GWA-Tattnall championship preview

Thirteen down, one more to go. The George Walton Academy football team is on the brink of a state championship. Standing in the Bulldogs' way, however, is an opponent which is the most storied in the GISA.

This Friday GWA will look to make history of its own when it travels to Tattnall Square Academy in Macon for the GISA Class AAA state title. Kickoff at TSA's Jack Baynes Field is set for 8 p.m.

"Early in the season we felt like if we were fortunate enough to make it to the final game that Tattnall would be there waiting for us," Bulldog head coach Don Williams said. "What more can you say about Tattnall? They set the tone that everyone tries to copy. I guess it's only fitting that we are playing them for the state championship."

Since 1988, Tattnall Square has been the king of the mountain in GISA football. Beginning with that season, the Trojans have won eight state crowns and been runner-up five other times.

GWA enters the contest a perfect 13-0 and Region 1-AAA champ. Tattnall is not far behind at 12-1 with the lone loss coming to Williams' Bulldogs in a 10-6 setback Sept. 19. The Trojans are also a No. 1 seed having won the Region 2-AAA title.

Predetermined playoff brackets allow Tattnall to host this year's title game.

The man in charge of all those great Trojan teams is Barney Hester, who has been at the school since the early 1980s. He has also won 12 region titles in his tenure at TSA.

While Tattnall Square has tradition on its side, Hester is quick to praise George Walton and all the Bulldogs have accomplished in 2003.

"One key for us this week will be to tackle well," Hester said. "Their running backs broke so many tackles in their win against Westfield. Their offensive line is also very strong. I'm not sure I've seen a better offensive line in the GISA."

The Trojans rely on a grind-it-out run game spearhead by quarterback Tripp Smith, fullback Chris McCroba and tailback Tyler Faulkner. All three are seniors and each has rushed for more than 1,000 yards. Hester is well aware of the GWA running attack as well.

"You can't key on one guy," Hester said. "That's what makes them so dangerous. You don't often see a team with five running backs as good as they have. That's not even counting the quarterback (Arthur Williams) who is also dangerous. They are not a selfish group. They don't care about individual stats which makes them even better." Hester said Williams and the GWA coaches have done a solid job with the Bulldogs this season.

"I hope people in Monroe realize what a great job the George Walton coaches are doing,' Hester said. "They have built a strong, solid program."

The TSA coach said his team played well in its semifinal win against Deerfield-Windsor. The Trojans eliminated the defending state champion 45-17.

"We played well last week," Hester said. "We took pride in winning against the defending champs."

While Tattnall was rolling by Deerfield, GWA was steamrolling Westfield 59-13. Hester said he wasn't ready to concede that playing at home would be that big of an advantage for his team this week.

"We've been in several state championship games and seem to do just as well on the road as at home," Hester said. "Once the game starts, I don't think it's that big of a deal."

Tattnall last won the state title in 2001 defeating First Presbyterian. Many felt last year's Trojan team might have been the best in school history until GWA upset TSA in the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs have won the last two games against Tattnall in Macon.

Williams said he and his GWA coaches and players would follow their usual routine this week.

"We spoke with our captains first thing this morning," Williams said Monday. "We then talked with our seniors. We told them to follow their same routine this week as always. This has been a humble team all season. We aren't going to be overconfident. Our players are not satisfied yet. They don't want to just be region champs with 13 wins. They want to win this last one. Then the season will be complete."

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