Steve Carter/The Tifton Gazette
A way to measure the excitement this week in Ocilla over the Irwin County Indian-Trion High Bulldog football game tonight is simple, just look around Ocilla.
When the Indians haven’t been practicing, they have been involved in such activities as a community bonfire held Wednesday.
Also the community has shown support with displays in their store windows and talking up the game all over town.
Fans have also been preparing for a “Blackout,” as the Irwin County cheerleaders have asked that fans show up wearing black.
The contest is the first home postseason game in 13 years for Irwin County as it is a first-round matchup in the state Class A public school tournament. It will also be the first time the Indians will appear in the postseason while playing at their current stadium, Indian Field. That game in 1999 was played at Lanny Roberts Memorial Stadium.
Irwin coach Jon Lindsey is excited as anyone in Irwin County, but he wants his team to be ready for a tough Trion High Bulldog team. Trion will come into Friday’s
“They are a good team, we are going to have our hands full,” said Lindsey.
Senior Kingston Lanier is a two-way starter and he has gotten most of the press coverage for the Bulldogs.
Lanier is 6-foot, 205 pounds and plays fullback in Trion’s wing-T offense. Lanier rushed for 230 yards in Trion’s last two games, victories of Christian Heritage, 32-21, and Whitefield Academy, 17-7.
“He’s pretty good,” Lindsey said of Lanier. “They also have a real shifty runner (Scotty Lively) and their quarterback is really good.”
The Irwin coach added, “We have more speed than they do, but not much more.”
While Irwin may be faster, Trion’s biggest advantage over Irwin is size.
The Bulldogs have four players that start on both lines. They are seniors Eman Wooten and Cody Brown, and juniors Daulton Hegwood and Bret Peterson. Hegwood is 6-foot-3 and weighs 285 pounds; Peterson is even bigger at 6-foot-3, 290 and Brown checks in at 6-foot-4, 240.
“They have the biggest lines we have seen this year,” said Lindsey.
Like Irwin, Trion has made sporadic appearances in the playoffs during this century. The Bulldogs’ last major success came in 2003 when the team went 12-2 and lost in the state semifinals.
Irwin County went a combined 32-6 in 1997-99 and played for a state championship in 1997. However since the 2000’s rolled around, Irwin’s best mark came in 2007 at 7-4.
After going 3-7 in 2011, Irwin has posted a 7-3 record this season, and barely missed the Region 2-A title.
Like Trion, Irwin’s strong suit this year has been the run.
The Indians have rushed 405 times for 3,056 yards as a team during the 10-game regular season. That is an average of 7.5 yards per carry. With those rushes, Irwin has also accounted for 38 rushing touchdowns.
Ryan Peterson has rushed 74 times for 851 yards and 11 touchdowns to lead Irwin in rushing, while Robert Moore has rushed for 716 yards on 131 carries and has scored six touchdowns.
Other top rushers in Irwin’s “Pony Express” are Antuwanne Merritt, 434 yards on 56 carries; Donte Studstill, 393 yards on 39 carries; James Curtis, 226 yards on 28 carries; Tyrique Wynn 151 yards on 21 carries; and Jakyron Young 149 yards on 28 carries.
“We have a good group of runners,” said Lindsey.
The Indians have also shown signs of a good passing game as Clay Paulk and Kyle Posey are a combined 32-for-58 passing this year for 483 yards.
Peterson is the leading receiver with six catches for 161 yards. There has been balance in the passing game, as well, because eight different Indians have caught at least one pass this season.
Merritt leads Irwin in tackles with 36.5, while Young has posted 20.5 tackles and six interceptions. Studstill also has four interceptions, while Merritt has also picked off two passes and has posted 3.5 sacks.
Other leading tacklers are Taylor Hughes, Ryan Peterson, DJ Peterson, Mykell Collins, DJ Taylor, KJ Billingsley, Corey Eady and Austin Phillips.
Game time tonight is 7:30, and will be broadcast on WSIZ, 102.3 FM.