This will be the third time the third-seeded Red Devils (8-2) have faced the No. 10 and Region 8-AA runner-up, with the other two meetings also coming in the playoffs. The first time, the Tigers (9-1) knocked out Bowdon in the state semifinals at the Georgia Dome, 18-14, in 2005. Then, four years later, Bowdon got a 49-35 win at home in the first round of the playoffs.
Now it’s three years later and they will have their first meeting at Tiger Field and their first taste of the Class AA state playoffs.
“We’ve played them twice in the past 10 years in the playoffs. Played them in the [Georgia] Dome in the semis and then we played them here a couple years ago. One year they beat us and the other year we pretty much waxed them. A little bit of history between us,” Bowdon coach Dwight Hochstetler said.
The top priority for the Red Devils will be stopping the second straight high-powered offense in a row. The Tigers come in averaging 39.1 points per game, scoring at least 30 points in all but one of their nine wins this season, and topping out with a 60-6 win against Riverside Military in September.
But the one loss to region champion Jefferson was a 31-0 shutout.
“They get in the shotgun just about every play. Some films we’ve gotten, they’re basically a passing team. Some other films, they’re basically a running team. I guess we won’t know what they feel like they can be successful against us until we show up Friday night,” Hochstetler said. “They don’t show you a lot of different looks. They’re basically shotgun with twins on both sides. They get in that about 80 percent of the time, then sometimes trips and sometimes two backs.”
The team is led by senior quarterback Buck Robinson, son of head coach Robby Robinson. Going into last week’s regular-season finale, the younger Robinson had thrown for 1,748 yards and 19 touchdowns to just four interceptions. That game was a 42-8 rout over winless Social Circle.
Hochstetler is no stranger to quarterbacks being the coach’s kid as his own son, now Bowdon offensive coordinator Evan Hochstetler, was in that role during his playing days.
“It’s big. I know his son’s been a quarterback coming up ever since seventh grade, so he’s been in the system a long time. [Buck’s] not going to make mental mistakes that another quarterback might make. It’s like having another coach on the field, really. He understands the game. I don’t know how much they audible, but I’m sure he’ll audible and get them into situations with plays they can run and be successful according to the looks he sees,” Dwight Hochstetler said.
Robinson also gets help from a pair of running backs in Tomarkus Young and Jaquavious Blackburn who average more than seven yards a carry each and have six and seven rushing touchdowns, respectively. While Jalen Turner doesn’t have as many carries or as high an average, he had nine rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns going into the final game of the regular season.
On defense, the Tigers will be focused on getting to the ball.
“Defensively, they do a great job running to the football. They sort of look like a 3-5, sometimes it looks like a 5-2. They slide the linebackers over. We’re going to have to do a better job of blocking this week than we did last week,” Dwight Hochstetler said.
Just like the Red Devils, Washington-Wilkes is used to being in the postseason. This will mark the Tigers’ 15th straight playoff appearance, but W-W hasn’t enjoyed much success since dropping the state final game in 2005 and a 10-win season in 2006.
In his second year, Robinson has things turning around, but the Red Devils hope to knock the Tigers out of the playoffs in the first round for the sixth consecutive year.
“They’ve got a rich tradition. They’ve been in the playoffs just about every year and they’re also a Class A school that moved up to double-A. Sometimes they play [AA] and then move back down. Their numbers go up and down,” Hochstetler said.
While no one is really talking about last year’s first-round road win against Holy Innocents’, but are instead focusing on this year’s 5-0 record away from Warren P. Sewell Field and the opponents the Red Devils have faced this year.
“We’ve seen just about everything you can possibly see. We’ve seen Wishbone, Veer, Spread, I. We’ve seen just about everything, Wing-T, too. I think that helps us. Also, quite a few teams we’ve played this year have been pretty physical. I think that’s helped us. I think as we got late into the season, I think we sort of stepped it up, as far as being physical because of that,” Hochstetler said.
“We’re not even talking about last year, but we had some long road games this year and we’ve been pretty successful. Knowing that we went [and won on the road] last year helps. I think once you get them on that bus and get them away from the school and the town, I think they focus a little better.”