tom.mark@gaflnews.com



TIFTON - It has been a season of highs and lows for the Tift County Blue Devil football team. Following an opening season win over Southeast Macon, the Devils had a near miss against Fitzgerald, got clobbered by Houston and came within a first down of possibly upsetting Thomas County Central.

Then they recovered in the second half to beat Worth County and proceeded to drop three straight region games. Finally, with the playoffs on the line, the Blue Devils were able to get wins over Lee County and Colquitt County to qualify for the AAAAA state playoffs for the first time in five seasons.

When the Blue Devils take the field tonight against Starr's Mill, they will be a facing a familiar scenario as the Panthers operate out of the Wing T. Seven of Tift's opponents during the 2002 season ran the Wing T offense. Despite their familiarity with the Panther attack, Tift head coach Tommy Seward is wary.

"Their timing is real good from the Wing T," Seward said at practice Wednesday evening. "They are always putting in something new off of what they do."

The Panthers rode the Wing T to an 8-2 record and the Region 4-AAAAA championship.

"That region is pretty solid," said Seward. "All of the teams in that region have scored a lot of points.

"I know from playing East Coweta when I was at Houston County that they are all pretty good teams."

East Coweta, which finished fourth in Region 4-AAAAA, was one of the two teams to beat Starr's Mill. The Panthers also fell to Cherokee earlier in the season.

Clearly, the Blue Devil players and coaching staff are pleased with the opportunity to continue the season. One coach credits the success with the continued participation of the players.

"The key, I think," said Tift offensive coordinator Emmett Bowers, "is that we've kept all of the kids here. Nobody has quit on us. And a lot of kids are getting to play, even some of the young ones."

Tonight's first round playoff game kicks off at 7:30 p.m.



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