If the goal for the Colquitt County and Lowndes football teams is to win a region championship and get a good seeding position for the state playoffs, then today’s 7:30 p.m. meeting at Tom White Field at Mack Tharpe Stadium is important.
But that importance seems to have taken on a life of its own as these two longtime region rivals meet again in rivalry that is becoming ever testier.
It seems Lowndes has taken control of the series, winning 11 of the last 12, including a 51-0 embarrassment at Martin Stadium in 2008, in Rush Propst’s first season as the Packers head coach.
Propst clearly has not forgotten that game and especially enjoyed last year’s 34-7 victory over Vikings in Moultrie.
Lowndes will be inspired not to be victimized for a second year in a row.
The winner also knows it has taken an important first step toward a possible Region 1-AAAAAA championship and the potential two home playoff games that come with it.
Colquitt County (3-1), Lowndes (4-0), Camden County (4-0) and Valdosta (3-1) are generally considered the region front-runners, with Coffee (3-1) and Tift County (2-2), both under new and successful coaches, hoping to shoulder their way into the playoffs.
Brunswick (3-1) is a long shot.
Camden County will open its first season in Region 1 at Valdosta tonight. Tift County will go to Douglas to meet Coffee. Brunswick will be off and will play its first Region 1-AAAAAA game next Friday night at Lowndes.
The Packers have played the toughest schedule in Class AAAAAA so far and are coming off a well-deserved off-week.
The only blemish on the Packers record is the 16-14 season-opening loss to North Gwinnett in the Corky Kell Classic in the Georgia Dome in which the Bulldogs kicked a game-winning field goal at the horn.
Packers coach Rush Propst said his team appears to be in the best health of the season and should be rested and ready for the Vikings, who should get, by far, their biggest challenge of the season.
Colquitt’s offense has not hit on all cylinders yet this season, although it is coming off its best outing in the 33-0 victory over Carver of Columbus two weeks ago.
Propst said senior Cole Segraves will start at quarterback, but that junior Daniel Mobley also will play.
Segraves has completed 35-of-70 passes for 468 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Mobley has hit on 19-of-31 passes for 250 yards and one touchdown.
“Both are making plays for us,” Propst said. “Cole is making all the throws we want him to make. And Daniel brings energy when he comes in the game. We keep charts on the players at practice and he is charting well.”
Propst said the first six series of the game are scripted and Segraves and Mobley will alternate series. After that, the one with the hottest hand is likely to continue to play.
Maleek Lewis is the team’s leading rusher with 204 carries on 28 carries. John Boatwright has been the workhorse, carrying 60 times for 184 yards with a team-leading four touchdowns.
Sophomore Javonta Woods is averaging 17.2 yards on his five carries.
Ole Miss commitment Bobby Hill has been slowed somewhat by injuries and illness in the first four games, but still leads the Packers will 19 catches for 290 yards and a touchdown.
Todd Boyd is emerging as a threat and has 13 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown. Kishaun Taylor will be the other starting receiver.
Nate Madison will be in the game when the Packers employ a tight end.
Dalton Dillon has missed plenty of time over the first four games, but the 6-foot, 290-pound senior is expected to start at center.
Senior Jeffery Davis, who has started at center in Dillon’s absence, will move back to guard, where he will start with Travis Register on the other side.
Sophomore Cade Blackburn, who has earned fine reviews from the coaching staff for his work in the non-region part of the schedule, also will play.
Octavius Jackson, who has committed to Florida, will be at left tackle. Gabe Mobley will be the right tackle.
On defense, the Packers use number of players on the line and at the linebacker positions.
Jamiyus Pittman and Michael Parrish, a pair of 280-pound juniors, will start at tackle with Ta’Phari Wright, a 270-pound junior, giving them a breather.
Register, Creig Harris, Ikeem Blakely and Jeffery Lawson have been playing well at the end positions.
Middle linebacker John Gray leads the Packers with 30 tackles despite missing the second half of the game against Thomas County Central with an elbow injury.
Sophomore Bull Barge will start on the weak side and junior Brandon Key will be on the strong side. Key is the Packers second-leading tackler with 27 stops
Sophomores Tomarcio Reese and Quintin Hampton also are expected to play in the linebacking rotation tonight.
Cornerback Johnny Ward, who has committed to South Florida, has battled a hip flexor injury, but Propst said he is at 85 percent and will start tonight. Tim Sanders will be at the other corner, with Michael Sutton, Quan Patillo and Carlos Johnson ready to play off the bench. Garrett Pearce, Jamal Phillips and O’Shy Williams will get most of the work at safety.
Will Bannister, who is 11-for-11, will kick the extra points out of the holds of Tyler Yost. Britt Jones will be the snapper on extra-point and field goal attempts and punts.
Roberto Vega, who is 3-for-5, will attempt the field goals. Yost, who is averaging 36.1 yards, will be the punter.
Hill and Taylor have returned punts. Hill, Sanders, Lewis and Sihiem King will return kickoffs.
Propst has not backed down from what he calls an important game.
“There is no question, this is a big game,” Propst said. “The keys for us are preparation, passion and energy.
“We have got to protect the football and play physical football. It’s going to be Packer pride against Viking pride. And we’ll be ready.”
PACKER NOTES: Propst said late Thursday that assistant coach Gregg Segraves has been hospitalized and will not be available for the game. He is expected to need surgery next week.
Propst also said Dee Williams, John Peterson and Jamarcus Durham have been suspended for the game for violation of team rules.
He also said tight end Colby Reneker has left the team.
The game will be broadcast live on WMTM at 94.9 FM with Durwood Dominy doing the play-by-play and Darrell Strange and Jim Turner providing color commentary. The game also can be heard at www.cruisin94.com.
The Georgia School Association will stream the game live on the Internet at www.ghsa.tv.
Highlights of the game, with commentary from Propst, will be shown on the Packer Report on CNS cable channel 6 at 8 p.m., 9:30 p.m. and midnight Wednesday and Thursday.
The Colquitt County cheerleaders are calling for tonight’s game to be a “blackout” and are encouraging fans to dress in black.