Clay County vs. Fyffe Clay County vs. Fyffe

The Fyffe Red Devils (9-3) will finally make it home after two road trips that put more than 500 miles on the odometer only to find they are underdogs against 2007 3A state championship runner-up Clay County (12-0). The 2A state championship runner-up from last season enters the quarterfinals Friday night in a different position, underdog.

While Clay County has played seven of their 12 games at home, Fyffe has been hoofing it, taking road trips to north-central Georgia to play Gordon-Lee (150 miles round trip), Lanett (330 miles round trip) and Lineville (230 miles round trip). One small detail, the Red Devils won all three of those matchups.

Alas, Coach Paul Benefield's team is in a regular routine this Friday, and they boast a 4-1 home record with only one loss to 4A Plainview (7-4) 35-12 in the last week of the regular season.

If you know or listen to Coach Benefield much you know his media personality would remind you of a children's character named Eyore. He always seems to be up against all the odds. Don't let that fool you!

Under that poor-mouthing lies a man who knows how to coach good football. Fyffe has been home for Benefield since 1997, and he holds a 115-30 record at the school (161-40 throughout his career at both Sylvania and Fyffe). In the last eight years the Red Devils, under his leadership, boast an 88-13 record.

This is a man who knows how to win, but he knows what a monumental task lies before him. Clay County has outscored opponents 445-91 vs. Fyffe's more modest 373-195.

Gone are some of the fine leaders from Fyffe's 14-1 team from last year, linemen Chris Graben and Parker Whitten, linebacker Chris Johnson and defensive back Michael Wooden.

Now here's the good news. The 2A Coach of the Year, Paul Benefield, brings back his star runner Taylor Trash (5-10, 175) who has hit the 1,000 yard mark in 2007 and 2008. Thrash had a big part in the 32-27 victory last week over Lineville (4-8). Their first win in four tries.

Trash swiped an interception, ran a 95-yard kickoff back for a touchdown, and he caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from fellow junior quarterback Jesse Townsel (6-1, 160). The quarterback also keeps senior receiver Lucas Yancey (6-0 160) busy.

Thrash isn't alone in the backfield. They have another junior in Jesse Westbrook (5-8, 165). He sits at close to 950 yards thus far.

We talked to Coach Benefield about the toll of these road trips and his competition this week.

"I think it caught up with us a little bit last week," Benefield said. "We traveled to Lanett, 165 miles back and forth the week before. That's stuff you just don't know how much it effects the kids."

"Our kids played a lot of games the last few years, and they are used to going on the road. Maybe the Georgia trip during the (regular) season helped us with these trips a little bit."

What about Clay County?

"It would be a great challenge for anybody," Benefield answered. "When you talk about Clay County, with all their state championships (6) and playoff victories (55), they are just a real solid team. They are big on the line and have really good skilled people and great coaching."

"Nobody had a lot of luck against them this year. We're just going to go and play as hard as we can. That's all we can do."

Benefield talked about his team's own credentials coming off of a state championship runner-up and an 8-2 record in 2008 plus the two prior years.

"We had a lot of seniors, but our kids think they are going to win every game they play in," he explained. "This group has played on teams that won 35 games in the last three years, so they've got some confidence."

Coach Benefield mentioned Thrash, Westbrook, Yancey and, "Josh Clements (6-2, 240) is a senior on the offensive and defensive line, and he has been playing really good for us," Benefield said.

"We have got to play a perfect game and hope they make some mistakes, and to be completely honest that is what has to happen. Hopefully, some things go our way, and we will get a few breaks."

We asked Coach Benefield if there is any benefit as an underdog. After he chuckled, he responded.

"I don't know about that," he said. "Possibly if they know how the other team is looking at it, but Clay County is usually ready to play when they need to. We'll play hard too. It could be motivation, but you won't know until you get out there."

Clay County comes into this game after a 21-8 victory over Woodland (5-6).

The Panthers have senior quarterback Quamain Simmons (5-11, 175) who has rushed for nearly 900 yards while throwing for only 400.

He gets great support from his junior running back Jerdarus (J.D.) Williams (5-9, 155) who has rushed for more than 1,300 yards and scored 18 touchdowns.

They will get help sheering holes open by senior offensive lineman Jeremy Simmons (6-4, 340).

Fyffe Stadium Friday night 7PM

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