from 11 yards out to push the final tally to 42-12.
After the game, Collier and Young met on the 30-yard line as Collier's mother snapped a photo of the two big-time local recruits. Young said afterward he told Collier, "Good game, and we'll see each other again down the road. Count on it."
Collier said he relished the final meeting against a player in Young he calls "a great friend."
"We talked about it being our last game against each other, that trip we both took together to Florida State and where we're headed next year," Collier said. "He's a great player and a great friend, and I told him I wished he had a great rest of the season."
Albany fell to (1-1), while the Trojans moved to 2-0. Both teams play again next week with the Indians hosting Mitchell County, while Lee hosts Westover.
NOTES: Young finished the game with 10 tackles -- two for a loss -- and two pass breakups, while on offense he finished with 34 yards receiving and 28 yards rushing, but he was stuffed by the Lee County defense on both of the Indians' two-point tries ... Lee County kicker Michael Langston was a perfect 6-for-6 on point-after attempts in the game ... Albany senior defensive lineman Jameri Rozier got to Collier several times, hurrying the Lee County QB five times and sacking him twice ... Collier's numbers through the air were impressive Friday, but his first pass of the game was actually picked off by Albany sophomore DB William Bryant, who took away a sure TD by making the one-handed grab out of the air ... There was a scary moment for AHS fans in the middle of the third quarter when Young assisted on a tackle and appeared to have his ankle rolled up on by a teammate. He stayed down for roughly two minutes as trainers worked on his leg, but he eventually popped up and ran off the field on his own and returned one play later ... Lee County was assessed 145 yards in penalties, while Albany was flagged for 125 in a game both coaches called "sloppy" ... One of the biggest penalties came during Albany's comeback in the third quarter when the Indians punted and appeared to have Lee pinned deep, but Albany senior RB/DB Quontavious Broussard inexplicably de-cleated a defenseless Lee County special teams player right in front of an official, as Broussard drew the ire of the entire Indians coaching staff.