When: Thursday, Oct. 27, 7 p.m.
Where: Hugh Mills Stadium, Albany
2011 records: Early County is 3-5, 1-3 in Georgia High School Association Region 1-AA. Albany is 4-4, 1-3 in GHSA Region 1-AA.
Last week: Early County lost to Cook, 27-26. Albany lost to Brooks County, 62-27.
All-time series record: Early County leads 16-3
First meeting: Albany 25, Early County 13 (1984)
Last meeting: Early County 13, Albany 7 (2010)
The Albany Indians will play their most meaningful game since 2002 — the last time they advanced to the playoffs — when they play host to the Early County Bobcats at Hugh Mills Stadium, in a must-win game for both teams Thursday night.
Head coach Felton Williams and the Indians won three of their first four games in 2011. Two of those victories came against their fellow Dougherty County School System rivals in Dougherty (39-7 on Aug. 27) and Monroe (14-13 on Sept. 13), while losing to Westover (13-7 on Sept. 3). Their lone non-region win outside of Albany-Dougherty County came against Randolph-Clay in a shutout, 41-0, on Sept. 15.
It’s been in GHSA Region 1-AA play, however, that Albany has had its struggles of late. The Indians have been outscored 153-68 in their region losses, to Fitzgerald (56-21 on Sept. 22), Thomasville (35-20 on Oct. 6), and last week to Brooks County (62-27). Their only region victory so far this season came against Berrien in a 42-7 rout on Sept. 30.
As for Early County, the Bobcats have had several close losses in 2011. Of the five games they’ve lost so far this year, four have been by four points or less. Those losses came Bainbridge (16-12), Thomasville (13-12 in overtime), Fitzgerald (20-14), and most recently to Cook (27-26). Additionally, the Bobcats have had one double-digit loss, 33-13, to Seminole County on Sept. 9.
Albany won the first two meetings against Early County in 1984 and 1985, including a 27-0 shutout win in the latter season. Since then, though, the Bobcats have dominated the series, winning 16 of their last 17 meetings against the Indians dating back to 1990. There have been two interruptions in the series, with neither team playing each other from 1986-1989, or from 1992-1995.
Since the series resumed in 1996, Early County has won 14 of the previous 15 meetings against Albany. The Indians only win in the series over the Bobcats during that span came in 1999, when they won 34-25 on the way to a 2-8 record that season. Early County has won 11 straight games since then.
Even with the struggles both teams have had so far during the 2011 season, the winner of Thursday’s match-up between the Bobcats and Indians will still have an outside shot of advancing to the playoffs going into the final week of the regular season.
Albany must both of its remaining games, against Early County and Cook, and maybe get some outside help, to advance to the playoffs. The Indians upset a Lamar County that finished the 2002 regular season unbeaten at 9-0, by a score of 21-14, before losing to Pierce County, 35-21, in the second round of the state playoffs that year.
Early County, on the other hand, finds itself in the same situation as Albany. Like the Indians, the Bobcats must also win out and get help to advance to postseason play for the first time since 2007. The Bobcats were shut out by Jefferson County, 13-0, in the first round of the GHSA Class AA state playoffs that season.
A win over Early County this week would not only assure Albany of its first .500 or better season since that 2002 campaign, the Indians would also take a giant step towards earning their first playoff berth since then. So don’t be surprised if this contest comes right down to the final play.
Source: Georgia High School Football Historians Association /www.ghsfha.org).