2018-09-13 / Sports

Turnovers kill Tigers; confidence needed

Freshman KY JACKSON had 63 yards and a touchdown. Freshman KY JACKSON had 63 yards and a touchdown. The outcome wasn’t pretty in Macon last Friday night as the Washington-Wilkes Tigers came up two points short of a win in another disappointing outing fraught with mistakes which, like the week before, seemed to come at the worst of times. Seven (really?) turnovers plagued W-W and were more than any team could overcome.

The game got off to a good start with the Tigers moving through two drives for an early 13-0 lead. The missed PAT kick on the second touchdown would be a haunting failure at the end of the game. Stratford answered quickly enough before the quarter ended and narrowed the score to 13-7.

The tables turned in the second quarter as Stratford took its turn at scoring two touchdowns while W-W managed only one. The Eagles were steady in their PATs and the Tigers missed another leaving the score at 21-19 at halftime – Statford on top.

Matched touchdowns in the third stanza plus a two-point conversion by the Tigers brought W-W within a single point and the failure to score in the fourth preserved that score until the end. Stratford won 28-27.

However, Head Coach Chad Alligood was not totally upset by the loss even though it leaves the Tigers at 0-3 this season. He found good things to focus on amid the seven times his players handed the ball over to their opponents.

“One positive thing is that our effort was as good as it has been all year,” he said. “We really played hard and I was proud of that. In the first two weeks we didn’t play as hard as we should have in a few spots and we were questioning some guys’ efforts. But Friday night at Stratford I thought everybody that put their feet on the grass played hard.”

Still he lamented that seven turnovers (five fumbles lost and two pass interceptions) is more than anyone can overcome. Even though W-W still had a shot at winning right up until the end of the game, “You just can’t do it,” he said.

“The frustrating part is that we had another week of going up and down the field on offense and only one punt,” Alligood continued. “It wasn’t that we didn’t execute, we just turned the ball over. That’s the stuff that is frustrating and that we have got to fix going into the region schedule.”

And that’s another good thing. The 0 of the 0-3 record represents no region opponents. Those games can be put behind except for what the Tigers can learn from them. Having three games before region competition starts allows a team to figure out what needs to be done before the games matter in the final standings.

“We know now what we have to do,” Alligood said. “We have a really good football team. We’re young but we are a good football team if we cut out the turnovers.”

Still, the problem causing the turnovers is elusive and Alligood says it’s something every coach deals with.

“But you have to play with confidence and I think sometimes we just don’t play with confidence,” he said. “And when you don’t, you become timid and unsure of yourself. I preached it last week and I will preach it again this week.”

He also said that there were some questionable calls on some big plays that were called back, and though he didn’t really blame the officials. “There were two calls that I’m having a hard time with when I watch the video,” he said. “They were some game-changing plays – but if we hadn’t had those turnovers, those calls wouldn’t even have come into question.”

As of right now, every team in the region is 0-0 and Alligood says it’s like a “reboot” week. “We’ll get going and try to fix those mistakes. It’s like a fresh start when we begin the region schedule. We’ll see what happens.”

We’ll see at Warren County this Friday night. The Screaming Devils are showing much more success this year than in recent years and stand a 2-1 with wins over Portal and Twiggs County. They have a really good running back and their confidence is high coming off their 42-0 shutout of Twiggs.

“We are going to have to cut out our mistakes. And if we do that, we’ll be just fine,” Alligood said. “If we play like we are capable of playing for the entire 48 minutes, we’ll be okay.

“We’ve had 12 turnovers in the last two weeks. That’s a season’s worth.”

It’s still a bit un-nerving that W-W suffered five holding calls during last week’s game and Stratford had zero. It’s hard to believe but there’s nothing to do about it. Even so, without those turnovers, those calls don’t matter.

“There is still some tweaking we may need to do,” the coach said of his players. “We are still looking and evaluating to make sure we have the right people in the right spots.”

One player who is definitely in the right spot is sophomore running back Corey Danner. He had 149 yards rushing and 48 yards receiving for a total of 197 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.

“Corey Danner had a really good game all the way around,” the coach said. “All people look at is when he has his hands on the ball, but he had a really good game when his hands were not on the ball. Everybody has got to play hard all the time whether you have the ball or not.” He emphasized that Danner’s blocking etc. was also outstanding.

“On defense, we gave up three big plays to them but other than that it was the best we’ve played on defense,” Alligood said.

“We are headed in the right direction,” he continued, “we’ve just got to cut the mistakes out. Youth comes with that though. I don’t know if people realize it but 14 of our 22 starters are ninth and tenth graders. Sometimes it takes a little time for them to grow up a little bit. Maybe that’s where we are but we will just keep plugging along.”

Analyzing his freshman players, who were playing middle school ball last year this time, Alligood said, “It takes a number of weeks for them to be mentally involved in what’s going on over and over and over. Physically, they are fine; it’s just the mental aspect of it. Mentally, they get tired [which holds true across leagues, even for rookies in professional football] because it’s a different environment, a different speed of the game, different from what they are used to.

“But I’m proud of our young guys and how hard they’re playing and how far they have come. And still, some of them haven’t even scratched the surface of how really good they can be.”

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