ATHENS — Fans of classic, smashmouth football will be in for a treat today as No. 1 Tanner makes a return trip to the AHSAA Class 2A state championship game to face No. 4 Washington County.
The heavily favored Rattlers (13-0) will play the Bulldogs (13-1) at 3 p.m. at Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium in a showdown that Tanner coach Laron White predicted would be physical and fast-paced since both teams thrive on their power-running attacks.
“We’re going to do the same thing we’ve been doing all year,” said White, who has guided the Rattlers to a 104-21 record during his 10-year tenure, including a 27-1 mark in the past two seasons. “Washington County is always running the ball downfield just like our offense, so I think it will be a fast ball game without a lot of passing.
“They have an explosive running back with two good receivers (Jalyn Cooper and Kerrigan Pennington), and they’re not going to have a weak point.”
The Bulldogs feature T.J. Kidd, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior who has rushed for more than 1,500 yards, including a 16-carry, 337-yard performance with touchdown scampers of 78, 54 and 48 yards in their 41-33 semifinal victory over Sweet Water, who defeated Washington County 20-7 Oct. 12.
Washington County also relies on speedster DeAnthony Holcombe, bruiser Demarcus Holcombe and 5-foot-10, 165-pound quarterback Dane Howard (606 yards rushing, 1,081 passing). Their top four rushers have combined for 3,270 rushing yards in 14 games.
“We’ve got to find a way to establish the run because if we can’t run the ball, we can’t win,” said White, an offensive lineman during his prep career at Courtland and the University of Alabama. “What it boils down to are the guys up front. They don’t get any glory, but they’re the ones that win the ball games for us.”