Tifton Gazette

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December 5, 2013

Column: Wishing I could be two places at once tonight

I am the lone full-time sports reporter here at The Tifton Gazette. One of the detriments of the job is that there is just one me and since cloning has not been perfected quite yet, I can only be in one place in one time.

I have a bit of a dilemma tonight. There are basketball and football contests going on at the same time. Since we are based in Tifton, my loyalties first lie with the home teams. Both Tift and Tiftarea are at home. The state-ranked Tift in two guaranteed instant classics against Westover. Tiftarea is hosting Southwest Georgia Academy. Based on their games Tuesday against Valwood, there is going to be some top notch basketball in Chula this year, too.

I love basketball. It's my sport. When Michael Johnson caught the miracle pass from David Greene against Auburn in 2002, I was in Statenville. There was a Thanksgiving tournament at Echols County. I feel no shame in that. I'm also quite proud that l saw both Devils teams play in a single day last week, in Atlanta and Tifton.

I love Tift and Tiftarea basketball, but over the past two weeks, I've felt like I'm almost a citizen of Ocilla. The people have been courteous and overly friendly, especially considering I come from a sometimes rival hometown. Perhaps they're just that welcoming of anyone, just as long as they don't wear purple. That said, I think they'd be welcoming to fans in purple Friday, just as long as they sat on the right side of the stadium.

The historian in me also feels sad that I'm missing a rare semifinal played in south Georgia. I went to the Georgia Dome for the 2006 semifinals, but it's not quite the same as seeing it with an actual full home crowd, though I must say Tift nearly transported the whole county.

For those even considering attending the Irwin game, go. By no means am I trying to discourage fans from supporting Tift or Tiftarea or their local fans Friday, but this group of players are truly something special.

I've never seen any offense have so many outstanding running backs. They have more than seven players that can take it to the endzone at any time. Several have caught the eye of NCAA recruiters.

And Charlton? Unless you're a total non-sports fan or have been inhabiting a cave in the Alps, you've heard about their successes on the gridiron. Four state titles, the Bailey brothers (and cousin), only one losing season under Rich McWhorter. There are no Baileys on this year's roster, but there are two of the state's outstanding players, Trae Harrington and Andrew Lee.

Then, you combine the two teams. It's been an outstanding rivalry. Irwin broke a 17-game losing streak last year and won the last game of the regular season on a last second Eric Contreras field goal. The all-time series is knotted at 17 each.

I will try my best Friday to be a good citizen to both places. I will be lugging an ancient transistor radio to the Blue Devils' game. The Irwin game begins at 8 p.m., so there shouldn't be too much overlap, but if you happen to see a tomahawk chop out of the blue, don't worry too much. Even feel free to join in if you'd like.

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