A 2-2 record is a coin flip, positive on one side, negative on the other. Sometimes, the coin lands on the edge.
For Washington County, it’s a positive, and that’s the mind set the Golden Hawks take into a bye week before beginning GHSA Region 3-2A play next week at East Laurens.
“It’s been a journey of adversity, a journey of attrition,” Washington County head coach Joel Ingram said. “To be 2-2 right now, to be honest, I’m pretty stoked.”
The two losses were to quality opponents, Class 5A Jones County and Class 4A Burke County. Jones County has been ranked up until this week, and Burke County has been ranked since that win.
The 38-0 loss at Burke County stung. It was Washington County’s worst loss since falling 39-0 to, naturally, Burke County at the end of the 1989 season.
But the Golden Hawks more than responded, thumping Class 4A Baldwin 40-7 on the road, and riding that momentum to a 20-19 win at Class 6A Evans.
Three of the opponents are 2-2 while Burke County is undefeated.
“We’ve played an extremely tough competition,” said Ingram, 92-33-1 in his 11th season as head coach. “We have one of the toughest non-region schedules of any Double-A school. I’m not going to brag and say it’s the toughest, but it’s up there.”
Last year’s 0-4 start and 5-1 finish was a roller coaster, testing Ingram, as did this season’s 0-2 start, during which the Golden Hawks gave up 30 points on turnovers. Then sophomore quarterback Jake Helton suffered a thumb injury a few days before the “debacle” against Burke County.
“I came in, and the old me probably would have stewed over it and exploded for about the next week and a half,” Ingram said. “But I came in that Monday morning, on Labor Day, and I was telling them, “It happens. Sometimes the best plays go awry. Now we get to find out what went wrong and build on it.”
The short trip to Milledgeville was better than expected.
“If I was a fan, I could not be so sure that I would not have gone to the next couple games after the way we looked against Burke County in certain areas,” Ingram said. “Baldwin is 4A, and they were 2-0.”
But quarterback Connor Frazier, who had started the first three games, decided he didn’t want to play anymore. And the Golden Hawks were still without Helton, so they headed to Evans suddenly unsettled again, moving running back A.J. Moss to quarterback.
“We went up to Evans shorthanded as all get out,” Ingram said. “And we’re sitting there with eight-, nine-man boxes.
“I’ve seen every front and every run blitz known to man the last three or four weeks.”
The Golden Hawks welcomed back injured running back Darius Tucker, and Washington County’s run game — boosted by the offensive line of Gambill Williams, Timothy Edwards, Wesley Lambert, Bailey Vickers and Mitch Lord — took off.
“We had minus-3 yards passing and 398 yards rushing,” Ingram said. “That’s a stat line from 2008, 2009. Everybody showed up. Everybody had a workmanlike mentality.”
Ingram confessed that age and experience has broaden his horizons, and that might be a reason the Golden Hawks are 2-2 with momentum rather than perhaps going in another direction.
“The older I get, I’ve started reading more,” he said. “Trying to talk about mental toughness. ‘Serious Joel’ is trying to become ‘Curious Joel.’
“I don’t know if it’s because I’m trying to stress so much mental toughness with my kids, and I think (they’re) really, really sinking it in. We would have lost that football game last week, we would have lost it 10 out of 10 times, but we figured it out and won.
“They’re buying in to what we’re trying to do. The kids are giving us everything they’ve got, and we’re doing enough to win and they’re getting better in the process.”