OCILLA -- After beginning their Region 2-AA football slate with two wins, the Irwin County Indians are in the midst of a two-game league losing streak. With that 2-2 region mark, the Indians will travel to Blackshear tomorrow night to take on the Pierce County Bears.
A loss would seriously hurt Irwin's chances of qualifying for the state playoffs this season as the Indians still have to face Brantley County and Fitzgerald to close out the season.
"Yes, I'd say it's a must win. If we want to be in the playoff picture we've got to win this game. We'll worry about next week, next week. The rest of our games are playoffs for us," said Irwin coach Jute Wilson.
The Indians battled Charlton County last week, one of the state's top-ranked teams.
Irwin was only down 13-7 late in the third quarter, but several miscues led to Charlton exploding at the end on the way to a 34-7 victory.
"We threw a few interceptions late that Charlton converted to late touchdowns and pulled away from us," said Wilson.
Those late interceptions were only part of Irwin's problems, according to the Indian head coach.
"After stopping them on a field goal attempt on their first drive, we jumped offsides to give them a first down which led to a score. Our defense then forced them to a punt from their own one yardline, we were getting the ball in great field position, only to drop the punt, which led to their second score. You can't make mistakes like that and expect to beat a team of their caliber," Wilson said.
Even with the loss, Wilson did praise some of his players after the Charlton encounter.
"Kevis Collins had a solid game on defense and also played some tight end for us. Besides that, he also ran a fake punt 20 yards for a touchdown. Chavarious Carlton had a solid game, putting up 100 yards rushing (on 21 carries) against a solid defense," Wilson said.
One player that Irwin needs back is quarterback/safety Wallace Mizell, who has missed time this year with a pulled groin.
"Drew Tankersley did a good job of filling in at quarterback for Wallace Mizell. Wallace has been nursing a pulled groin for several weeks now, and last Friday it finally got to the point he couldn't go on either side of the ball. We need him well and back in the lineup," the Irwin coach said.
After facing off against one of the state's best teams in Charlton, things are different this week as Pierce has only one victory on the year. The Bears have yet to win a game in the league, but Wilson and the Indians are not looking past the Bears.
"They have experienced some transition pains after losing (last year's) coach Craig Davis to Wayne County. Tom Hybl is an experienced and proven winner that knows the game of football. There is no doubt he will have his team ready to play," Wilson said.
"Nobody over here is overlooking Pierce, they are certainly capable of beating us. It will be business as usual at practice this week. We need this one as bad as any other."
Game time is 7:30 p.m. in Blackshear.
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