2017-11-16 / Sports

Tigers smack Panthers 34-zip, face Manchester Fri.

THE TIGER DEFENSE SUFFOCATES A CHATTAHOOCHEE BALL CARRIER AT THE LINE Washington-Wilkes scored its first shutout of the season last Friday night. THE TIGER DEFENSE SUFFOCATES A CHATTAHOOCHEE BALL CARRIER AT THE LINE Washington-Wilkes scored its first shutout of the season last Friday night. The Washington-Wilkes Tigers demolished the Chattahoochee Panthers (34-0) in more ways than one last Friday and has now advanced to the second round of the state playoffs. This Friday, the Tigers will travel to Manchester to face the top-ranked and undefeated Blue Devils. A win would place W-W in the third round of the playoffs, deeper than any other Tiger team since 2005.

Manchester is 10-0 this year (they drew a bye for the first round of the playoffs – see chart this page) and are “pretty athletic on offense,” according to W-W Head Coach Chad Alligood. “They run the Wing-T which we’ve seen a good bit this year,” he added. “On defense, they run a four man front like we’ve seen the last four weeks.”

RAMELLO MILLER GRABS HIS FIRST INTERCEPTION He ended the Panther’s drive on this fourth-down conversion attempt. 
Photos by MERCER HARRIS RAMELLO MILLER GRABS HIS FIRST INTERCEPTION He ended the Panther’s drive on this fourth-down conversion attempt. Photos by MERCER HARRIS The Blue Devils have a lot of good athletes but it’s difficult to tell how good they are because the Tigers and their coaches have little, if any, experience or knowledge of most of the teams they have played.

Three things are already working in the Tigers’ favor however – the strength of their schedule, their roadgame record, and their health.

“I like where we’re at and I think we have probably played the toughest Class A schedule there is,” Alligood said. “I don’t think Manchester is better than any team we have played and we have played some teams that are really good.”

In six road games so far this year, W-W has lost only one and that was to AAAA West Hall in the second game of the season. Still, besides the top ranking in the state, Manchester enjoys considerable higher ratings than the Tigers in multiple MaxPreps.com rankings.

BROCK JACKSON TURNS THE CORNER AFTER A MIDFIELD RECEPTION He also scored on a reception for a two-point conversion in the first quarter. BROCK JACKSON TURNS THE CORNER AFTER A MIDFIELD RECEPTION He also scored on a reception for a two-point conversion in the first quarter. “We have played well on the road this year,” Alligood said, “but this will be a big challenge for us. We’re going to have to get off the bus with our ‘A’ game, because we are going to have to play our ‘A’ game. That’s what happens in the playoffs – everybody is good. We’ll just line up and see what happens.”

Good news is that starting linemen Wes Tanner (79) and Chris McClean (73) have recovered from injuries and have been cleared to return this week. They started practice on Monday. In their absence, freshman Chase Chafin got his first start against Chattahoochee and drew praise from Alligood, who reported that Chafin “played a really good game.”

With Tanner and McClean returning, Alligood declared, “We’re healthy and we will be at about full strength.”

The scoring and dominance came quickly for the Tigers as they hosted Chattahoochee’s Panthers last Friday. After an opening kickoff return by Gian Davis to the 35, on the second play from scrimmage, a 65-yard screen pass from Donovan Anthony to Deondre Lester was good for an apparent touchdown but got called back on a penalty. But after some ground gains by Malik Hall and Corey Danner, Lester got the chance again and scored on a 26-yard pass.

“I was proud of the way we started the game hot,” Alligood said. “We came out and did some things we had talked about all week long.”

The Tigers would score twice more in the opening period. The first came when Jaquavious Cox scooped up a Panther fumble and ran more than 80 yards virtually untouched for the touchdown. A two-point conversion pass from Anthony to Brock Jackson made the score 14-0. Finally, in the first quarter, Danner broke through the line in Tiger territory and raced 53 yards for touchdown number three. Anthony’s kick made it 21-0.

In the second quarter the Anthony to-Lester connection was good for a fourth-down-conversion touchdown from five yards out and the Tigers took a 27-0 lead into the fieldhouse for halftime.

Chattahoochee threatened a couple of times after breaking long runs to near the goal line but penalties and a total of four ejections, including the head coach, took their toll and helped hold them scoreless. There was bad behavior almost from the beginning of the game and the Panthers even tried to blame Tiger fans behind the fence on the north end of the field, and demanded that the officials make them, few that they were, move off to the side.

“I was glad about the way our kids held their composure,” Alligood said. “I’ve never been in a game like that ... from the beginning, I could point out play after play where they were trying to get a cheap shot, the last lick after the whistle, and all that over and over and over. Our kids did a really good job of keeping their composure and holding each other accountable. They know if one kid does something stupid they won’t be with us.”

“We are going to run a first-class program and we are going to do things the right way because that’s the only way to be great,” he continued. “You have to do things the right way all the time. You can’t cut corners and you can’t compromise anything. If you want to be great, you have to do it the right way.”

Early in the fourth quarter, the now famous long pass play to Lester down the right sideline paid off again and Anthony’s kick rounded out the scoring at 34-0.

“In all phases, we are playing our best football right now,” Alligood said, obviously pleased and proud with his team. “Guys are making plays. We are having good practices. Their attitudes have been good.”

He has also noticed something else encouraging about the 2017 Tigers.

“You get weary because football season is long,” he said. “I’ve been around teams in the past, when you get to week 10 and into the playoffs, you feel like your players are drained and your coaches are drained and you’re worried that some of them are ready for it to be over with just because they are so physically tired … But this group right here – it’s almost like they have gotten their second wind.”

As evidenced by their play against and wins over Tattnall Square and Chattahoochee, “Their energy has been great and for the last two Fridays it has really shown on the field,” Alligood observed. “Their preparation and the energy they have brought to practice have really carried over.”

For those teams in the state that are still competing, it’s a new season and now that the “bye” week is past, whoever wins will keep playing and whoever loses will go home and turn in their uniforms.

“Everybody is in the same boat. Everybody is banged up. Everybody is injured. Everybody has had a long regular season,” Alligood said. “A lot of things have to go your way in the playoffs and one of them is that the kids have got to understand that there is no tomorrow. They might as well leave it all out there and play as hard as they can play, and then see what happens.

“There is no come back next week and get it fixed,” he continued. “In the regular season, there’s always that next Monday to look at some things and get them fixed. It’s not that way in the playoffs.”

Alligood expressed his pride in his players and coaches, saying he thinks the team has improved and gotten better in a lot of areas as the season progressed. That means the Tigers are at their best as they continue in the playoffs, he pointed out.

“It is huge for us to be in game 12 in year one of a new program,” the coach said.

“On offense, nobody has really stopped us,” he continued. “When we have struggled on offense, it has been because of self-inflicted wounds. And now they [his players] understand that if we execute, we’re pretty good on offense because we can do so many things.”

The Tigers’ strategy of not playing both ways is paying off this time of year, when competition is tougher. “We don’t get tired. We can make adjustments when everybody else is playing a bunch of guys both ways,” Alligood noted. “The kids have really bought into that too. You’re not playing both sides of the ball so you should never get tired.”

Continuing, the coach said, “A work in progress for us since game one has been changing to the mindset of being coachable during the game. It’s a 48-minute game. If things don’t go our way, or if they do go our way, you’ve got to come over to the sideline, make adjustments, and then go out and do it again. That has probably been one of the hardest things for us.”

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