Big crowd, high expectations and... bad weather — those were the three things prevalent Friday night as the Tift County Blue Devils and the Brooks County Trojans lined up for the opening kickoff of the 2006 football season.

Brooks was set to kick off to the Devils, but just as the kick was coming the officials waved both teams off the field due to reports of lightning in the area.

The teams waited over an hour, but the game was finally called due to the lightning and heavy rain. The two teams will now play at 6 this evening at Brodie Field. Admission will be free for the game.

Tift coach Jay Walls said it was only the second time in his career a game was delayed. The first happened while he was at Suwannee (Fla.) High.

“Two or three years ago, we were in Gainesville and we waited a couple of hours to play,” Walls said. “We eventually played, but it was a Thursday night game and the kids were given until 10 the next morning to get to school. It hasn’t happened often.”

Asked how would the delay affect his team, Walls said, “It will depend on what team stays focused. The team that stays focused will be the team that plays better tomorrow. We are just going to treat this as a night before a game.”

The Tift-Brooks matchup features the Devils against the Trojans, coached by former Tift County Blue Devil Ryan Branch.

Brooks and Tift met each other in Quitman last season and the Devils emerged with a 27-7 victory.

However, the Blue Devil offense only put up 78 yards of offense, five first downs and no points. Tift’s points came on two Charlie Edwards field goals, kickoff returns for touchdowns from Israel Troupe and Randy Parker and a fumble recovery by Jay Gaskins that he returned for a touchdown on defense.

Troupe will not play tonight due to a concussion suffered this week in practice.

“He will be back next week,” Walls said. “Also, Jeffery Searcy will be back for us this week.”

Searcy is out with a knee injury.

“Last year they had one of the best defenses we faced,” Walls said about Brooks. “I would put them up there with Lowndes and Colquitt County.”

The Tift coach said Brooks is known for “physical play on defense and great team speed. They are a good team.”

While Tift’s offense will be going against the Brooks defense, on the other side of the ball, the Blue Devil “D” will be trying to slow down Trojan fullback Donnell Golden. In 2005, Golden rushed for 1,360 yards and 21 touchdowns.

“He is a tough kid and he should be better than last year,” said Walls. “We are expecting him to carry the ball at least 20 times. But he is also good out of the backfield as a receiver. He is a dangerous weapon.”

Golden accounted for Brooks’ only scoring last year against Tift as he caught a 12-yard touchdown pass.

Walls said Golden and the entire Brooks team looked good last week when the Trojans faced Cook High in their preseason scrimmage.

“They played a lot of kids and you can tell they are going to be just as strong this season,” the Tift head coach said.

Branch also said his team performed well against the Hornets. He just wished his team could have played someone besides another Region 1-AA school.

“We didn’t show lot of things and they didn’t either because we will play them later in the year,” Branch said. “But it turned out good. We were able to see how kids react in game-type situations and iron out some kinks before the season started.”

While he knows Brooks will be a tough test for his team, Walls indicated that he is happy the 2006 season will finally begin tonight.

“We have been working since Aug. 2 and we are wanting to play a real game,” Walls said. “I am talking about the players and the coaches. We have put in a lot of hard work and it is good to finally get ready to make a game plan for an opponent. You can also tell a difference in the kids’ attitude this week. They are anxious to play.”

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