Originally created 12/16/00

Washington-Wilkes faces challenge



WASHINGTON, Ga. - The oddsmakers don't set the betting lines for high school football games.

But if you listen to Washington-Wilkes coach Frank Vohun talk of his team's chances tonight in the Class AA state championship game, you might get the impression the odds are stacked heavily against his Tigers.

"We may be the underdog, I don't know," Vohun said. "But as long as nobody tells our kids that, we'll be in pretty good shape."

Washington-Wilkes (14-0) meets Americus (14-0) at 7:30 p.m. at Finklea-Robinson Stadium. The visiting Tigers feature a brutal ground attack that averages 367.9 yards per game, while Americus - traditionally known as a passing team - features a more balanced offense.

It's been 25 years since either team captured a state championship. Americus won back-to-back titles in 1974-75; Washington-Wilkes' last one was in 1967.

Even though neither team has won the state crown in more than two decades, both have played in the finals during the last five seasons. Americus lost to Washington County in the 1996 Class AA state championship game while Washington-Wilkes lost to Elbert County in the 1995 Class AA state title matchup.

Coincidentally, Americus beat the Tigers 41-14 during the state quarterfinals in 1996.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Vohun said. "You take a bunch of kids that have been playing well and have faced a lot of adversity, and they've risen to the occasion several times because we've played some good football teams. There's no telling what they might do."

The pressure of three jeopardized state records adds to the drama. Washington-Wilkes running back Daccus Turman needs 136 yards to break Herschel Walker's single-season rushing record of 3,167 yards.

Americus quarterback Robert Johnson needs to throw for 124 yards to become the state's single-season passing leader, while teammate John Harris needs 33 yards receiving to break the single-season receiving yardage record.

Vohun admits that Johnson's ability to throw the ball has the Tigers' attention .

"You throw the ball like that, you've got the ability to score quickly," he said. "That is a concern; their entire football team is a concern. Even if they were a great running team, that would be a concern. To get this far, somebody is going to pick somebody (to lose), but you better never count anybody out."

The Americus offense has gained most of the hype this season, but its defense has impressive numbers of its own. Through 14 games, the Panthers have allowed just 9.9 points per game.

Before the playoffs began, Americus was allowing 111.8 yards of total offense per game, including 64.8 yards rushing.

"A lot of people might say we don't have much of a chance, but our kids aren't going to listen to you if you tell them that," Vohun said.

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