TIFTON -- Things are pretty cut-and-dry for the Tift County Blue Devils tonight.
The Tift football team closes out its 2004 regular season schedule at Warner Robins' McConnell-Talbert Stadium against the Houston County Bears. A Devils win means Tift will have a great shot at making the state playoffs as the only thing that would keep the Devils out is a Coffee upset over Lowndes tomorrow night.
However, a loss by the Devils would mean the season is over for the Tift team.
"It definitely is a playoff game for us. If we win, we keep playing, if we lose, we are through," Tift coach Tommy Seward said.
Tift (5-4 overall) will enter the game with a 1-3 record in Region 1-AAAAA. Houston is at 2-2 in the league and the Bears are 4-4-1 overall.
The Blue Devils fell last week to the Colquitt County Packers, 14-9. Tift also has a 16-14 loss to Coffee in league play this year.
In both games, Tift committed several costly penalties. Against Coffee, Tift also had several costly turnovers.
"We have got to make our own good luck. We need to cut down on the penalties and giving up the big plays. We can't make a big play of our own, to only have it called back because of a penalty," Seward said.
One thing in Tift's favor this year has been the solid play of the Blue Devil defense.
Several players have impressive stats this year for the Devils' defense.
The leading tackler has been free safety Larry Dean. The junior has 111 total stops on the year, with five passes broken up and five interceptions. He has also blocked a point after and a punt this season.
Another member of the defensive backfield, sophomore Randy Parker, has been impressive in his first year as a starter. He has 43 total tackles, five passes broken up, two interceptions, one fumble recovery, one punt blocked and one return for a touchdown on a punt block.
Along the line, Matthew Cushion has been the leading tackler. The senior has 63 total stops on the year, 13 tackles for loss yardage, four sacks, seven quarterback pressures and one fumble recovery. Along the front, James Carter has also had a big year as the junior defensive end has 60 total tackles, seven sacks, four tackles for loss yardage, 12 quarterback pressures, one caused fumble and one fumble recovery.
The two other members of the defensive line -- Stan Summers and Ryan Wilson -- have also posted big numbers.
Summers has 51 total tackles, nine tackles for loss yardage, two sacks, 12 quarterback pressures, two caused fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Wilson has 44 total stops, seven tackles for loss yardage, one sack, two quarterback pressures and two caused fumbles.
"Our defensive front has had a big year," Seward said.
Sophomore Anthony Woods leads the linebackers with 44 total stops on the year.
That defense will face a tough test in Houston County, according to the Tift head coach.
"They have good running backs, a good quarterback and a good offensive line. They run the ball really well," Seward said of the Houston offense. "We are going to have our hands full with them."
Defensively, the Houston defense is led by defensive end Kyle Moore. A senior, Moore is drawing attention from several Division I universities. In Houston's 23-19 victory over Colquitt County earlier this year, Moore deflected a pitch out and recovered it for a touchdown. That score turned out to be the difference in the ball game as it was the game-winning touchdown.
"He is a great player. But, their entire defense is good. Coach (Chip) Stuart does a good job with them," said Seward.
Stuart, the Bears' defensive coordinator, was the head coach in Irwin County in the early 1990s.
Quarterback Donnell Cullins will lead the Devils' offense. The senior is 69-for-137 passing this year for 1,114 yards. He has also run for 313 yards.
Cullins' favorite targets have been Israel Troupe, 20 catches for 305 yards, and Lee Caquelard, 17 catches for 299 yards.
Another Tift weapon, Kelvin Burns, has been slowed recently with an injured shoulder. But, according to Seward, Burns should be close to full speed tonight. He will share time in the Tift offensive backfield with Emanuel Nelson and C.J. Hille.
The game is at 7 p.m.
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