TIFTON - The Tift County Blue Devils football team will meet its first AAAAA opponent of the season when the Houston County Bears come to town tonight. The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Brodie Field.

The Bears are 0-1 after a narrow 3-0 defeat at the hands of the Warner Robins Demons two weeks ago. According to Tift County head football coach Tommy Seward, that contest could have gone either way as neither team could seem to capitalize throughout much of the rain-filled night. Warner Robins was finally able to kick a field goal late in the fourth quarter for the game winner.

The Bears and Blue Devils match up evenly as both have experienced skill players on offense while the defenses of both teams have been hurt by graduation. Tift lost All-Region linebacker Mario Collier. Houston graduated a pair of starters from its 2001 secondary. According to published reports, the Bears defensive line has also been revamped.

Offensively, Houston will be led by veteran senior quarterback Josh Collier who last year quarterbacked the Bears to a 5-5 overall record and a 3-4 mark in region 2-AAAAA.

"Collier was a sophomore receiver when I was there," said Seward who is the former Houston County offensive coordinator. "He's a good player." The early season prediction is that the Bears' passing game will be much improved this season.

Another strength of the Bears will be a stable of runners led by tailbacks Cedrick Hodges and Leon Smith.

Quarterback Josh Allen who had an outstanding performance against the Fitzgerald Hurricanes in a losing effort last Friday will lead the Blue Devils offensively. Allen passed for six touchdowns on his way to taking over the top spot in the area with 501 total passing yards.

Tift receiver Louis Brown caught 14 of Allen's passes, three for touchdowns. Brown now has 200 yards receiving.

After making the playoffs four straight seasons, the Bears missed last year and, as the Blue Devils, are on a quest to return to the playoffs. Houston's last trip to the post season was in 2000 when the Bears were eliminated in the first round by Valdosta 16-13.

Seward's former boss, Doug Johnson is in his 11th year at Houston and has an overall record of 68-55.

Box info

Houston at Tift

Houston Co. 0-1; lost to Warner Robins 3-0

Tift Co. 1-1; defeated Southeast Macon 15-8, lost to Fitzgerald 49-41

Players to watch: Houston Co.; QB Josh Collier, RB Cedrick Hodges, RB Leon Smith

Tift Co.; QB Josh Allen, REC Louis Brown, REC Josh Bowen, TE Xavier Jordan

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