ATLANTA -- Washington County’s football program certainly has a championship pedigree with three state titles to its credit.
But it had been awhile since the Golden Hawks had been in this setting. The program had not played for a state title since 2004 before facing off with Buford on Friday night at the Georgia Dome in the GHSA Class AAA championship game.
Sure, the Golden Hawks lost 35-19 after putting up a good fight about the powerhouse Wolves, but it’s a good bet it won’t be nine more years before they play for another championship.
Joel Ingram’s program is too good for that to happen, and he has the Golden Hawks heading in the right direction.
After back-to-back seven-win seasons in 2010 and 2011, Washington County is 24-3 the past two years.
“It’s special getting to the championship game; we had a great year,” Washington County junior quarterback A.J. Gray said. “This just motivates me to come back and be better next year and be stronger and lead my team.”
Gray is certainly a good place to start for next year’s team. He is a dynamic playmaker on offense and defense, but he is not the only weapon the Golden Hawks will have returning. There is plenty of talent moving on after this season and several of those players will be suiting up on the next level next fall, but there is enough coming back to make another run at the title.
Washington County showed off all that talent against Buford, which was just too powerful for the Golden Hawks to overcome.
Washington County jumped on top 13-0 and seemingly had everything going its way, but once Buford got going, it was impossible for the Golden Hawks to slow down the Wolves. Buford finished with 53 plays for 395 yards as it gradually wore down Washington County.
Gray and the Golden Hawks used big plays to stay in the game -- touchdown passes of 41 and 64 yards to go with an 86-yard punt return -- but those quick strikes were just not enough against the methodical Wolves.
Washington County couldn’t get its running game going and finished with 42 yards on 26 carries -- Gray had 231 yards through the air -- after rushing for more than 4,000 yards during the regular season.
Buford outscored Washington County 21-6 in the final quarter as it became more and more obvious that the Wolves were just going to plow their way to another state title -- their 10th overall and ninth since 2001.
But the Golden Hawks won’t have to deal with the Wolves and their machine of a program next year. Buford is moving up to Class AAAA, and that should help open the door for the Golden Hawks next season.
And the way Ingram’s program is rolling, it will be a surprise to see the Golden Hawks fail to walk right through that door.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org