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Tigers hit the practice field more experienced in 2007
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Claxton head coach Allen Cartwright talks about the teams to beat in Region 3-A.
    CLAXTON — The Claxton Tigers are a year older and a year wiser.
    After a 2006 season that started off fast but ended with a four-game Region 3-A losing streak and the Tigers falling one win short of a playoff appearance, CHS has done some growing up.
    The young 2006 team — a squad that started as many as seven freshmen on the defensive side of the ball — has had a year to gain experience, grow stronger and get more acquainted with Tiger coach Allen Cartwright’s triple-option attack.
    The most noticeable gap on offense is the lack of the star fullback from 2006. Bruiser Delvin Diggs has left the Tiger backfield and moved on to play in Paul Johnson’s triple-option system at Navy. While Diggs was an integral part of the 2006 CHS offense, the backfield is one place Cartwright feels that the team has vastly improved.
    “I don’t think you can replace Delvin Diggs with any one guy,” said Cartwright. “However, overall I think our backfield situation will be better. We’ve got some more experienced guys and we’ve got some big-play guys.
    “I think the guys we have can pick up the load, and I think there won’t be a drop-off there.”
    A new year also gives the Claxton coaching staff the ability to open up the offensive playbook more this season. Year two of Cartwright’s offense looks to be more versatile then the 2006 version.
    “Our base offense will be the same,” said Cartwright. “It is our second year, so we think we’re going to have a few more wrinkles to add to it. Our situation with our backs is going to allow us to do a lot of things. The area that we feel the best about is probably our offensive backfield.”
    Another weakness with last year’s freshmen-packed team was the defense. The experience gained by the younger players throughout the season should translate into a much-improved defense.
    “All those (2006 freshmen that started on defense) are back,” said the Tiger coach. “We’ll be mostly sophomores. I think we now only have one senior on that side of the ball. With a year of experience under their belt, they’re stronger. We expect to be much better on defense. In fact, I would consider that probably right now to be one of the strengths of my team.”
    Claxton knows what it has to do to succeed in its region. It knows that teams like Emanuel County Institute and Savannah Country Day are, year in and year out, the teams to beat in the region, but having come so close to a playoff berth in ‘06, CHS has less than one month to build on its experience before heading to Tattnall County on Aug.31 for the first kickoff of the ‘07 season.
    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.