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July 8, 2014

Irwin to see many familiar opponents in 2014

TIFTON — The Irwin County Indians had their best season in several years in 2014. They made it all the way to the Class A semifinals, had numerous athletes ink scholarships and posted their most wins since 1999.

The offseason has brought some changes. Jon Lindsey, who had been head coach for three seasons, left for the vacant job at Cook. The Indians picked up Buddy Nobles as his replacement. Nobles comes in during reclassification. Irwin continues as an A school and seven of their regular season opponents remain the same as last year. Two of the additions are old foes. The other, Early County, is a very rare sight for them.

Irwin is unique among area schools in that two scrimmages are planned. The Indians host Redan on Aug. 9, then travel to Bleckley County on Aug. 15. Bleckley and Irwin scrimmaged last season, but this will be the first contact with Redan, a Stone Mountain-based school.

Their opener will be a home game with Early County Aug. 22. The two only  have one previous meeting, one in the Class AA state playoffs in 2001. Early won that contest. Irwin also had one game against the Bobcats' predecessor, Blakely-Union.

Irwin resumes hostilities at neighbor Berrien Aug. 29. The two have not met since 2009 and the Rebels have a two-game win streak in the series, though the Indians lead all-time, 26-15-1.

Rivalry week comes Sept. 5 and they will square off in their annual pigskin pileup with Fitzgerald on the road. The two worked to a 20-20 tie in 2013, the first since 1977. It was the closest Irwin had come to a win since 1999. The two first met in 1922 and have not missed a year playing one another since 1954.

The Indians get a week off before diving into their region schedule, which begins at Clinch County Sept. 19. Clinch was the only regular season loss for Irwin last season, which halted a streak of two straight Indian wins in the series. The all-time series is knotted at 18-18-1.

It will be another Friday on the road Sept. 26, as they next head north for the Ocmulgee River and Telfair County.  Irwin has won the last eight, including a 49-19 blowout last year. The Trojans have only beaten Irwin once, in 2006.

Charlton County comes to town Oct. 3 for a double Indian dual. The two split in 2013, Irwin winning in the regular season, 29-26, and Charlton getting the nod in the semifinals, 34-33. Counting last year's playoff excursion, this will be the third straight game in Ocilla.

Following another week off, it is homecoming in Ocilla as they will be hosting the Lanier County Bulldogs. It was against Lanier that Irwin had its most points last season, when they scored 61.

Rochelle will be Indians' next stop. They play at Wilcox County Oct. 24. Irwin has only a one-game win streak in the series, but that broke a string of six straight for the Patriots. Wilcox finished 3-7 in 2013 and missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

Halloween means tricks and treats and also will mean senior night. Irwin's last home game occurs on that date against the Atkinson County Rebels, who return to Class A after two years as a AA schools. The two last played in 2011, a 56-0 Irwin win. Atkinson is 2-30 in their last 32 games.

The regular season finishes Nov. 7 at Turner County. Irwin has won the last two, but have their problems in Ashburn, where they are an all-time 5-10-1.

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