High School Sports

Second time more predictable for Washington County

Joel Ingram’s week is packed.

The Washington County head coach finds himself trying to slot a whole bunch of things into championship week, from nailing down the logistics of a state championship road trip to Atlanta to media obligations to keeping things running at practice.

But it’s a good problem to have. This is the second straight year his Golden Hawks program is headed to the Georgia Dome, this time for the Class AAA final at 4:30 p.m. on Friday against Calhoun.

“The game’s not the hard part. It’s the buildup. And I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world,” Ingram said. “I feel like a hamster on a wheel with all of the media and other things. But I’ve been on top of stuff, been writing stuff down.

“It’s been a lot easier (this year). It’s still new to me, but having been there helps a lot.”

A program that won three state titles in the 1990s under Rick Tomberlin, Washington County will be playing at the Georgia Dome for the third time in Ingram’s nine-year tenure. The first appearance was in Ingram’s debut season of 2006, when the Golden Hawks lost 43-29 to Peach County in the semifinals, while last year’s trip resulted in a 35-19 title game loss to Buford.

Ingram plans to stick to a normal preparation schedule this week. Washington County will head off on the 130-mile drive to the Georgia Dome around mid-morning Friday, and the early kickoff means the team should be able to arrive back in Sandersville that night at a semi-reasonable hour.

Having played at the Georgia Dome last year, Ingram figures his team should know what to expect.

“You keep it the same (from last year),” Ingram said of this week’s preparations. “The kids have been here, and they kind of know how the week goes.”

The Sandersville community, as it has in the past with championship football and basketball teams, has thrown its support behind the squad. Businesses near the school have their windows painted, and there was a healthy-sized crowd on hand for last week’s semifinal win over Blessed Trinity.

“This is a football community,” Ingram said. “They live and die this time of year when we make a run like this. They are really excited, just like the kids and coaches are.

“For us as a team, the key is to let the excitement show Friday at 4:30. It’s tough to get that reined in. We want to play with a high level of energy, but we have to be careful not to use it during the course of the week and feel tired on game day.”