HS football previews: Week 7
Holloway: Johnson players making the most of nonregion schedule
Washington-Wilkes at Jefferson
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Memorial Stadium, Jefferson
Coaches: Washington-Wilkes, Robby Robinson; Jefferson, T. McFerrin
Records: Washington-Wilkes (5-0, 2-0 Region 8-AA); Jefferson (3-1, 1-0)
Key players: Washington-Wilkes, QB Buck Robinson (6-1, 190 Sr.); RB Tomarkus Young (5-10, 180 Jr.); WR/LB Brian Hardigree (6-1, 180 Sr.). Jefferson, QB Bryant Shirreffs (6-2, 215 Sr.); LB Wesley Simonton (6-0, 205 Sr.); OL/DL Collin Anthony (6-1, 215 Sr.).
Prediction: WASHINGTON-WILKES. The Tigers have played defense at a level that will be tough to match.
Jefferson coach T. McFerrin doesn’t see a scenario where his program can win the Region 8-AA championship without a win against No. 7 Washington-Wilkes (5-0, 2-0) on Friday at Memorial Stadium.
Jefferson’s fourth-year coach knows the math doesn’t add up in the Dragons’ favor to stay in the race for the region title with a loss, considering they still have region games against a quickly rising Rabun County (3-1, 1-0) and talented Union County (3-1, 0-1) still left on the schedule.
“Washington-Wilkes is outstanding on both sides of the ball,” McFerrin said. “They have size, speed and great skill guys all over the field.”
The Dragons (3-1, 1-0) are shaping up to have a very good season, but expectations could reach a new level with a win against the Tigers. Jefferson jumped on Greene County for a 62-26 win in the region opener last week in Greensboro.
However, McFerrin hasn’t wavered since the preseason, contending that Washington-Wilkes, which has outscored its opposition by a state-best 40 points per game, would be a team to beat in Region 8-AA this season. The Tigers have yielded only 12 points this season.
Jefferson senior linebacker Wesley Simonton loves playing in games with so much riding on the line. He knows this will be a chance to send a statement against an extremely talented team.
“To know we have the chance to do something great and take down one of the best teams in the state is why we work so hard,” said Simonton, who has 47 tackles and four sacks on the season. “This is a great opportunity for us to show how much we’ve improved this season.”
The only strike against Jefferson this season was a 22-7 loss against archrival Commerce on Aug. 31. The Dragons really got rolling with a come-from-behind 27-21 win against North Hall at The Brickyard on Sept. 14. The emotion of the win over North Hall carried over into the region opener last week against Greene County.
“Beating a team as good as North Hall at their place was huge,” Simonton said.
Now, the table’s been set for Jefferson to play a game with such huge implications against Washington-Wilkes, which is averaging 42 points per game and off to its best start since 2000.
The Dragons’ biggest threat so far in the season has been senior dual-threat quarterback Bryant Shirreffs, who has completed 52 of 87 passes for 587 yards and three touchdowns. Shirreffs has also rushed for 282 yards and five scores.
“Jefferson has a great quarterback who has the ability to beat you with his feet or his arm,” Washington-Wilkes coach Robby Robinson said. “He’s the best we’ll see at the position this season.”
Meanwhile, Washington-Wilkes is also efficient moving the ball. Running a pro-style offense, the Tigers have scored more than 45 points three times this season. McFerrin said its an added difficulty playing against a team that is so versatile, running and passing equally well.
“We played Commerce and North Hall and they are primarily run-based,” McFerrin said. “And then Jackson County and Greene County are going to pass the ball more.
“Washington-Wilkes is the first team we’ve faced this season that is multi-dimensional,” McFerrin said.
Washington-Wilkes is led in the passing game by senior quarterback Buck Robinson, who has completed 67 of 92 passes for 976 yards for 13 touchdowns. The Tigers’ main receiving threat is Mark White with 22 catches for 319 yards. Running the ball, Tomarkus Young, a junior, leads Washington-Wilkes with 36 carries for 276 yards and four touchdowns.
Last week, Washington-Wilkes held Union County to 32 yards of offense and a single first down in Blairsville. At the same time, the quarterback Robinson finished 21 of 26 passing for 230 yards.
“Washington-Wilkes is going to see what is working best against you, then keep doing it,” Simonton said. “We’ve seen them on film and they do a great job.”
However, Washington-Wilkes’ coach knows that Jefferson will put up a good fight. The last time these two schools met was 1969, with the Tigers holding a 10-2 series edge.