2017-10-19 / Sports

W-W Tigers beat Hancock 43-32; Aquinas game this Friday is critical

DONOVAN ANTHONY GETS PROTECTION WHILE HE SETS UP TO THROW He threw three touchdown passes, ran for a touchdown, kicked three PATs, and ran for two more. DONOVAN ANTHONY GETS PROTECTION WHILE HE SETS UP TO THROW He threw three touchdown passes, ran for a touchdown, kicked three PATs, and ran for two more. As might have been expected after beating Lincoln County and going on the road to beat Greene County, the Washington-Wilkes Tigers came out a little flat at Hancock Central last Friday night, even though the team appeared sufficiently pumped in warm-ups. On top of that, at least a few key players were sidelined with injuries, including Malik Hall who started the game but then sat out the second half.

Even with all that, it was a predictable game with Hancock Central, at least through three quarters. It was different in the fourth.

The Tigers were fairly quick to score early in the first quarter when Donovan Anthony tossed five yards to Brock Jackson. Anthony ran a keeper to add the two-point conversion. But Hancock answered late in the quarter with its own five-yard touchdown and two-pointer as the game surprisingly moved into an 8-8 tie.

The second quarter got started with a drive that led to the familiar Anthony-to-Deondre Lester combination for an 18-yard touchdown through the air. Anthony again ran for the two-pointer. Later he scored on a three-yard run and kicked the extra point.

That made it 23-8 as the teams took the halftime break. (They incidentally missed a terrific homecoming halftime show featuring the visiting Fort Valley State marching band.)

When play resumed with the Tigers enjoying that 15-point lead, the flattening of W-W continued. Corey Danner and Raekwon Binns connected for 17 yards and Anthony kicked another PAT but that was it.

Even though down by 22 points, Hancock found new life after a Tiger turnover early in the fourth quarter began, and ultimately scoring 24 points as the Tiger defense seemed to just take a break. Had it not been for Danner’s touchdown run to cap an early drive, and then another Anthony-Jackson combo late, there would have been an altogether different outcome.

The 43-32 final score was quite a surprise. Especially against the 0-6 Hancock Bulldogs.

“I don’t think they were better than we thought,” Tiger Head Coach Chad Alligood analyzed. “If you look at the videos, they would make plays here or there but they were always turning the ball over, having bad snaps on punts, or a lot of penalties. Last Friday night they didn’t do that.”

Indeed, turnovers, faux pas, and penalties were at a minimum for Hancock and there were but 10 yards in penalties assessed in the entire game – five yards each for both teams.

It was a Tiger turnover which seemed to give Hancock the idea that it was still a ball game.

“We played good for three quarters. But to give up 24 points in the fourth quarter is unacceptable,” Alligood said. “We didn’t play hard. Right there in the fourth quarter we relaxed a little bit on defense and they made a couple of plays.

“That’s frustrating to me because I thought we had overcome that a little bit,” he continued. “But we reverted back to some old ways in the fourth quarter. Luckily, on offense we were able to answer each score with a score.”

Alligood had told the Tigers that Hancock had some really good athletes on their team and that even though they were 0-6 going in that didn’t mean they were going to play like an 0-6 football team. Then they took advantage of the Tigers’ not playing hard on every down in the fourth quarter.

“I think that turnover right at the start of the fourth quarter affected us a little bit and our defense never could get it going again,” Alligood commented. “That’s frustrating.”

He surmised that the youth of his players, that they were playing an 0-6 opponent, and that they had a comfortable lead led to the “unacceptable” fourth quarter. “You think you don’t have to play hard anymore and all of a sudden you look up and it’s a ball game again. It’s part of being young and not knowing how to play hard every single snap regardless of who you’re playing.

“Great teams find a way to do that and there’s a big difference between being good and being great,” he added. “We are trying to figure out how to become great.”

The time for that greatness needs to begin this Friday night as the W-W Tigers host the Fighting Irish of Aquinas. It will be the game that likely decides the sub-region championship, especially if the Tigers win. Both are currently 3-0 in the sub-region.

A win for W-W, assuming the Tigers beat winless Warren the following week, would secure a first-place finish. A win for Aquinas would probably do likewise for the Irish but could bring about a threeway tie for first place, depending on what Lincoln County does in the last two games before the playoff.

But that’s getting ahead of the game.

“Aquinas is a lot like us. They are good on both sides,” Alligood reported. “They have those three or four players on both sides who are the play-makers. They throw the ball around a good bit just because that’s what their strength is.” The coach expects Aquinas to do some running but rely heavily on the passing game.

“On defense they are just going to line up and play,” he continued. “We look a lot like each other, we really do. It’s just going to come down to who can protect the ball and who can keep from giving up the big play.”

Alligood confirms that both teams have a lot on the line as to who wins the game. “Whoever it is sets themselves up to be sub-region champions and that’s why it’s such a huge, huge game,” he said. “This is as big a ball game as we have played all year long. It is not a season-ending game, but it is a game in which a win could propel you into good seeding in the playoffs and a chance to win the region.”

Still, the most important thing that Alligood is trying to teach his team is that difference in being good and being great. The greatness comes with all the points in the culture he promotes, starting with playing hard every single down.

“Everybody in the state gets to play 10 games but the real season starts with game 11,” he said. “I’m trying to get them to understand that the reason you do all of this stuff is to get to week 11. You don’t do it just to beat Hancock or Lincoln, you try to get to week 11 and see what happens. That’s the culture we’re trying to get into. But when you’re 16 years old, sometimes it’s hard to figure that out.”

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