Originally created 09/13/03

Washington-Wilkes avoids 0-3 start



No one seemed to care when they came up short of the end zone on a long fourth-quarter drive.

No one was overly fired up that senior running back Charles Samuels exceeded the 100-yard mark for the first time this season.

And no one seemed remotely interested that it was the first victory for Russell Morgan as a head coach.

All that mattered to Washington-Wilkes was the way it fought hard and somehow found a way to grind out a 13-6 victory over Laney on Friday night at White Road Stadium.

"This is a great win because we played so well the last two weeks and came up short, playing what I think is the toughest (Class AA) nonregion schedule in the state," said Morgan, in his first year as Tigers head coach after 16 years as an assistant. "For us to lose this one would have been devastating. We knew we didn't want to start 0-3, and the kids found a way to get the job done."

The key was a 16-play drive in the fourth quarter that ate 7:11 off clock.

Holding a seven-point lead thanks to a 10-yard touchdown run by Samuels in the third quarter, the Tigers (1-2) pounded the ball on the ground against Laney's tired defense, driving to the 7-yard line before turning it over on downs with 3:10 to play.

"That was a big drive," said Samuels, who rushed for 106 yards on 19 carries. "We didn't finish the drive, but we did what we had to do. We held the ball a long time and backed them up deep, and our defense finished them off."

Coming off a 21-8 loss to Lincoln County in the season-opener and a 30-15 loss to defending Class AAAA champion Thomson in Week 2, the Tigers avoided an 0-3 start for "the first time since I been here," Morgan said.

Laney seemed poised to bounce back from last week's loss to Hephzibah, and took a 6-0 lead on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Dominique Walker to Marquez Gibson on its opening drive.

But the Wildcats (1-2) stumbled on offense the rest of the way and lost four fumbles.

Laney's first fumble, by senior running back William Scott in the first quarter, led to Washington-Wilkes' first touchdown - a 2-yard keeper by quarterback Jamaal Binns that made it 7-6 after the extra point.

Washington-Wilkes held Laney to 81 yards of offense in the second half. Sixty-one of those yards came on the Wildcats' final drive that began at their own 7 with less than three minutes to play.

"We couldn't start 0-3," Washington-Wilkes sophomore running back Quientelle Dunn said. "We are a much better team than that."

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.