Originally created 12/15/00

Records are made to be broken



Steve Figueroa has been tracking Georgia High School Association football records for the past 25 years.

As editor and publisher of the annual Georgia High School Football magazine, Figueroa is accustomed to watching one or maybe two records fall every couple of years. But he never has seen anything like this season.

The state's career rushing record already has fallen, and three other prestigious records could be broken during the Class AA state championship game Saturday.

Washington-Wilkes running back Daccus Turman needs 136 yards to break Herschel Walker's single-season rushing record of 3,167 yards.

Americus junior wide receiver John Harris is chasing two records - the single-season yardage and reception records.

His quarterback, senior Robert Johnson, is chasing the single-season passing record.

Earlier this season, Commerce running back Monte' Williams broke the career rushing record, surpassing former Worth County running back Robert Toomer's record of 7,868 yards. Williams, whose Tigers play host to Buford in the Class A state championship tonight, has 8,557 rushing yards.

"(I've never seen anything like this); this is a fluke," Figueroa said. "This is an aberration in time. Traditionally in the last five or six years, you may have one or two records fall. But this year, you're talking about five or six records that could fall."

Turman is pursuing the most recognizable record. In 1981, North Springs' Ben Logue came the closest to breaking Walker's single-season record, set during his senior year in 1979 at Johnson County.

Logue's 2,776 yards fell 391 yards shy of tying Walker's mark, and nobody has challenged since.

"Look at the list, Ben Logue is the only one to come within 400 yards, and he did that a long time ago," Figueroa said. "They had a big offensive line, and I remember his coach told me that the head cheerleader would have gotten 2,000 yards running behind their offensive line. So obviously, Logue was kind of a product of the system. But 3,100 yards in a single season, that's a lot of yards."

If the pressure of breaking Walker's 21-year-old record isn't enough for Turman, he's hoping to lead Washington-Wilkes to its first state championship since 1967.

"I just want the ring," Turman said. "But if I could break the record and win the game, that would be sweet, but I want the state championship."

Washington-Wilkes coach Frank Vohun would like nothing more than to see Turman break the rushing record. But he says the state championship game must come first.

"Daccus is a heck of a football player and one of those type of kids that plays with so much intensity that it doesn't surprise me that he's challenging some type of record," Vohun said. "He's broken about every rushing record here at this high school. In order for him to break the record, we had to keep winning.

"Now he'll have a chance. I think it's great for him and great for his offensive line."

Johnson can break a 2-year-old record set by his predecessor, former Americus quarterback Fabian Walker, who passed for 3,187 yards in 1998. Under former coach Dan Ragle's Kentucky-style offensive attack, Walker shattered the old single-season passing record of 3,090 yards set by Mitchell-Baker's Al Pinkins in 1989.

Fabian Walker's state record almost fell last season when Ware County's Mashard McKnight passed for 3,101 yards in Ragle's offense. Johnson needs 37 yards to tie McKnight for second place on the list, while 124 passing yards Saturday night would break the record. The senior is averaging 218.9 passing yards per game.

"Winning the state is the only thing we care about," Johnson told The Associated Press. "That was the one goal we all set before the season. The rest of this stuff is just icing on the cake."

Harris is also chasing an elusive record. The junior has 1,541 yards receiving and needs 33 yards to break former Valdosta receiver Stan Rome's 29-year-old record of 1,573 yards.

He also is chasing another record. His 76 catches are seven shy of former Americus standout John Wilson's state record of 83 catches set in 1996.

Americus coach Erik Soliday said he's impressed with the number of records that could fall in Saturday night's game.

"I don't remember a year where as many different, various records have a been broken or have a chance to be broken," Soliday said. "That's something.

"We knew we had potential to be pretty good, but those numbers have surpassed all of our expectations. Their numbers are really incredible, especially since there was about eight games where they didn't play but about a half. The amount of quarters they've actually played is amazing."

The trend in high schools seems to be geared toward the pass. Soliday believes that even if his players are fortunate to set records Saturday night, they could be broken in the near future.

"The more complex and more advanced passing games get in high school, the better numbers are going to get," he said. "Actually in our offense, everybody thinks we're a passing offense. We've ran for 3,000 yards and passed for 3,000 yards this season."

Figueroa said the beauty of the record chase is that the records being pursued are by three different players.

"You look at somebody like Robert Toomer ... When he broke the career rushing record, he broke two or three other records as well.

"But the idea of the single-season passing, rushing, receiving and career rushing record going down in the same year is freakish. We're not talking about one different kid, we're talking about several different players here."

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