This night comes along once every football season. Valdosta and Lowndes are both off, so the spotlight shines on the smaller schools. Luckily for us South Georgia folks, there’s a pretty darn good game on the schedule to pay attention to.
I’ll be leaving the office extra early tonight to get a parking spot and a space inside what will be a packed Memorial Stadium in Adel for Cook versus Fitzgerald.
But first, a look back at last week’s pick ’em. The fight for 85 percent is still an uphill battle after going 8-2 last week. I went 6-0 in the local games, but missed on Worth County-Americus-Sumter and Carver-Colquitt County. Those are teams we don’t cover, so it was a shot in the dark. But I made a point to challenge myself by picking tough games out of our area. I made the rule, and I have to live by it.
Last week: 8-2
Overall: 46-16 (.742)
We’ll get to Valdosta and Valdosta State later, but I want to start with Cook and Fitzgerald. This is finally going to be the year that Cook climbs out of the No. 4 hole in Region 1-AA. That was obvious after the Hornets started the season 4-0 in what Georgia High School Football Daily said was the hardest schedule in AA.
The question now becomes, can these Hornets win the region? Talking to head coach Ken Cofer, he said this game won’t win the region, but it certainly will give a leg up to the winner.
Experts thought this could be a little bit of a down year for the Purple Hurricanes. They’ve graduated some great classes the past few years, and are a relatively young team. A big win over Tift County in the first week of the season showed that Fitzgerald was still Fitzgerald. Then the Purple Hurricanes lost at Worth County. Suddenly Fitzgerald was rebuilding. Three wins later, Fitzgerald is back to being Fitzgerald. Don’t underestimate Robby Pruitt and the Purple Hurricanes.
Cook is definitely the feel-good story of South Georgia. Playing their first game after the passing of head coach Mac Thompson, the Hornets beat Colquitt County and Rush Propst (one of Thompson’s mentors) in the season opener. Then they beat Americus-Sumter and head coach Mike Pollock, who had been Cook’s head coach in 2001 and 2002. So far, the Hornets are 4-0 without having played a AA or A team.
This could be a team of destiny. The Hornets have all the makings of a great team. A good coach in Cofer, a good quarterback in Zach Folsom and a good defense led by Shannon Brown. Those are the three most important ingredients in football today, in my opinion. Cook over Fitzgerald, 27-25.
Brooks County is starting to pick up the pace, having won three games in a row. But tonight will be the Trojans’ biggest test since they played Columbia (Fla.) in their second game of the season. They travel to Thomasville to face the Bulldogs in their second game of the region. Brooks County was unable to beat Thomasville with the Christopher brothers in Quitman last year, and with a lot of youth on this year’s Brooks County team, Thomasville is the smart pick again. Freshman quarterback Malcolm Parrish is already a stud, and will win a lot of games in his career, but asking him to win this game as a 15-year-old is too much. Thomasville over Brooks County, 22-10.
The Berrien Rebels have had a rough go of it so far. They are 0-4, and after looking at their schedule, they’d better win tonight against Albany, or it could be a one-win or no-win season. This pains me, because nearly all of Berrien’s coaches are former Valdosta State players. As an alum of VSU, I hate it for guys like Rooster Russell and Ryan Branch, who are used to being winners. I spent a day over the summer with the Rebels, and those coaches are getting after the players, and trying to build winners. It hasn’t translated on the field yet, but maybe it starts against an improving Albany team. Berrien over Albany, 33-27.
Lanier County is back in action tonight at Irwin County after being off last week. An off week is probably what Lanier County needed after facing Charlton County and Wilcox County in back-to-back weeks. The Bulldogs looked pretty good in their first two weeks, behind the great play of Anthony Ethridge. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back against an Irwin County team they haven’t played since 2007. Irwin County is 1-4, but it’s tough to judge the Indians, because three of their losses have been to Fitzgerald, Charlton County and Clinch County. I’ll still take the Bulldogs. Lanier County over Irwin County, 35-30.
Valwood will try to make it 2-0 in the region when they travel to Damascus to face Southwest Georgia Academy. This will be Valwood’s toughest test since Tiftarea in the opening week. Valwood won that game, and it was also on the road. I’ve learned not to pick against Valwood this year. Not yet. Valwood over Southwest Georgia Academy, 28-22.
Time for the Saturday games.
Valdosta High also faces its toughest test of the season. The Wildcats are making their first road trip, and it’s a long one to M.L. King. Valdosta will face an excellent quarterback in Jonquel Dawson. The last time they faced a quarterback that good (Brunswick’s Chris Anderson), he totaled 539 yards by himself. This will not happen again. I expect a tight ballgame, and the ’Cats haven’t given a reason to pick against them in close games. Somehow they’ll make a play to win. Valdosta over M.L. King, 36-24.
Valdosta State has revenge on its mind. Ouachita Baptist is in town for Homecoming. VSU holds a 9-1 advantage in the all-time series, but that one loss was last year. It was an embarrassing loss, to say the least. While losing to North Alabama and Delta State is no fun, it’s not something to be ashamed of. A loss to Ouachita Baptist had been unthinkable to a program that won two national championships in a four-year span. You’d better believe the Blazers won’t let that happen again. Valdosta State over Ouachita Baptist, 23-14.
Other games: St. Thomas Aquinas over Camden County, Tift County over Coffee, South Gwinnett over Brookwood, North Gwinnett over Norcross and Newton over East Coweta.