WASHINGTON, Ga. — Avenging its most embarrassing loss of last season, Washington-Wilkes made a late defensive stand to beat defending Class AA state champion Jefferson 21-14 on Friday night.
The victory pushes the No. 5 Tigers to 6-0 and in the driver’s seat in Region 8-AA.
“Awesome performance,” Tigers head coach Robby Robinson told his players as they celebrated beating the No. 7 team in the state. “Washington-Wilkes is back. We can go as far as we want to go now.
“We wanted to come into this game and win it, but when you talk about going from a 31-0 deficit last year to beating them this year with our team only having seven seniors it’s a testament to our players,” Robinson added.
Jalen Turner scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter to put the Tigers ahead 21-7 after a fiercely fought first half. Turner caught a 23-yard crossing pass from DeAndre Harris to cap a 64-yard opening drive in the second half.
Then after Tremond Ferrell recovered a fumble on Jefferson’s next play from scrimmage at the Dragons’ 14, Turner stepped in as a wildcat quarterback and scored on 3-yard run.
From there it was up to the Tigers defense to hang on. Jefferson failed to score early in the fourth quarter after getting a first-and-goal at the 5, getting pushed back three consective plays and fumbling it away on third down.
But the Dragons weren’t done yet. Jefferson went 45 yards in two plays – a 33-yard reverse option pass followed by a 12-yard T.J. Skelton touchdown run with 5:40 left in the game.
Then the Dragons mounted another drive after getting the ball back with 3:31 remaining. Skelton, in at quarterback after starter Evan Shirrefs dislocated a thumb in the first half, made play after play to move Jefferson to the Wilkes 22 with 2:27 to go.
But on first down, Skelton threw into tight coverage down the left side and Javoris Grant intercepted at the 5.
Needing another first down to keep the ball away from Jefferson, Tomarkus Young burst through the line for 36 yards and let the Tigers kneel out the clock.
“Jefferson made a great push there at the end and our guys survived it,” Robinson said. “Both teams made an awful lot of plays but I thought we made a few more than they did.”
Quay Blackburn led the Tigers with 106 rushing yards and a first-quarter touchdown while Young added 77 critical yards on just five carries.
The Tigers started inauspiciously yielding two opening sacks on a quick three-and-out, followed by a 46-yard punt return by the Dragons to the Washington-Wilkes 11.
But the Tiger defense held and Young blocked a 29-yard field goal attempt that Kemble Laguines picked up and returned to the Jefferson 33 to set up Blackburn’s first score four plays later.
The Dragons responded with a Tristen Jackson touchdown run in the second quarter to send the teams into halftime tied at 7-7.
It was an emotional night for the Tigers, who wore white along with their fans in honor of running backs coach Allen White, who suffered a heart attack two weeks ago in the school's gym. White was revived at the scene by two assistant coaches and his condition is reportedly improving.