Break down the Washington County versus Americus matchup to a showdown of two great quarterbacks, and you may have figured out the real key to the Class AA championship game.
In what should be a frigid night at Americus' Finklea-Robinson Field, the multi-talented Terrence Edwards for the No. 1-ranked Golden Hawks (14-0) versus the golden arm of Fabian Walker for the No. 2 Panthers (14-0) should factor heavily in tonight's title match.
"Passing is our game, and Fabian has matured into a great quarterback faster than we had hoped," said Americus coach Dan Ragle. "Edwards is an extremely dangerous player. He can do it all. He moves extremely well and can throw well, too. Whichever one has the better game (Saturday) could be the difference in the ballgame."
The 6-foot-2 Washington County junior emerged as one of the state's most versatile players this season, throwing and passing for more than 900 yards each. His explosive running and scrambling ability has prompted many to joke that he, and not older brother Robert Edwards, a former Golden Hawk and current Georgia tailback, has the best moves in the family.
"He's had some incredible runs this season, and that's what scares you the most about him," Ragle said. "He can break one on you at any time. Robert was a great high school player, but I think Terrence is even better."
As for Walker, Ragle wasn't sure if Americus was ready to contend for a title with the sophomore taking over at quarterback. The Panthers lost 2,500-yard passer Chris Johnson to Georgia Southern after a 9-3-1 finish last season.
"He's shown so much poise and confidence for a young kid," said Ragle of Walker, who has thrown for 2,600 yards this year. "We've got a great receiver in (John) Wilson, and we knew Fabian had the ability to get it done. It was just a matter of him doing it under pressure, and he's really matured in a hurry."
Wilson, the state's most prolific receiver the past two seasons, gives Americus a potent 1-2 punch. But Edwards, too, has several good receivers to go to, including senior all-state candidate at safety Chris Horne, junior Derrick Owens, and even senior fullback Greg Cooper, who has 34 touchdowns rushing this season to go with 1,399 yards rushing.
Edwards threw just five times last Saturday in the Hawks' 35-7 semifinal win over Westminster in the Georgia Dome, but showed flashes of the explosive potential of the Washington County passing game.
Tied 7-7 late he second quarter, Edwards completed a 15-yard pass to Owens on first down, the threw a 65-yarder for a TD to Owens on the next play for the go-ahead score.
After the game, Washington County coach Rick Tomberlin joked about his conservative play calling, but hinted that he might led Edwards air it out tonight.
"That was typical, blue-collar Washington County football (last Saturday)," Tomberlin said. "It may take a little bit more against a defense like Americus."
"I'd be surprised if they tried to do the same thing they did against Westminster against us," Ragle said. "When you've got a player as good as Edwards, I would think that you'd want to put the ball in his hands and let him try to do something."