Think “Washington County football,” and the House of Pain, deep playoff runs, Takeo Spikes and state title shots come to mind.
This year’s group is close to having a can’t-forget-that-team year.
For the 10th time since 1992 but the first time since 2006, the Golden Hawks are playing in the state semifinals, as Class AAA Washington County is home against Ringgold Friday at 7:30 p.m. Washington County is one win away from playing for its first state championship since 1997.
“Every team is different. I’ve had teams not perform to where I thought they would. But this team is special,” Golden Hawks coach Joel Ingram said. “I think these kids want to leave their own legacy.”
After reaching the quarterfinals in 2012, Washington County has gone to a different, dominant level this season. In their 12-0 start, the Golden Hawks have won by at least 29 points 11 times, with an overtime win against Lovett the outlier. Washington County also averages 51 points, scoring at least 36 points in every game.
Washington County’s routs are a product of stars all over the field. At quarterback, A.J. Gray can run and throw for 100 yards in a single game. Melvin Hill is with him in the backfield, rushing for more than 200 yards like he did in the 46-17 quarterfinal game against Blessed Trinity. Hill, Gray and Danyale Wicker have all rushed for well over 1,000 yards each.
On defense, Middle Tennessee commit D.J. Sanders shuts down the other team’s passing attack; Sanders picked off four passes in the quarterfinal win. Washington County has also allowed more than 17 points in a game just once this season.
This week, Ringgold comes to town. The Tigers have scored 55, 37 and 35 points in their three playoff wins after beginning the year with zero state playoffs victories in their history.
According to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, Ringgold began playing football in 1934, though there were some years without a team (1938-1948).
So this Friday, a team looking to create its first glory days visits a program hoping to add to them.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Washington County’s Sanders said. “It’s kind of what we expected coming into the season.”