OCILLA -- Three teams are tied for the top in the Region 2-AA football standings with 2-0 records. Two of those teams, Fitzgerald and Charlton County, will meet each other tomorrow night in Folkston. The third team, the Irwin County Indians, will be in Baxley tomorrow night to take on the Appling County Pirates.
With a chance to be one of only two unbeaten teams left in the region, the game against the Pirates is a big one for coach Jute Wilson's Indians.
"A win over Appling would put us on solid ground for at least a playoff spot and in contention for even more," Wilson stated.
But, Wilson added, it will not be easy against coach Jack Johnson's Pirates.
"We are going to have to play our best game of the year to have a chance to come home with a win," the coach said.
At the end of the third quarter, the Pirates were only down 14-7 to Charlton last Friday. However, the Indians put the game away with 19 points in the fourth quarter to take a 33-7 victory.
Jamal Fountain led the Pirates on the ground with 79 yards rushing on 13 carries. Fountain also caught two passes for 32 yards.
Quarterback John David Sellers was 6-for-14 in the air for 44 yards. He also scored Appling's only touchdown on a running play.
Simeon Carter led the team on defense with eight tackles and one sack.
The loss to Charlton put Appling at 3-2 on the year, with a 1-1 mark in the region.
Even with the 3-2 record in their first year in Class AA, Wilson still has a lot of respect for the Pirates.
"They have been a well-respected program at the AAA level, and we consider them one of the best teams in the state. They are very fast and athletic. Not to take anything from Tift, but they might be the best team we have played so far," said Wilson.
Johnson is in his second year at the helm of the Pirate ship. A native of Baxley, Johnson is well-known to fans in the Tiftarea as he was the coach of the Tiftarea Academy Panthers, before going to Appling County.
"Jack Johnson has many nicknames, but one thing for sure, he knows how to win football games. I believe he has a few state titles under his belt, and is respected around the state. He has been coaching since before I was born and has a lot of knowledge and experience in the game," Wilson said.
He added about Johnson, "He isn't scared to run any formation or trick play, and literally makes you prepare for everything."
As they prepare for the Pirates this week, the Indians could be at full-strength for the first time this season. Both quarterback/safety Wallace Mizell and running back Pat Mathis are expected back for the Appling game.
"After an outstanding preseason and opener against Turner, Mathis has been out ever since with a leg injury. He is our fastest player when he is healthy and he has proven to be an effective blocker from the backfield, which is something we desperately need," said Wilson.
Wilson said there were four other players that are hobbled, but, "they are expected to play".
While the Indians have been relatively healthy this week, the weather has also played havoc with the team's preparation for the Pirates.
"We went in the gym Monday, but we have had to deal with the distractions of not having school on Monday and Tuesday. So many of our kids live down washed-out dirt roads, that is a chore to round them up for practice. But, overall it has been pretty good. We are just trying to find a stretch of grass dry enough to practice on," said Wilson.
The Appling-Irwin game will be at 7:30 p.m. in Baxley.
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