Tifton Gazette

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December 4, 2013

Area teams have had good fortune in semis

TIFTON — The Irwin County Indians have the weight of the Tiftarea on their shoulders Friday night. They are the last team alive in the state football tournament, a remarkable achievement considering the quality programs in the area.

But that luck has seemingly run out deep in the bracket. The Tiftarea is currently on a 7-game losing streak in the semifinals. The last team to have advanced to the finals are the Tiftarea Academy Panthers, who went in 2002.

Many schools have had a crack at going since. The Panthers lost in 2005, 2007 and 2008. Fitzgerald fell in consecutive years to Buford. Tift County lost to Roswell in 2006 and Cook came up short against Lovett in 2007.

The track record is still good, though. The eight area schools have a combined record of 25-21 in semifinal games. Going back further, it's even better. The five teams from these parts who competed in the old Georgia Interscholastic Association went 10-3.

For Irwin, this is their eighth ever semifinal game. Their record is 4-3 in these, including a win in the Georgia Dome in 1997 over Crawford County. This is the first one at home since 1975 (Mary Persons), meaning that this will be the first time at Indian Field.

Tiftarea Academy has had the most shots at a state final — 11 — and leads everyone in wins (six) and in home games (eight).

Fitzgerald, who narrowly missed a chance at another semifinal last year, has played the second most games, nine, and have walked away with four wins. That ties them with Tift County, Irwin and Worth County. Tift has the unusual distinction of playing six semifinal games, but none at home.

There have been at least two semifinal games played in Tifton, though. Wilson High hosted R.L. Norris in 1965 at old Tifton Stadium, winning 20-0. Tift County Industial met Wayne County there in 1949 and won, 31-6. Locations are unknown for two other games they played.

Out of current schools, only Berrien has yet to play in the semis. Their lone state appearance in 1991 ended in the quarterfinals. Turner, which has been twice, is a perfect 2-0 in those games. They played Vidalia each time.  Cook, who has been three times in the past 13 years, had their only victory in 1949. That was also the year of their only state championship.

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