WASHINGTON COUNTY GOLDEN HAWKS
Distance to Georgia Dome: 130 miles.
Head coach: Joel Ingram (85-24-1 in nine seasons overall and at Washington County).
Record: 14-0 overall, 6-0 in Region 3-AAA, first place.
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All-time record: 391-233-11.
State championships: 3 (1994, 1996, 1997).
Last championship game appearance: 2013, lost to Buford 35-19.
Road to the championship: Beat Jackson-Atlanta 73-28; Callaway 31-7, Pierce County 62-35; Blessed Trinity 28-17.
FYI: Washington County’s only head coaches since 1992 have been Ingram (2006-present) and Rick Tomberlin (1992-2005), who retired from coaching at the end of the 2012 season following four years at Valdosta and three at Effingham County. In the 23 years prior to the Tomberlin-Ingram era, Washington County had eight different head coaches.
Date Team Score
Aug. 29 Thomson 41-14
Sept. 5 Mary Persons 31-0
Sept. 12 at Veterans 42-3
Sept. 19 at Burke County 47-27
Sept. 26 Glenn Hills 71-0
Oct. 3 at Laney 56-20
Oct. 17 Butler-Augusta 52-14
Oct. 24 Josey 73-6
Oct. 31 Hephzibah 56-3
Nov. 7 at Westside-Augusta 54-7
Nov. 14 Jackson-Atlanta 73-28
Nov. 21 Callaway 31-7
Nov. 28 Pierce County 62-35
Dec. 5 Blessed Trinity 28-17
Blessed Trinity, 28-17
In a season full of blowout wins, last week’s semifinal was the closest game. Washington County fell behind quickly, giving up the first 10 points. But AJ Gray ran for 273 yards and three touchdowns, and Washington County kept the clock moving in the second half to keep the ball away from Blessed Trinity’s offense.
Distance to Georgia Dome: 68 miles.
Head coach: Hal Lamb (182-31 in 16 seasons at Calhoun; 187-46 in 18 seasons overall).
Record: 14-0 overall, 8-0 in Region 6, first place.
All-time record: 441-356-26.
State championships: 2 (1952, 2011).
Last championship game appearance: 2012, lost to Jefferson 31-14.
Road to the championship: Beat Rockmart 43-14, Cedar Grove 38-18, Elbert County 19-17 and Westminster-Atlanta 19-8.
FYI: Lamb, the brother of Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb, spent two seasons as the head coach at Upson-Lee. He went 5-15 from 1997-98.
Date Team Score
Aug. 29 at Dalton 21-14
Sept. 5 Carrollton 34-6
Sept. 12 at Gordon Central 41-7
Sept. 19 North Murray 57-8
Sept. 26 at Ringgold 27-13
Oct. 3 Adairsville 42-10
Oct. 10 Sonoraville 55-13
Oct. 24 Murray County 56-3
Oct. 31 at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 59-0
Nov. 7 at Coahulla Creek 67-0
Nov. 14 Rockmart 43-14
Nov. 21 Cedar Grove 38-18
Nov. 28 Elbert County 19-17
Dec. 5 Westminster-Atlanta 19-8
Elbert County, 19-17
When faced with a decision to go for a first down on a fourth-and-1 at the Elbert County 42 or punt with two minutes to go and the game tied, Lamb decided to punt. The decision paid off in a big way, as Darwin Lom’s punt was downed at the 1. A fumbled snap on the next play resulted in a safety, and Calhoun held on for the quarterfinal win.
WASHINGTON COUNTY VS. CALHOUN
Series history/last meeting: First meeting.
Common opponents: None.
WHEN WASHINGTON COUNTY HAS THE BALL
Everything begins with Gray, the Gatorade Georgia Football Player of the Year who has committed to Georgia Tech. He’s a run-first quarterback, rushing for 2,236 yards with a season high of 442 yards in the quarterfinal win over Pierce County. He can also throw the ball, racking up 1,668 yards. There is no clear-cut lead running back to complement Gray. Darius Tucker has 897 yards, but Ethan Ray wound up with the bulk of the non-Gray carries last week in a 99-yard effort. Tight end Logan Hunt is the No. 1 passing target with 667 yards and three touchdowns. Calhoun’s leading stoppers are middle linebacker Austin Bennett (152 tackles) and outside linebacker Jireh Wilson (147 tackles).
Key stat: Washington County has scored 717 points this season, a state record according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association website
WHEN CALHOUN HAS THE BALL
Calhoun runs a balanced offense, with junior quarterback Kaelan Riley throwing for 2,307 yards (or 165 yards per game). Those receptions are spread out among several players, with six recording at least 10 catches this season. Thomas Lester (553 yards) and Carson Brown (549) has the most receiving yardage. There is also no one dominant runner, with three players -- Cole Jackson (759), Riley (704) and Olico Dennis (599) -- all running for more than 500 yards each. Calhoun will be pressured by linebacker Will Coneway (162 tackles) and defensive end Logan Hunt (81 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 10 sacks), as well as Gray (10 interceptions) patrolling the secondary.
Key stat: As a team, Calhoun has 2,863 rushing yards to 2,789 passing yards
With so many comfortable wins, the kicking game hasn’t been a big factor for Washington County. Wesley Ruberia went 4-for-4 on extra points last week against Blessed Trinity, went 6-for-7 in the quarterfinal against Pierce County, and he went 4-for-4 with a 27-yard field goal in the second round against Callaway. The punt game gave Washington County a scare early on against Blessed Trinity, as a bad punt snap caused Washington County to relinquish the ball at its own 3 and set up Blessed Trinity’s first touchdown. Calhoun’s Alex Flores is 59-of-63 on extra points, but he has only made 2-of-5 field goal attempts with a long of 29 yards. Lom averages 34.7 yards per punt, with four inside the opponents’ 20.
Key stat: Calhoun has two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season, including a 95-yarder by Bryson Bushong against Sonoraville.
A big question for Washington County will be how it will handle a close game, should it come to that. The Golden Hawks have won all of their games by more than 10 points this season. Their closest game was last week’s win over Blessed Trinity, but they led by at least 11 points the entire second half. If last week’s game was any indication, Washington County might just be content to chew up some clock if it has a small lead in the second half.
The big question for Calhoun, meanwhile, will be how it will try to contain Gray, who has 715 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in the past two games. Any attempt to focus on the run might open up the passing game, and vice-versa. Calhoun has scored 50 or more points in five games this season, so the Yellow Jackets have the ability to get into a high-scoring affair with Washington County.