WARNER ROBINS — Warner Robins head coach Bryan Way didn’t hide his belief that he had a playoff-caliber team prior to the season.
After two down seasons, the Demons were ready to make their return to the playoffs, Way said.
Most of the doubters were quieted by the Demons’ gutsy performance in a loss on the road against Grayson two weeks ago.
There probably aren’t any doubters left, however, following the Demons’ performance on Friday against Tift County.
Warner Robins (3-1, 1-0 GHSA Region 1-AAAAA) held Tift County (1-3) without a first down in the first and third quarters and to just one in the fourth while rushing for 405 yards in a 34-0 win.
“Warner Robins is back,” said senior defensive tackle Andrew Lauritsen, who had two of the Demons’ six sacks on Tift County quarterback Malcolm Dixon. “We feel like we can play with anybody if we play to our potential. We know this is a tough region, and we have some big games left. But we’re playing good football.”
The Demons’ defense played stellar all night, but it really increased its pressure on Dixon in the second half. The Demons picked up four of their six sacks in the second half and held Dixon to 2-of-12 passing for 16 yards in the second half. Tift County had eight drives end in three-and-outs, including four of its five second-half drives.
“Defensively, we’re a pretty good football team,” Way said. “We’ve played really good defense all year. We haven’t really given up the big plays, and that’s been big.”
Warner Robins allowed just two plays of more than 20 yards on Friday, and none of them came in the second half.
The Blue Devils started to move the ball in the second quarter, opening the quarter with three straight plays of 12 or more yards. But that drive stalled out on downs inside the Demons’ 25-yard line. They got to the Demons’ 31-yard line at the end of the first half following consecutive Warner Robins penalties on plays that would have ended the half. The Demons batted down Dixon’s desperation pass to end the half.
The Demons’ offense, however, had little problem moving the ball.
The Demons came out firing, averaging 8.6 yards per carry on their first two drives on the game. Their initial drive resulted in a 7-yard touchdown run by Charles Colbert. They added another touchdown — a 1-yard plunge by D.J. Butts — in the second quarter to go up 13-0.
After holding Tift County to a three-and-out to start the second half, Warner Robins broke the game wide open with a 59-yard touchdown run by Butts.
”It was wide open,” Butts said of his run up the middle. “I tweaked my hamstring at about the 20-yard line, so I limped the rest of the way. When we are clicking; any of our backs can have big nights.”
Butts finished with 148 yards on 11 carries, while Jonathan Jackson rushed for 107 yards. Three other Demons rushed for more than 30 yards.