2018-08-09 / Front Page

Tigers to take the field Friday; scrimmage against Hart

Coaches T.C. Jay (left) and Dylan Turner (right) instruct the Tigers as they prepare for Hart County. Coaches T.C. Jay (left) and Dylan Turner (right) instruct the Tigers as they prepare for Hart County. There has been a lot of talk and a few glimpses of Washington-Wilkes Tiger Football 2018 but this Friday night, fans will get their first real look at the team. The traditional pre-season scrimmage is set for 7:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium against the Hart County Bulldogs.

Tiger athletes have been at work all summer staying in shape and getting stronger in the weight room. Practice on the field and in pads followed and this week 56 players and their coaches are not only back in school but back on the practice field, in the sweltering heat, from 4-6 every afternoon.

Friday’s scrimmage will give coaches a good look at the new team and will help them decide who’s best for each position and where their strengths and weaknesses are. Fans are encouraged to attend. Admission is $5 for everybody.

In full pads in the full heat of the sun, the W-W Tigers are getting ready for Friday nights this season. In full pads in the full heat of the sun, the W-W Tigers are getting ready for Friday nights this season. “We have had a really good summer and the kids have worked awfully hard,” Head Coach Chad Alligood reported. “Physically, we are in as good shape as we have been in.”

But the Tigers have been practicing with just themselves and that can be a little unsatisfying. Adding a real opponent changes everything.

“I am excited to see us go against somebody else even though we’ve been in pads for only about a week,” Alligood said. “We are ready to see what we can do against an opponent.”

Friday night’s scrimmage game will be a good gauge against a well-coached Hart County team but the Tigers will be raw and probably a bit sloppy – nowhere near where they expect to be a few weeks into the season – but that’s understandable. And Hart County will be in the same condition.

For many of the W-W players, it will be the first real test of their abilities.

“We have a lot of new guys in places and we’ll be trying to figure out if they can handle it under the lights,” Alligood said. “That’s the biggest thing that I want to come out of Friday – to answer some of those question marks that we have on personnel.” He wants to make sure players are in the positions where they need to be and whether they can carry out their assigned jobs.

“I’m anxious to see us go out and execute some things and just to see our tempo on both sides of the ball,” he continued. “Mainly it’s all about getting into game situations against somebody other than yourself. It’s really going to point out our strengths and weaknesses and what we need to emphasize going into the season opener against Elbert County.”

While the scrimmage will be played live and will look and feel like a real game, Alligood pointed out that it’s not a “do or die” situation but rather a learning situation which will give the Tigers a starting point before facing Elbert two weeks later.

The scrimmage will include three quarters of varsity football and the fourth quarter will be for JV players. There will be no live special teams although punts and field goals will be part of the scrimmage, just not “live.” And there will be no kickoff or receive teams.

The Tiger roster of 56 players includes a strong group of 13 seniors and while the junior class is uncharacteristically small, a large group of more than 20 freshman seems particularly talented. Alligood, who claims he has rarely ever used freshmen as starters, says some of them will be playing on Friday nights this fall. But it’s the seniors he’s counting on.

“We do have a good core of senior guys that have played a lot of football. They have really stepped up to be leaders of the team and that’s what we have got to have,” he said. “They have really taken the team and are leading them.”

The coach pointed out that the best teams in any sport are player led, rather than coach-led, and the coaching staff has tried to stress that to the players. “I can tell them to do something a thousand times, but until one of their peers tells them and holds them accountable, that’s when you really turn the corner,” he said.

He related a story of the state championship team he coached in Warner Robbins in 2014. The team was talented but not the most talented in his experience. But about mid-season, the players stepped up and took over the leadership of the team. “It made all the difference in the world,” he said.

“In today’s time, it’s hard to get teenagers to lead. [They think] ‘It’s not cool,’” Alligood said. “It’s tough for them to do because a leader has got to do more than talk – he’s got to make sure he takes care of his own job too.”

He named both D’Mytri Wiggs and Des Anderson as two seniors who have played a lot of football and are the ones who are trying to be the leaders of this 2018 team.

“I just want players who do their jobs on the field and are not just ‘rah-rah’ guys, but somebody who leads by example,” the coach said.

The small junior class, he said, is not due to lack of participation but rather a reflection of the composition of the entire class. For whatever reason, the juniors at W-WCHS this year are 70 percent girls.

A good class of sophomores will be stepping into their own this season as they move out of “rookie” status and take on roles of more responsibility.

“The freshmen have stepped up during the off-season and bought in to what we have going on,” Alligood reported. “Some of them have been pushed into some playing time that they may not be mentally ready for, but they will come into their own by week six or seven, and that’s when we will need them.

“The hardest part for a freshman is to get over the daily grind of high school football. They have already practiced more than they practiced in an entire season of middle school football,” he added. “They have done a great job. We have four or five that are going to have to step up and play key roles for us.”

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