High School Sports

Tight-knit group ready for its final WACO game

SANDERSVILLE -- Logan Hunt has been around Washington County football as long as he can remember.

“I was a waterboy,” Hunt said of his first contact with the program. “I was a waterboy, starting in the sixth grade. Well, all of us, really.”

AJ Gray was plugged in long before that. His father, Allen, coached basketball at the school and is now the principal, while his mother also works at the school.

“We’re very tight; we grew up together,” Gray said. “We played rec ball. From middle school all the way up, we’ve been together.”

Will Coneway? Same thing. His parents work for the school district, with his father handling public address duties on Friday nights.

“We’re all like family,” said Coneway, one of 37 seniors on the Washington County roster along with Hunt and Gray. “We trust each other, and we love each other.”

The bonds were formed early with this senior class. And this senior class, already familiar with playing at the Georgia Dome in December, will have one final football game to play together.

Washington County faces Calhoun at 4:30 p.m. on Friday in the GHSA Class AAA championship, with the Golden Hawks looking to win their first state championship in 17 years.

Washington County, 14-0 and ranked first in the Georgia Sports Writers Class AAA poll the entire season, certainly has the team that can accomplish such a goal. Gray, the Gatorade Georgia Football Player of the Year, has racked up more than 3,900 rushing and passing yards this season as the Golden Hawks set a single-season state scoring record.

The question is, will this be the Washington County team that goes all the way, the one that adds to the championship legacy established in the 1990s, when Takeo Spikes led the Golden Hawks to the 1994 Class AA title and the first of three crowns during that decade?

“You’ve played to earn your right to get here,” Washington County head coach Joel Ingram said. “There’s only one way that a playoff run can end happily. If you think about it, even if you go all the way, it’s only going to end up good for one football team. We’re just going to try to enjoy the ride.”

Washington County is enjoying its best three-year run since former head coach Rick Tomberlin’s first three teams went 41-3 from 1992-94. The Golden Hawks are 38-3 in the past three seasons, falling to Buford in last year’s Class AAA title game and advancing to the quarterfinals two seasons ago.

They face a Calhoun squad that is a state championship game veteran. The Yellow Jackets are making their sixth championship game appearance in seven years, although only one of their teams during that time, the 2011 squad, was able to raise the championship trophy. This current group is led offensively by junior quarterback Kaelan Riley, who has thrown for 2,307 yards and 22 touchdowns.

“They’re the real deal,” Ingram said. “It’s an incredible coaching staff they have. They have a couple of younger players who are going to be big-time recruits. They have a good quarterback in Riley, and their defensive end, (Landon) Rice, already has committed to Auburn. Their a big, old physical team.”

It’s one final test for a Washington County team that has passed all of its tests so far this season.

“We’ve got to make the best out of the opportunity,” Gray said. “Calhoun’s a great football team. We just have to go out there and play hard.”