Championship Preview: Class A-Public


Defense wins championships, or at least that’s what Hawkinsville hopes to prove. The Red Devils have allowed just seven points per game and 127 yards per game this season leading all of Class A in the category. Senior Cal George leads the defense with six interceptions. Hawkinsville’s season high in points allowed is 14 in what resulted in a 20-14 win over Jenkins County in the first round. Head Coach David Daniell has overseen the growth of a four-win team just two seasons ago into 12 victories this year and a chance for the program’s sixth state title. Heavily reliant on their defense, the Red Devils score only 23 points per game, third-lowest in Region 4. Dakota Sloan has thrown for 651 yards and rushed for 458 yards in the Red Devils’ ground and pound attack. Reginald McDonald has rushed for 623 yards and seven scores while Malik Holliman and Warren Singletary both have 250 yards rushing. The Red Devils one of their biggest tests of the season when they hosted No. 5 Dooly County back in October. Dooly entered 4-1 with Hawkinsville at 6-0. The Red Devils broke a 13-13 tie heading into the fourth quarter using touchdown runs from Dakota Sloan and Warren Singletary to ice the game 28-13. Sloan rushed for 80 yards and Singletary ran for 62 as Hawkinsville outgained Dooly 318 to 131 in total yards. The following week, defending champs Marion County handed the Devils their lone defeat 13-6. Although Marion County only gained 208 yards, they still managed to knock the Red Devils from the unbeatens. Hawkinsville beat Jenkins County 20-14 before its 12-6 overtime win over No. 4 Charlton County to set up a rematch with Marion. Tyler Brown hit a 26-yard field goal with 13 seconds left to upset Marion County 15-13. Reginald McDonald ran for 108 yards as the Red Devils managed to control the clock (29 minutes of posses-sion) and keep the explosive Eagles offense off the field.


Buddy Nobles’ first season as head coach got off to a surprising start for the Indians. A Week 1 matchup with Early County resulted in a 7-7 tie after both coaches agreed before the game that if the situation arose, they would settle for a tie since the game was not a region match. After the unpolished Week 1 performance, the Indians seemed to get back on track when they thumped Berrien 49-20, however, Class AA Fitzgerald gave Irwin a taste of their own medicine the following week beating the Indians 40-12. The taste must have stuck in Irwin’s mouth, because since that game the Indians have reeled off 10 straight wins while averaging 38.5 points per game. Irwin County drilled No. 5 Charlton County 41-14 after Charlton entered the game 5-0. The Indians’ high-powered offense went untested the rest of the regular sea-son, outscoring opponents by an average of 32 points. The Indians use a powerful rushing attack to overwhelm opponents. Zach Tolar lines up under center at quarterback, but prefers to do his damage with his legs. DJ Pollard, Robert Moore, Ty Hogan, and Jakyron Young all make up one of Class A’s most feared ground games. The Indians shutout Atkinson County in Round 1 28-0 to set up a meeting with No. 5 Dooly County. Irwin’s offense sputtered early and found itself in a 7-6 hole in the second half. Coach Nobles didn’t panic and saw his team respond with 20 unanswered points led by 118 yards rushing and a score from Robert Moore to help Irwin advance 40-29.A semifinal date with No. 7 Commerce was much of the same. Jakyron Young scored four times in the second half to lead the Indians to a 28-7 win after trailing at the half. Young would finish with 199 yards while DJ Pollard added 91 of his own. Irwin last won a state title in 1975 and Hawkinsville won back-to-back titles in 2003-04


The title game will be a contrast in methods but not in how both teams will try and move the ball. Irwin County looks to light up the scoreboard coming in averaging 34 points per game, while Hawkinsville likes to control the tempo with its running game and suffocate opposing teams defensively. The Red Devils have held their opponents to under 100 yards of total offense six times this season. On offense, both teams heavily rely on their rushing game. Irwin will try to break off quick scores, while Hawkinsville is content with a methodical pace of moving the ball down the field trying to take time off the clock. Playing its slow grind-it-out style of play, Hawkinsville has found itself in many tight games but has found ways to win. Aside from its tie and lone loss, Irwin’s closest game has been a seven-point win over Atkinson County. Irwin’s Jakyron Young and Reginald McDonald of the Red Devils have the capability to make game-changing plays for their respective teams.


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