Originally created 09/23/99

Despite losses, Tigers still in Top 10

WASHINGTON, Ga. -- Teams that start the season with two straight losses normally aren't ranked in the Georgia Associated Press Top 10 football poll.

In fact, it's rare that a team with a sub .500 record even gets any votes in the poll. So what makes the Washington-Wilkes Tigers different than any other football team in the state?

The winless Tigers (0-2) still remain in the Class A Top 10 this week at No. 10, even getting two first-place votes. Only two other teams around the state, perennial power Thomas County Central (AAA) and Brooks County (AA) have records below .500 at 1-2.

However, things are different in Washington. In two games against schools twice its size, Washington-Wilkes has outplayed the competition only to see their opponent storm back in the fourth quarter and win the game.

"It's hard to lose, but we're playing well," said junior Michael Bailey. "We just need to get it together in the fourth quarter and learn how to play through the whole game. I think that will come with time. This is a tough schedule, but hopefully when we get to our region, we'll be doing good."

In the first week of the season, the Tigers led Class AA Hart County, a team that advanced to the Class AA state quarterfinals last season, the entire game before the Bulldogs scored 13 straight points in the final 2:26 of the game to win 19-14.

The following week, Class AAAA Cedar Shoals trailed Washington-Wilkes 22-13 at the end of the third quarter, but the Jaguars scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to edge the Tigers 23-22. A Cedar Shoals field goal with 6:20 in the contest stood as the difference in the game.

Last season, the Tigers opened the season 0-3 under first year coach Frank Vohun before winning four of their final seven games to qualify for the playoffs. They whipped Callaway 27-0 in the first round before dropping a heartbreaking 7-0 loss to eventual state champion Darlington in the second round, a game the Tigers felt they played well enough to win.

Junior defensive back Ryan Cowan hopes the Tigers can notch their first victory of the season Friday night when they travel to Louisville to face Jefferson County.

"I think we've gotten a whole lot better and we're a lot stronger (than we were last year)," Cowan said. "We also go through a lot of conditioning. Conditioning pays off when we're playing a quick team."

The Tigers may be 0-2, but Hart County and Cedar Shoals both believe Washington-Wilkes will go deep in the Class A playoffs this year.

"They're awesome - big, physical and every single one of them play both ways," said Cedar Shoals quarterback Tommy Wilson, who passed for only 45 yards in the Jaguars 23-22 victory two weeks ago. "They shocked us, we had to wake up and play ball. We were lucky to pull this one out."

Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216 or timmorse@augustachronicle.com.


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