VALDOSTA -- Clinch County is 5-1 and ranked No. 3 in Class A. Atkinson County is 2-4.

But Clinch head coach Jim Dickerson says to throw the records out the window for now. Because he's seen too many Clinch-Atkinson games go differently than they're supposed to.

"It's a border war," Dickerson said. "This is our fiercest rival in the region. Atkinson always plays their best when they play us. It doesn't matter if we're up and they're down, because they can still beat us. They've done it before."

Clinch and Atkinson, which border each other to the north and south, have been playing each other since 1953. Clinch leads the series 37-24-2, but most of the games have been battles.

"It's a good old-fashioned rival game," Dickerson said. "Both teams always get up for each other."

It will be hard for anyone to beat Clinch's defense, though. The Panthers have recorded three straight shutouts (over Bacon County, Seminole County and Miller County), and have an eight-game region shutout streak, which dates back to 2002, when Clinch was state champions.

"We're playing well defensively," Dickerson said. "We've shut out our last three opponents, and we've got an eight-game shutout streak in the region, which is a big deal to our fans. We've got a veteran defense, and they fight hard."

Clinch's offense was awfully dominant last week as well. An injury had put quarterback Jared Bighams on the sideline, so Lamar McKnight, Clinch's top receiver, took over, and the offense clicked. Bighams is back, but McKnight will remain at QB for now.

"He's Mr. Excitement," Dickerson said. "We like getting the ball in his hands. He looked good running the option last week. The whole offense seems more confident now with him there. Now we'll use Bighams at receiver and at tailback, and he'll be dangerous there. He runs a 4.4 and can take it to the house on any play. He and (Justin) Gainey will complement each other well at tailback. Our offense now seems to be coming together."

Atkinson is a big, power team that likes to run the ball.

"They've got a big offensive line," Dickerson said. "They're run-oriented, but they can throw the ball well, too. They come right at you with the run, and challenge you physically. Our defense has to be able to stop their run.

"If we can play Clinch County defense and good offense, we've got a good chance to win."


In Lakeland, Lanier County is coming off an off week. Now the Bulldogs will face one of its toughest tests so far.

Lanier (2-3) travels to Ashburn to face Turner County (2-3) tonight. Kickoff comes at 7:30 p.m.

Two weeks ago, Lanier celebrated its first-ever Region 1-A victory, defeating Pelham 19-0. Joel Nelms, Milton Glouster and Chris McCutchin scored touchdowns and the Bulldogs defense shut out the Hornets.

"We played well against Pelham. Defensively, that was probably our best game all season," Lanier head coach Daniel McFather said. "It was good to get a region win. That was a big deal for us to get that, because it was our first one. But now we want to win another region game this week."

Now, Lanier must find a way to slow down Turner's wide-open passing attack. In the offseason, the Rebels hired former Americus coach Erik Solliday, who brought his wide-open spread passing attack, one like Chris Hatcher runs at Valdosta State.

"It's going to be tough," McFather said. "They looked awful good last Friday (a 33-7 win over Seminole County). They've got two quarterbacks that can throw it, and a couple of good receivers, and they'll run the ball some, too. We've got a young secondary, so it's going to be a challenge for them.

"But we're going to show up and try to get after them. If we can play good defense and not turn the ball over on offense, I think we've got a chance."

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