2017-08-24 / Front Page

2017 Tigers ready to cool Blue Devils this Friday

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Defensive players on the other side of the ball will face W-W Tiger senior offensive linemen (l-r) Wes Tanner, Jordy Wilkinson, Bailey Brock, Demonte Gresham, and J.T. Mack. Defensive players on the other side of the ball will face W-W Tiger senior offensive linemen (l-r) Wes Tanner, Jordy Wilkinson, Bailey Brock, Demonte Gresham, and J.T. Mack. The time is now. Summer is officially over because school has started and vacations are history, the historic total solar eclipse has passed and some small hint of fall is occasionally in the air, Labor Day looms and the Washington-Wilkes Tigers’ 2017 football season starts tomorrow night.

And once again, it is more than just a new season. There’s a whole new system in place for Tiger athletics and it’s developing into a whole new “culture” as new Head Coach and Athletic Director Chad Alligood brings his plans and vision to Washington-Wilkes. Alligood has been here for several months already, welcomed by the schools, athletes, and community. There have been glimpses and samples of what he hopes to accomplish in his first head coaching job, and this Friday night in Elberton it will be “for real.”

Putting the backfield in motion and getting a few reps on snaps and exchanges are W-W Tigers (l-r) Dmytri Wiggs, Malik Hall, Donovan Anthony, and Bailey Brock. Putting the backfield in motion and getting a few reps on snaps and exchanges are W-W Tigers (l-r) Dmytri Wiggs, Malik Hall, Donovan Anthony, and Bailey Brock. Alligood is the seventh athletic director for W-W in this millennium, following Frank Vohun, Ross New, Russell Morgan, Lee Hutto, Robby Robinson, and Jake Kelley.

The Tiger season for 2017 is a mirror of the 2016 season with the same opponents and the playing sites reversed. That means that there are only four home games on tap for Tiger fans and the first one is not until Jefferson County comes to Washington on September 8. Before that, the team will make the short trip to Elbert County this week and then a two-hour cross-country trek to West Hall for the second game of the season. Region action will begin on September 29 when the Tigers host archrival Lincoln County.

Student trainers for the Tigers in 2017 are (l-r) Lykah Mora, Mikayla Broome, and Shamiya Young. Student trainers for the Tigers in 2017 are (l-r) Lykah Mora, Mikayla Broome, and Shamiya Young. There is an impressive class of 23 seniors on the roster for W-W in 2017 and a total of 58 players overall. This week’s special “W-W Tiger Kickoff” supplement to The News-Reporter features them all and also highlights the coaching staff, cheerleaders, and the Marching Tiger Band.

Going into the season opener at Elbert County, the Tigers are coming off of two weeks of practice after their pre-season scrimmage against the Hart County Bulldogs. That scrimmage gave coaches a look at their team’s strengths and weaknesses. The first week of practice after the scrimmage was spent with the team working on those areas that needed improvement. The second week is being spent preparing for the Blue Devils.

SENIOR TIGER LINEBACKER JAQUAVIOUS COX SENIOR TIGER LINEBACKER JAQUAVIOUS COX “Last week it was good to have an off week after the scrimmage,” Alligood reported. “After watching the video we pointed out some things that we had to get better at, so we spent all last week working on us, trying to make Washington-Wilkes better at certain positions, going back to some fundamentals.” He said that when practice was over with for that week, he did think that the Tigers were a better football team and had improved some things.

“This week we’re focusing on Elbert County and I feel like the coaches have put together a pretty good plan,” the coach said. “Now we just have to go out and teach it. We’re going to get plenty of reps and get the guys to go as hard as they can go to make plays.”

Tiger coaches had a good opportunity to assess the Elbert Blue Devils last Friday and it was doubly good because it was against a common opponent, Hart County. They found out that “They are classic Elbert County – they have athletes that can go,” Alligood said. He was especially impressed with running backs and linebackers.

“They look like a traditional Elbert team,” he reported. “You’re going to have to stop them from running the ball. On defense they are going to fly around. We are just going to have to play mistake-free, assignment football just one play at a time and see what happens.”

At Hart County, Alligood saw some things that worried him a little about his team, and one of them was that some of the players weren’t playing hard on every single play. Getting that fixed was top priority in the week of practice that ensued.

“I think we got them corrected. I felt good about it,” he said, explaining, “Video doesn’t lie – you can tell a kid a thousand times, but when he sees himself on video, it kind of sticks with him too. So we were able to point some things out and after Thursday’s practice, we were a better football team. A lot of those things got corrected last week and I’m anxious to see us now. Are we going to correct them at game time or will we revert to some old ways? Time will tell.”

But Alligood still strongly emphasizes that his players cannot afford to take a play off. They’ve got to go as hard as they can go on every play because “if one person takes a play off, the ball always finds that spot – especially on defense.”

While anyone would prefer the luxury of opening a season on their home field, the Tigers are not worried about having to go the short trip to Elberton on Friday. The Hart County scrimmage was a good rehearsal for that and it went smoothly. Alligood said it was a good tune-up and he’s not at all concerned about opening on the road. “The bus ride is only 35 minutes so we’re going to treat it almost like a home game,” he said.

All the Tigers are still healthy even after the scrimmage and a tough week of practice. Even Malik Hall, who sprained his ankle at Hart, is going to be okay. Alligood said Hall may not be at 100 percent but “he’ll be good to go.”

And the plan to have “35 starters” on the field is still a go for the Tigers. There will be nobody going both ways, or even doubling up on special teams.

“We’re going to have to in order to stay fresh,” Alligood said. “I think we are in really good shape too. The kids have really bought into that and I think we are in as good shape as anybody. It’s going to help us to play 35 guys on Friday night.”

Elbert plays about five guys both ways, and on special teams, according to Alligood.

Beyond that, Elbert has a number of really good players. “They have about four guys that are as good as anybody in the state of Georgia on any football team,” Alligood reported.

At their pre-season scrimmage last week, Elbert beat Hart County but the Bulldogs had just as many chances to win. “They went tit-for-tat and I think both of them, once they watched the video, probably feel like they had some plays they let get away on both sides of the ball,” the coach said. “It was a pretty even game and Elbert just made one play more than Hart did.”

When asked if the “culture” Alligood is trying to develop and cultivate is shaping up, he said, “I do. I really do.” Some comments made by players and their attitude when they went back out to practice affirmed it. “They are starting to understand that it’s just a process. It’s an every day process and I was really pleased with their attitude and effort all last week. Sometimes an off week is difficult but the kids came and worked really hard.

“It is not a speedy process but I think each day we’re turning more and more into what I want as a program. All I can ask for is for us to take another step each day toward where we want to be.”

Part of that culture involves fans and the coach again urged anyone interested to meet with the Tiger Club on Mondays when there is a game coming up the next Friday. Held at the high school cafeteria, the meeting includes showing of the previous game’s video, coaches’ comments, announcements of players of the week, and more.

With more than the usual road games this year, fans will be glad to know that Tom Duggan will be back as “the Voice of the Tigers” on the radio for those who are unable to attend all the games.

It all starts this Friday in Elberton and game time is 7:30 p.m. in the Granite Bowl.

“I look for it to be a good ball game,” Alligood said. “I think we match up well against them. It’s just going to be who can limit their mistakes. Early in the season, you see all over that the team that’s making the fewest mistakes is the team that’s winning.”

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