Tradition never really left Washington-Wilkes, but winning – at least big-time winning– had.
The football program played its first game in 1919 – it plays on the same field today as it did then – and has had plenty of success, including four state titles and more than 600 wins.
But after following up a state runner-up showing in 2005 with a 10-2 record in 2006, Washington-Wilkes has been fighting just to be average. From 2007-2011, the Tigers went 25-30.
This year – coach Robby Robinson’s second with the team – points to a return to power. The Tigers are 4-0 and are ranked in the Class AA poll. They beat rival Lincoln County for just the second time since 2003.
“We’re relying on them to break the cycle – the cycle of mediocrity,” Robinson said about this year’s team. “Sooner or later, that’s got to break. That’s what we challenged them with all off-season.”
Through four games, Washington-Wilkes has averaged almost 44 points per game and allowed only 12 points total.
The balanced offense features running backs Tomarkus Young and Jaquavious Blackburn, both of whom are averaging at least 7.5 yards per carry. Quarterback Buck Robinson, the coach’s son, has thrown for 744 yards and 10 touchdowns. Mark White leads the receiving corp with 194 yards, and two others have at least 170 receiving yards.
“We wanted to change it, and hopefully change it for the next few years and kind of turn the tide a bit for us as a community,” Buck Robinson said.
Robinson, Alex Hackney and Brian Hardigree represent the senior class on the team’s leadership council. The three, trying to lead the program back to the top, had different goals for the team this year. The first – beat Lincoln County – can be checked off. A region championship and undefeated season are the loftier goals.
Still, that win against the Red Devils was a big step. No current players had beaten Lincoln County, and four coaches were also bedeviled when they were players.
That includes Markeith Wylie, who graduated in 2006. He was on the 2005 team that lost in the state final to Lincoln County.
“We got them back,” Wylie said about this year’s 21-6 win. “If I didn’t get my ring from them, I at least got some pleasure out of coming back and coaching against them.”
That win could be just the start of a welcomed return to prominence.
“Even though there’s been some down years, this program has always won, and it’s going to win again,” coach Robinson said. “We’ve appealed to them, let’s do it now.”