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Prep football wrap-up: Tigers excited about 2007
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The Claxton Tigers finished the 2006 season at 2-7-1 and on a four game losing streak — not the most impressive of records. But considering the Tigers graduated just five seniors, it’s easy to see why head coach Allen Cartwright is already excited about 2007.
    “I see a lot of good things in our future,” said Cartwright. “We have a lot of outstanding young boys right now that are going to be very good football players. Overall, I’m real pleased with the attitude and the work ethic of the kids.”
    For a team that wasn’t expected to be much of a competitor in 3-A, CHS exceeded expectations by starting 2-0 in region play with wins over Calvary Day and Jenkins County. The win over Calvary broke a 13-game winless streak dating back to 2005. Cartwright said the win over JCHS was probably the Tigers’ best game of the season.
    Claxton’s season went downhill after that, as CHS was hit hard with injuries in a 48-14 loss to Emanuel County Institute, the eventual region champion and No. 1 team in the state.
    “That took a little wind out of our sails,” said Cartwright. “In addition to hurting us physically it also hurt us mentally. I think it messed with their psyche’s a little bit.”
    The Tigers started as many as seven freshman on defense at times during the season. After offensive injuries to guard Mac Edwards and running back Adrian Brewton during the ECI loss, even more underclassmen were forced into action.
    Cartwright said the injuries may have actually made the Tigers a better team in the long run. Freshman Jamalcolm Morgan filled in for Brewton and had an impressive year and will likely start in the backfield next season in the Tigers’ option attack.
    Claxton averaged 20 points over 10 games this season with that talented option offense, but also allowed 34 per contest.
    “Offensively we had a pretty good year,” said Cartwright. “But on defense we definitely struggled. But with all the freshman we have, we’re only going to get better.”
    Claxton will lose three starters on offense and one on defense. Fullback Delvin Diggs, a pounding runner with speed to match, is being recruited by Furman, Wofford, Middle Tennessee State and the Naval Academy. Georgia Southern has also shown slight interest.
    “He is going to be a steal for someone,” said Cartwright of the senior. “He’s a real good football player, but he’s a better person. The leadership and work ethic he showed this year was invaluable. If these young kids would have come in and seen a kid who was that good, who was spoiled and didn’t want to practice, it could have went the other way for us. But when he’s the best player on the team and the hardest worker on the team, I think it sends the right message.”    
    Dealing with injuries, losing streaks and the battle for a playoff spot (the Tigers’ final loss to Bryan County eliminated them from contention), CHS also dealt with the tough competition of region 3-A.    
    “That helps because it shows the kids what level they need to play at,” said Cartwright. “We just couldn’t match their intensity, but it was good for us to see that and see what it takes to be a top-notch team in the state.”
    Claxton will return 10 starters on defense next season and eight starters on the offensive side. With all the experience gained this season, Cartwright said it’s up to him to get the Tigers physically stronger in the off-season and be ready for opening night 2007.