Originally created 01/07/01

Record-setting back earns top honor



With his record-setting season behind him, Joel Whinghter can add another accolade:

Augusta Chronicle Independent Schools Player of the Year.

The Augusta Christian junior running back smashed several Lions records on his way to rushing for 2,465 yards on 323 carries. Whinghter accounted for 76 percent of Augusta Christian's 3,243 rushing yards this season and also scored 23 touchdowns.

Whinghter dominated the Georgia Independent Schools Association Class AAA by rushing for 847 yards more than his nearest competitor (Josh Loosier, 1,618 yards).

In Whinghter's 345-yard game against Brentwood, he broke the mark for most rushing yards in a game (319, Robert Taylor against Nathanael Greene in 1986) and broke the season rushing record (J-Son Ward, 1,566) with 1,723 yards in just eight games.

"I don't think anybody can expect 1,700 yards in eight games," Lions coach Steve Price said. "We knew he was going to be real good, we just didn't know how good."

In that same game, Whinghter reached 2,554 career yards to break the mark of 2,499 set by Brandon Colberg in 1998.

"Coach (Keith) Walton helped me work on my cuts before the season last year," said Whinghter, the reigning GISA Class AAA 110-hurdles champion. "And then my vision got better this year. And really, a lot of it is the line."

With Whinghter's performance, Augusta Christian improved on a 5-6 record two seasons ago with a 9-3 mark last season.

Meanwhile, Chuck Wimberly returned to his alma mater and led Thomas Jefferson to the GISA Class A state championship. For that, the first-year coach is the Augusta Chronicle Independent Schools Coach of the Year.

Thomas Jefferson ended the regular season with a 10-0 record and earned a bye into the second round of the GISA playoffs. In the semifinals, the Jaguars upended Crisp 41-0.

With a 28-26 win over Robert Toombs in the championship game Nov. 24, Thomas Jefferson ended its magical season with a 12-0 record.

There are plenty of reasons for the success the Louisville, Ga., school had this season. The Jaguars were dominant on both sides of the ball.

Thomas Jefferson's explosive offensive racked up 5,458 yards of total offense for an average of 454.8 yards a game. The Jaguars picked up 4,228 yards on the ground and 1,230 yards through the air.

Five players from the team - linebacker Robert Jones, defensive end Daniel Tanner, running backs Paul Thomas and Thomas Battle and quarterback Eric Elsener - were named to the GISA all-state football team.

Battle (1,341 yards rushing) and Thomas (1,281) were the top two running backs in the GISA this season. The pair also combined for 32 touchdowns.

Elsener rushed for 704 yards (8.2 yard per carry average) and six touchdowns. He also went 51-of-94 passing for 1,230 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Jones led a Jaguar defense that held opponents to 131.5 yards of offense and 10.3 points a game. The senior linebacker had 200 tackles, including 18 sacks, and six interceptions.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222.