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Just gotta believe

Westover believes it can knock off tradition-rich Cairo

Starting free safety and wide receiver Jysanti Richardson and the Westover Patriots have an opportunity tonight to snap Cairo’s 24-game region winning streak. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

Starting free safety and wide receiver Jysanti Richardson and the Westover Patriots have an opportunity tonight to snap Cairo’s 24-game region winning streak. (Staff photo: John Millikan)

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Octavia Jones

ALBANY — During the 1980s and 90s when young football teams played high school powerhouses such as Valdosta High and Thomas County Central, several coaches said it was hard sometimes getting their upstart programs to believe they could play and beat the traditional powerhouses.

That’s the theme Westover coaches have been telling their upstart Patriots this week.

When the Herald No. 3 Patriots entertain tradition-rich Cairo tonight at Hugh Mills Stadium, Westover coach Octavia Jones doesn’t want his team intimidated before the game begins.

“Having the opportunity to play in this region, we understand the animal that we’re up against,” Jones said. “We can’t let our guys be afraid of teams with a rich football tradition.”

The Syrupmakers (2-2, 1-0 Region 1-AAAA) have dominated region play for years. Their last region loss was on Oct., 9, 2009, when they lost 24-13 to state power Peach County when the Trojans were part of the old Region 1-AAA. That span includes 24 consecutive wins.

However, Westover’s balanced offense in its win last Saturday night over Monroe was enough to get Cairo’s attention. The winner takes the early lead in the region standings.

“Westover’s a very good football team, offensively, defensively and on special teams,” Cairo coach Tom Fallaw told the Thomasville Times-Enterprise this week. “They’re very balanced and can keep you off-balanced.”

Last week against Monroe, the Patriots (2-2, 1-0) were successful running and throwing the football, as well as its defense and special teams setting up scores. Jones said his team will need a similar effort this week against Cairo.

He did say his players must play better than they did in the second half when penalties and turnovers nearly allowed Monroe back into the game.

Cairo’s two losses this season have been against its Thomas County foes — Thomasville and Thomas County Central — but Jones knows it’s during region play when the Syrupmakers play their best.

“The message I’ve been telling these guys since I’ve been here is the region championship goes through Cairo, Ga.,” Jones said. “For us to have the opportunity to get the goal (of region champions), this is the team we have to beat.”

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.