TIFTON — For one night this season, the Cook Hornets will get to experience a Beach without doing the traveling.
Cook (7-2) goes for the top spot in Region 1-AAA Friday in Adel against the Beach Bulldogs (3-6) of Savannah.
Oddly, Cook has played schools named Islands and Beach this year. Beach, however, is named for a person, Alfred Beach, and dates back to 1867, though it was known as Beach-Cuyler for a period of time. A pioneering school, the Bulldogs jumped to the GHSA in 1966, the first year Georgia Interscholastic Association schools were allowed to join, and won the state basketball title in 1967.
Beach has spent the majority of its time near the coast. They did play Coffee in a pair of games in Douglas nearly 10 years ago, but the last time they traveled this far inland in south Georgia was for a game against Monroe of Albany in 1962.
As they have been west so little in recent years, experts on them are few and far between. Fortunately, one just happens to be coaching at Cook; Jon Lindsey saw quite a bit of them as an assistant at Camden County. Beach opted to play up in the state's highest classification until 2012, when it dropped down to AAA.
"They're always athletic," he said. "They're going to come ready to play."
The athleticism has not always translated to wins. They are 3-6 this year, their last winning record in 2003, though they did make state in 2011.
Leonard Brown has been their leading rusher. As a team, they average 13 points per game while giving up 19. Two wins have been by shutout.
Their status for Friday was up in the air until a few days ago. They knew they would be playing somewhere, but just where was not decided until Johnson defeated Savannah Tuesday. That gave Johnson third place and Beach fourth.
The two do have one similarity: neither has played since Oct. 24.
"I don't know how we're going to handle it," said Lindsey, "but we needed it. Dodge was a physical game."
The 13-10 win over the Indians gave the Hornets the division title and gave them a new hero. Tom Thomas kicked two field goals, including one with 14 seconds left, for the win. "It's huge," he said. "We've had several step up and rise." Their lone touchdown came from Corey McCall.
Beach started the year 2-0. Cook was 0-2, with losses to Tift County and Berrien. If the Hornets were worried about the future, they certainly did not show it. They rebounded with a 17-16 win over Pierce County and have not been stopped since. During their string of seven straight wins, only Pierce and Dodge have come within 22 points of them.