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December 5, 2013

Big game in Ocilla

Irwin-Charlton in state semifinals

TIFTON — The Irwin County Indians and the Charlton County Indians have played one of the most unique football series in the state of Georgia.

Irwin County won the first game played between the two schools in 1966, and went on to win the next 14 games in the series, going up to 1989.

After finally breaking through in 1990 with a 7-0 win, Charlton went on to win the next 17 games in the series. Irwin ended the streak in 2012 with a 55-34 regular season win. The Irwin Tribe then tied the series at 17-17 with a 29-26 win during the 2013 regular season.

The series will be untied again tonight when the two schools meet up in the biggest game ever played in the long series. The Indians of Irwin County will host the Indians of Charlton County with a berth in the Class A state public school state championship on the line.

Coach Rich McWhorter’s Charlton tribe will enter tonight’s game with an 8-4 record. The 9th seed in the Class A bracket, the Indians from Folkston have been on a roll with huge victories over Commerce (35-14) and Seminole (42-0) in the playoffs.

The big difference for the Charlton squad has been the return of sophomore running back Andrew Lee. After missing most of the season due to an arm injury, Lee has come back and rushed for 501 yards in the two state playoff games. Compared that to the 603 yards Charlton rushed for as a team during the 10 games of the regular season.

Making up for the loss of Lee, senior quarterback Trae Harrington has had a stellar year for the Folkston Indians.

During the regular season, Harrington threw for 1,404 yards. This past Friday against Seminole, Harrington had three touchdown passes, and threw for 134 yards.

His leading receiver during the regular season was Daveron Reed, who caught 42 passes for 493 yards. Curt Nixon added 31 catches for 511 yards, while Julian Roberts added 24 catches for 242 yards.

Lance Thompson leads a Charlton defense that allowed only 103 yards against Seminole. Other defensive leaders are Roberts, Michael Dasher and Teon Burroughs.

“They are impressive on both sides of the ball, and they are certainly playing well right now,” said Irwin coach Jon Lindsey.

While Irwin has not passed the ball like their Charlton counterparts, the Indians have had a strong year offensively led by a potent ground game. which has averaged 357.3 yards per contest this year.

The Ocilla Indians have a pair of 1,000 yard rushers in Antwuane Merritt (1,056) and Jakyron Young (1,051). Another rusher, Ryan Peterson, who missed more than half the season with a leg injury, has 649 yards on the year. Peterson, who has played a big part in Irwin’s defense during the playoffs, had his best night rushing the ball in Irwin’s 29-26 win over Charlton Nov. 6. In that game the senior rushed for 147 yards on 20 carries. Young had 125 yards on 18 carries, and Merritt added 73 yards on 12 carries. That night saw Irwin rushed for 373 yards on 60 carries as a team.

Irwin has gotten touchdowns from 11 different rushers this year, as T.J. Wynn, James Curtis and Robert Moore have all contributed to the Indian running game.

Merritt is the Ocilla team’s leading tackler. He is followed by Mykell Collier, D.J. Pollard, Austin Phillips, Ty Hogan, Robert Wilcox, Young, D.J. Peterson, Curtis, Ryan Peterson and Qua Tucker.

“We have had a good week of practice,” said Lindsey. “I feel like they are mentally ready for the task at hand, and doing what they have to do to win. It will just come down to making the plays.”

Game time tonight is 8 p.m. The winner of the game will face the Marion County-Hawkinsville winner at 11:30 a.m. Dec. 14 for the state championship at the Georgia Dome.

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