SANDERSVILLE -- Joel Ingram said no extra motivation was needed.
The Washington County head coach found out from his team’s early season win over Baldwin that he didn’t need to hype a game against a border rival.
Just like they did in a 56-7 win over Baldwin in September, the Golden Hawks exploded out of the gate against Jefferson County on Friday, scoring three touchdowns in the first six minutes, and didn’t stop until they secured a running clock in the fourth quarter in a 40-0 win at the House of Pain in the GHSA Region 3-AAA opener for both teams.
“We’re a veteran group,” Ingram said. “They know what to do, how to prepare.”
The Golden Hawks (6-0, 1-0) blocked a punt and returned an interception for a touchdown in the first six minutes. They recovered an onside kick and converted a fake punt in the first half. Everything they tried seemed to work, which might have been surprising coming against the undefeated and fifth-ranked Warriors one week after beating Class AA’s top-ranked Lovett Lions in overtime.
“We don’t do any voodoo magic or any war paint or anything like that,” Ingram said. “We just emphasize on playing fast and starting fast.”
The Golden Hawks opened the game with a 13-yard touchdown run by Danyale Wicker on their opening drive. But they really hurt the Warriors with a flash of scores right after.
Logan Hunt had his third blocked punt of the season on Jefferson County’s next drive, and A.J. Gray scored from 5 yards out on the next play. Four plays later, D.J. Sanders picked off Will Jordan at the Washington County 20, pivoted and returned the ball down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown.
“I got to the 50 and seen my men blocking, and I knew I was going to score then,” Sanders said.
Washington County stopped the Warriors at their own 9-yard line on the next drive and in a departure from the first six minutes, embarked on a methodical, pounding drive. The Golden Hawks drove 91 yards in 17 plays, passing the ball just twice and gaining more than 20 yards only once on the drive, which ended with a 16-yard touchdown run by Melvin Hill to give Washington County a 26-0 lead.
Sanders’ second interception set up the Golden Hawks’ final score of the first half, a 13-yard touchdown run by Hill. Hill rushed for 157 yards and a third touchdown in the second half.
“We just told ourselves to play like (the Lovett game) didn’t happen, like the season was 0-0,” senior D.J. Sanders said. “We just started the region, so we had to win.”
Washington County’s attention now moves to Thomson, which beat the Golden Hawks for the region championship in Sandersville a year ago. The Bulldogs have struggled this year, but the Golden Hawks are trying to find a way to keep getting better as the playoffs draw near.
“We’re just trying to get better every week,” Ingram said.
Jane Hammond of the Center for Collaborative Journalism contributed to this report.