Washington-Wilkes wasn’t doing much offensively the first time the Tigers faced Tattnall Square.
Having been held to 13 points in its first two games, Washington-Wilkes failed to score against a Tattnall defense that, at the time, was thought to be rather untested after facing some weaker opponents. Tattnall held Washington-Wilkes to 127 yards of total offense in a 38-0 Trojans victory on Sept. 23, sending the Tigers to 0-4.
Six weeks later, a lot has changed. Tattnall’s defense is no longer perceived as untested, having put together strong performances against the likes of Twiggs County, FPD and Stratford. And Washington-Wilkes has found its offensive rhythm, averaging more than 31 points a game since facing the Trojans.
Winners of four straight, the Tigers (4-5) are the surprise hosts for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. GHSA Region 7-1A championship game against Tattnall.
“It’s not the easiest thing to convince high school kids that (the score of the first game) will happen every time,” Tattnall head coach Chance Jones said. “We remember how big and tough they were. That was a tough game for awhile. We’re looking for a good, close game.”
To be fair, Washington-Wilkes’ non-region schedule was difficult. The Tigers started the season against Elbert County, currently tied for 10th in the Georgia Sports Writers Association Class 2A poll. Losses to West Hall (Class 4A, 6-3) and Class 2A No. 3 Jefferson County preceded the first meeting with Tattnall, a game Tattnall led 14-0 at halftime before pulling away.
Washington-Wilkes’ biggest win came two weeks ago, when it shocked two-time Region 7-A champion Aquinas 43-19.
“I don’t know if things have changed a lot for them other than their record from the first five games,” Jones said. “They played some very good teams. I was surprised about the final score we had against them. And it’s always harder the second time around.”
Tattnall, meanwhile, is 9-0 for the second time in three years and is looking for its first GHSA region title.
After averaging more than 39 points in its first eight contests, Tattnall faced its stiffest test last week, when Stratford came within minutes of shutting the Trojans out. Ahmad Barron’s 40-yard scamper with a little more than three minutes remaining, however, was enough for a 7-3 victory.
“It’s exciting,” said Jones of the prospect of an undefeated regular season. “You tell them how special of an opportunity going 10-0 is; it doesn’t happen often. Between Dad (former Westfield head coach and current Tattnall assistant Ronnie Jones) and Coach (former Warner Robins head coach and current Tattnall assistant Bryan) Way, who have about 80 years of coaching between them, they’ve had five of those seasons. It’s special when it happens.”
The game has significant postseason implications for Washington-Wilkes. The Tigers currently sit 22nd in the Class 1A public power ratings, 0.79 ahead of the top team currently out of the playoffs, Trion. A win means an automatic playoff berth and a first-round bye, while a loss puts Washington-Wilkes in jeopardy of missing the playoffs entirely.
Things aren’t quite so do-or-die for Tattnall. The Trojans are sixth in Class 1A private, and they likely would do no worse than a first-round home game with a loss Friday.
Elsewhere in Class 1A
Private: Stratford (13th) and FPD (17th) appear to have playoff spots locked up in Class 1A private and will be playing for position — and a potential first-round home game — when they travel to Aquinas and Lincoln County, respectively, on Friday. Mount de Sales (28th) is on the outside looking in, 1.3 points behind 24th-place Walker and needing to beat Montgomery County (2-6) on Thursday at home to have any shot at a first-round road trip.
Public: No. 4 Macon County travels to No. 2 Manchester on Friday to determine the Region 4-1A champion. Those two, along with No. 3 Twiggs County (at Greene County), are in position for first-round byes barring dramatic changes. No. 9 Taylor County heads to Brookstone, with a win there putting the Vikings in contention for a first-round bye. Dooly County (19th) is at Marion County, with both teams less than a point ahead of 25th-place Trion. Crawford County (28th) is the top Middle Georgia team sitting outside of the top 24, 1.24 points behind No. 24 Telfair County with a game looming Friday at Greenville.