2013-12-19 / Sports

‘I’ll take it,’ Robinson says of season

On the heels of All-Region selections made late last week (see chart of photos on this page), Washington- Wilkes Tiger Head Coach Robby Robinson, Coach of the Year for Region 8-AA, while admittedly still haunted by the loss to Bowdon in the second round of the playoffs, says he is happy with the 2013 football season. He’s also already looking ahead to the 2014 season.

“Sitting back and reflecting, if somebody had offered me to go 11-1 this year, I would have said I would take it,” he commented.

Noting that 2013 was the third year in a row that W-W has fielded a young football team, Robinson explained that the Tigers had to rely on freshmen and sophomores way too much in his first two years here. This year they still had to rely on way too many sophomores.

“With this senior class of only seven, it has been a really big hole on our roster,” Robinson said. “We cannot have another class come through in single-digit numbers – it has hurt us.

“Those seven seniors did a great job but next year’s team will be predominantly seniors and juniors. To go 11-1 with the small senior class that we had made it a very, very successful and fulfilling season.”

Robinson took a few minutes to focus on the impact of the 2013 seniors even though they were few in number. He was lavish in his praise of all seven, individually.

“Offensively, look at the amount of stats that we’re going to be losing with the graduation of Jalen Turner. We’re not going to be able to replace somebody that contributes that much on offense. That’s going to be tough to do.

“Also on offense we had tackle Darryl Ware who just had a great great senior season. Darryl is going to pick up a lot of post-season honors. He was one of our main leaders.

“It was great to see Ken Johnson step up in his senior year. He just came out of nowhere and became a starter on the offensive line and now he has made All-Region.

“Swinging around to the defense, Ben Hodges had a good solid season as an inside linebacker.

“Treyvon Booker slid over and pretty much concentrated on defense for us and led our team in interceptions.

“Tomarkus Young was outstanding really on both sides of the ball. He was an All-State-calibre linebacker but offensively, we knew when we put him in the ball game, he would average over 10 yards per carry. He was just like a stick of dynamite that would light up everybody and then they would feed off of him. You better believe that when he got hurt, we missed him in the playoffs – we missed his presence big time. [Young will be playing in the new Border Bowl in January which pits Georgia All-Stars against South Carolina All-Stars.] He will be the toughest one to replace because of what he brought on and off the field.

“And our other senior, Andrew Echols, was a contributor on special teams,” the coach concluded.

Then, looking ahead to next season’s gridiron without those seven seniors, Robinson made the astonishing statement that the 2014 Tigers are going to be even better than the 2013 team was. But as coaches must be ever cautious, he backed up and made the following slightly qualified statement:

“I am fully expecting the product we put on the field next year potentially to be better than it was this year. If we continue with our off-season work they way we have, that’s going to make it happen. We’re losing seven seniors but we’re going to be gaining 40-50 ninth graders next year – not that they will contribute that much to the varsity, but we’ve got a great class coming.”

Just as W-W has improved each year under his tutelage, Robinson wants to insure that the team continues in what he calls the right direction.

“I feel like our better days are ahead of us,” he said. “All the things that we need to be successful year-in and year-out are here. We have kind of brought the ‘monster’ back like it used to be and the big question is whether we’re going to be able to continue to feed the monster.”

Robinson explained that the relatively easy non-region games of the last three years were good for the team in that they helped the Tigers become confident in winning again. “But I watched it affect us this year. At the end of our season, our starters didn’t play enough quarters during region time because there were so many blowouts. When we lost Jefferson out of our region, I just felt like that was what we needed to do.” [Jefferson will not be a part of Region 8-AA next year and that takes the most challenging game out of the region schedule.)

To continue the Tigers’ forward motion, Robinson said he’s making the schedule tougher for next year. Nothing is official until sometime in January, but he’s confident a tougher schedule will be beneficial.

Some of the probably non-region opponents the Tigers will face beginning in 2014 are Jefferson County (now in Class AA and expected to be in the Top Ten), Wilkinson County, Thomson, and of course, Lincoln County. The preseason schedule will feature two games instead of just one and those promise to be against Elbert County and Hart County in 2014.

“It might be another 15 years before we go 10-0 again,” Robinson said jokingly.

Even with the bump up in schedule strength, Robinson still didn’t get what he wanted because he said so many schools didn’t want to play against Washington-Wilkes.

“We were turned down by about 30 schools,” he said. “I wanted to fill it up with Top-Ten AA schools including Lovett, GAC, Vidalia, even Bowdon.”

For whatever reasons, however, all those teams declined. Maybe W-W will get a crack at them in the 2014 post-season.

Robinson expressed his thanks and sincere appreciation to a number of people and organizations for their contributions to the Tigers’ 2013 season.

“First off, I would like to thank our fans,” he said. “Our fans did a great job this year. Our attendance was very good and their support was felt at every home game.”

He also thanked Wilkes County School Superintendent Dr. Rosemary Caddell and the Board of Education “for allowing us to come in here and do our jobs.”

Continuing, he said, “You can’t have a successful Friday night without all these behind-the-scenes people.” The list follows with some of his comments:

. Tom Duggan and Robbie Ross – the radio broadcast team.

. Press box personnel including Phil Tanner, Miranda Crook, Lorenzo Lee, and Tiger historian Skeet Willingham.

. Film crew: Willard Lance, Jerry Stover, Olin Newby.

. Videographer Richard Crabbe.

. Chain crew: David Thornton, Greg Fanning, Mike Fortson, Randy Luke.

. Emergency personnel: Blake Thompson, Bruce Bailey, Tena Bailey, and all their staff members.

. City of Washington and Wilkes County officials including Mayor Ames Barnett, Police Chief Theodosia Glen, Sheriff Mark Moore, and all those who assist with escorts to and from the stadium.

. The Tiger Club under the direction of president Milton Roberts,

. Deanne Crook for fundraising to provide the PA system late in the season.

. The News-Reporter and Mercer Harris for game coverage and publicity.

. The coaching staff did a wonderful job of preparing our kids week-in and week-out. I feel like we have just as good a coaching staff as any team in Class AA. They bring a lot to the table.

. The biggest group I want to thank is our players. I can’t say enough good things about how hard they have worked, how dedicated they have been, and how committed they have been. They show up for practice every day. Their attitudes are outstanding.We don’t have any discipline problems or attitude prob- lems or anything like that. They are a very dependable group of young men and they have bought into what we’re doing so that makes life a whole lot easier.

. Our statisticians Scott Chafin and Scott Smith.

. Our field-painting crew: Mike Driggers, Jeff Driggers, Josh Saggus, Donnie Maxwell, Roy Clark, Trey Osborne, and Tyson Price. They take a huge burden off of us and they are there every single week.

. Ashley Barnett helps with a lot of our spirit boosting.

. Rodney Shedd puts up our runthrough tunnel at every home game.

. Shelton West and his staff and Bob Lunceford for their help with maintenance and groundskeeping.

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