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After big win, Claxton looks to keep momentum


CLAXTON — What is the best way to put a program on course for a chance to win its first playoff game since 2001? Well, in the case of the Claxton Tigers, beating a rival for the first time in that same span is as good a start as any.

Despite coming up short in each of the previous seven meetings against Tattnall County, the Tigers made things look relatively easy in cruising to a 25-8 season opening win over the Battle Creek Warriors last Thursday.

Claxton’s dominance may have come as a surprise to Tattnall County, but the Tigers are right where they thought they could be.

"We played a very solid ballgame," said Claxton coach Allen Cartwright. "I think that our versatility with both the run and the pass allowed us to control the ball, and we did a very good job of not committing any turnovers.

"Defensively, we didn’t allow any big plays. We got an early lead and did a good job of not letting (Tattnall) back into the game."

Even though Cartwright and his Tigers were calm and collected in going about their business in the win, it still marked the entrance into uncharted waters for everyone wearing yellow and black. Since dropping into Class-A — and out of the Warriors’ region — Claxton has continued the rivalry by playing a non-region game against Tattnall at the beginning of the last seven seasons.

Now in his seventh year of leading the Tigers, this marks the first time that Cartwright or any of the players on his squad have started a season 1-0.

"It’s a good feeling to know that we got off on the right foot," said Cartwright. "Seeing as how we finally got a win against Tattnall, this is definitely something that our seniors can look back on and remember after the season, but now we have to focus on the rest of the season."

If taking down the Warriors was a hurdle, this week could be more of a mountain to climb.

Claxton hits the road again Friday, travelling to Twin City to face an Emanuel County Institute team that has beaten the Tigers by a combined 48 points in their last two meetings. The Bulldogs showed that they mean business again this year, running wild over Swainsboro in their season opener Friday.

"ECI is a very fast and athletic team," said Cartwright. "They’re certainly very dangerous."

Most imposing is the ECI running attack of Wezley Ealey and Buck Moody. Last week, Ealey had one of the most impressive nights of any running back in the state, rushing for 125 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 carries.

Add that to a swarming Bulldog defense, and Claxton knows that it can rest on the satisfaction of last week’s win.

"We’re going to have to be sharp," said Cartwright. "We need to execute much like we did last week. Offensively, we have to take care of the football. Defensively, we have to respect their running game and try not to give up the big play."

"This is a brutal schedule that we have this season. We’re going to have tough games all year long. Getting that first win is nice, but we have to be prepared and play well every week."


Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.