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April 16, 2014

Devils to dine on Coffee and Crisp

TIFTON — Big games and a big trip. Life takes an exciting turn over the next few days for the Diamond Devils of Tift County High. They start with a doubleheader this afternoon at 4:30 with the Coffee Trojans. Two days later, they will sliding into bases at Turner Field.

"It just happened to work out that way," said Tift coach Kyle Kirk.

Coffee is No. 1 in the Region 1-AAAAAA standings and until last week were undefeated. A 3-2 loss to Valdosta in the first game of a doubleheader finished that. Kirk, who attended the game, said Valdosta was well on their way to winning the nightcap, but the "ran out of pitching late."

They will be carrying that region loss to Tifton, squaring off with the region's No. 2. The Devils, 16-2, have two losses in the division. One to Lowndes and the other to Colquitt County. A sweep, Kirk said, would give his team the lead. A split, however, means the top seed will hail from Douglas.

Tift only has a pair of region games left with Camden County following these two. Coffee's region slate will be finished.

"Right now, we're locked in," he said. "We want to keep the 1 or the 2."

It is a pretty far cry from 2013. They pulled off the sweep, but instead of a region championship, it allowed them to slip into the state playoffs as a No. 4 seed. They kept winning, but had to make three trips to metro Atlanta in three weeks. Taking two from Coffee tomorrow would not guarantee them a title but would allow them a bit of wiggle room against Camden.

The Devils should be the best rested team of the two. They have not played a game since April 4 against Brunswick. Kirk reports that everyone should be ready to go. That includes Will Reinhardt, who injured an ankle in the first game of the Brunswick series.

"Will has returned to practice," he said. "He'll be good to go. (Zach) Bullard will be good." He said Bullard had been recuperating from a lat strain.

The Coffee contests were to have been played Friday, but the threat of nasty weather led both schools to opt for playing a day early. It gives the team one less day to prepare for one opponent, but might be beneficial in another way.

Before the change in dates, Kirk said the plan was for the Devils to board a bus to Atlanta immediately after the conclusion of game two of the doubleheader. With a bit of wiggle room in travel time, he should have fewer tired eyes.

Tift and Crisp are just two of the six teams who get to say they played on Major League grass this weekend. Following their game, First Presbyterian Day of Macon and Warner Robins will play. Jones County is scheduled to vie against Veterans at 4.

Far from the Blue Devil players being the only ones excited for the trip, Kirk himself is jumping for joy.

"I'm excited about being in the dugout," he said. The team won't be allowed to take batting practice on the field, but will be permitted to install themselves in other ways. He said players will get to hear a familiar voice on the pressbox mic and radio will also be on hand.

The Cougars will be coming in equally hot. Going into their Wednesday night game with Hardaway, they had won 12 straight games. Ten of them were by 10 or more runs, including a string of five straight shutouts.

Fans attending Saturday’s game are requested to park in the gold lot at Turner Field. There is no charge. Gates open at 9 a.m. with the game scheduled for 11.

Tift has one final regular season game at home, hosting Bainbridge Monday. They will play at Camden April 25 and at Crisp April 26.

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20140726 John Reid.JPG

Tift County head football coach John Reid.

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