SANDERSVILLE -- Washington County and Blessed Trinity should be plenty familiar with each other.
This time last year, Washington County was preparing to take on Ringgold in the semifinals of the GHSA Class AAA playoffs, a week after going on the road for a comfortable 46-17 win over Blessed Trinity.
Not much has changed for Washington County. The top-ranked Golden Hawks still have playmaking quarterback AJ Gray under center, and several other members of last year’s state runner-up team have turned in strong performances this season.
What has Washington County head coach Joel Ingram concerned, however, is the opponent’s improvement from last season to now.
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“Their pedigree is nothing short of astounding,” Ingram said. “They beat St. Pius (X) and Woodward, two AAAA semifinal teams. They beat Lovett, who won the AA championship last year and went to the third round this year. Then they knocked off an undefeated Jefferson team last week. They’re certainly all that’s advertised.”
No. 3 Blessed Trinity, which is in its 14th year of varsity play, is enjoying by far its best season in program history. After 9-3 and 9-4 showings in 2012 and 2013, the Catholic school from Roswell is 13-0 heading into Friday’s Class AAA semifinal at Washington County’s House of Pain.
At stake is a spot in the Georgia Dome and the Class AAA title game against either No. 2 Calhoun or No. 7 Westminster-Atlanta. Last year’s champion, Buford, has moved up to Class AAAA and is in the semifinals of that classification.
And, yes, hosting the game matters to Washington County (13-0), which hasn’t lost at home in two years.
“(Playing at home) means a lot to us,” said Gray, who was named the Gatorade Georgia Football Player of the Year on Thursday following a 442-yard, eight-touchdown rushing performance in a 62-35 quarterfinal win over Pierce County. “We think we are better off at home, and we feel more comfortable. (The fans) bring a lot of intensity, and we always have a good crowd come to support us.”
Gray, who has committed to Georgia Tech, will line up against Pat Jasinski, a 6-foot-2, 203-pound linebacker who has committed to Central Florida.
Jasinski, who also plays tight end, played a key role in Blessed Trinity’s 28-21 quarterfinal win at Jefferson. Jasinski caught Conor Davis’ 15-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime, a score that Jefferson failed to match.
“They’re a very strong power run team, and they are very sound on defense,” Ingram said. “Their ‘Mike’ linebacker (Jasinski) is awesome. He makes a lot of plays on both sides of the ball. And (Tim) McFarlin, their head coach, he won a state championship at Roswell.
“It’s going to be a great challenge.”