A-Public Finals: Clinch County vs. Irwin County (Preview)

Class A-Public

Georgia Dome

Friday, Dec. 11 | 1 PM



Irwin County (10-2-1)

Irwin County looks to snap a 40-year championship drought Friday at the Georgia Dome and bring home the school’s second state title. The Indians fell just short of bringing home the state crown last year in a 15-6 loss to Hawkinsville, but are back and set to face a Clinch County team they already defeated 28-12 on Sept. 18 of this season. Irwin County has won four of its last five games with Clinch County but this will be the first time the two Region 2 rivals have squared off twice in a season since 1992. Irwin County survived a wild 19-15 finish in the semifinals against a red-hot Emanuel County Institute team. Irwin County took the four-point lead with 8:04 left as D.J. Pollard hauled in a 35-yard touchdown pass from Zach Tolar but the drama had just begun. Emanuel County Institute drove down the field with a 46-yard pass from Rhett Gay to David Durden on a 3rd and 15 and eventually set up a 1st and goal with five minutes left. Irwin County stuffed the Bulldogs and took over on downs with 3:25 left, but the game was far from over. Irwin County fumbled the next play and ECI recovered and was back in action with a 1st and goal from the 10-yard line just five seconds later. William Lewis sacked Gay on 1st down and Ricky Lee was held to just 1-yard on 2nd down. Dazhun Steele hauled in a reception on 3rd down to take ECI to the 7-yard line but on 4th down, a pass to Durden fell incomplete in the end zone and Irwin County was able to kneel out for victory. Irwin County took its first lead with a 67-yard touchdown run by Pollard in the second quarter but failed the PAT and led just 6-0. A 2-yard touchdown by Tolar put the Indians up 12-7 before Lee scored his second touchdown to put ECI up 15-12 before Pollard’s game-winner.

Clinch County (12-1)

Clinch County’s only loss this season came at Irwin County as the Indians wrapped up a 28-12 victory but the Panthers have made great strides offensively since the setback that has fueled the current nine-game winning streak. Clinch County opened the playoffs with a 30-8 win over Dooly County and followed it with a 50-34 win over Johnson County in the quarterfinals. The semifinals set up a showdown with Commerce and it was timely plays on both sides of the football that sent the Panthers to the Dome with a 26-19 victory. Zebulon Johnson broke loose for a 30-yard touchdown run with 2:30 remaining to push the Panthers ahead. Commerce took over looking to answer with a game-tying drive but Machari Bighams sealed the game with an interception with 1:51 left. Trezman Marshall scored on a 48-yard touchdown run and Shannon Young punched in touchdowns of one and two yards in the semis. Young found success in Clinch’s trip to Irwin County as he finished with 83 rushing yards off 15 carries and scored both of the Panthers’ touchdowns. Johnson, who scored the game-winning touchdown in the semifinals saw just two carries in the loss to Irwin County but averaged more than 100 rushing yards per game the next three games, while finding the end zone six times. Johnson has developed into a reliable playmaker that can run and catch out of the backfield. Marshall carried the ball 14 times for 86 yards against Irwin County, in what was just the freshman’s fourth varsity game. Head coach Jim Dickerson has championship experience and has led the Panthers to six region titles and two state titles (2004, 2010) in his 12 years at the helm.

The Matchup…

The Class A-Public championship is a Region 2 showdown as rivals Irwin County and Clinch County meet for the second time this season. No. 3 seeded Irwin County took the first matchup 28-12 at home, but the fifth-seeded Panthers have made it through the playoffs riding a 9-game winning streak with a much more developed offense that has matured since the teams faced in September. Irwin County will use playmaker D.J. Pollard to balance the offense as a receiving threat and running threat that can produce home run plays. The Clinch County defense will be challenged by the Pollard-led Indians and the Panthers offense will have to produce big plays of their own from their versatile junior running back Shannon Young to pressure the Indians defense.

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