There’s certain to be plenty of hype surrounding Commerce’s major region clash with Washington-Wilkes. The Tigers aim not to get caught up in any of it.
No. 4-ranked Commerce (7-1, 3-0 Region 8-A Public) will travel to No. 8-ranked Washington-Wilkes (7-0, 3-0 Region 8-A Public) Friday (Nov. 13, 7:30 p.m.) in a highly-anticipated battle of region unbeatens.
Commerce coach Michael Brown said the focus this week is internal.
“We try to keep our kids focused on us,” he said. “Even this week, we’re not going to make this as much about Washington-Wilkes as it is about Commerce.”
There’s plenty at stake, though, as these teams meet for the first time since 2011.
Washington-Wilkes can clinch the 8-A Public title with a win. Commerce, meanwhile, would have to win and then beat Lincoln County at home next week to clinch its first region championship since 2003. Barring a major upset loss to Greene County, Lincoln County will enter that game with Commerce with a 3-1 region record.
But the first hurdle for Commerce to clear in this final region stretch is Washington-Wilkes, and it’s a massive one.
Until last week’s 14-13 win over Lincoln County, Washington-Wilkes had hardly been challenged in 2020. It has only surrendered an aggregate 40 points over seven games this season and is averaging 40 points per contest (not counting a forfeit win over Greene County).
Brown said Washington-Wilkes is “definitely the most athletic team we’ve seen all year” with speed at every skill position.
“Defensively, those guys are fast and physical,” he said. “Offensively, they have an offense that’s designed to score a bunch of points, and that’s what they’ve doing all year. It will be probably our greatest test of the year.”
At the controls of Washington-Wilkes’ high-powered spread offense is quarterback Dalen Cobb, who has thrown for 794 yards this season on 38-of-62 passing, including a 317-yard effort Oct. 16 against Social Circle. He is also Washington-Wilkes’ second-lead rusher with 309 yards on just 31 attempts.
“He’s equally as dangerous throwing the ball as he is running,” Brown said. “He’s got a cannon for an arm, but he can get back the pocket and take off, too, and really hurt you.”
Washington-Wilkes’ defense has surrendered a scant 5.7 points per game and is led by free safety Justin Meyers, who has committed to Georgia Southern.
“They have a free safety that is as good as anybody we’ve seen this year,” Brown said. “He flies around and makes a lot of tackles.”
Washington-Wilkes, which runs a 3-3 stack defensively, is also equipped with active and fast linebackers.
“The overall team speed on defense is just tremendous,” Brown said.
Brown acknowledged that the upcoming game is exciting, especially falling at this point in the season.
“It’s a game that matters,” he said. “I told the kids the other day if you get to November, and you’re playing in games that matter, you’ve probably had a pretty good year.”
But he also doesn’t want to make the game “bigger than what it is.”
“It’s just the next game on the schedule, and we need to approach it that way,” Brown said. “We need to go out there and make sure we prepare this week and play our best on Friday.”
To that end, the coach said this is a team that’s put in the work each week this season.
“We’ve been focused on improvement,” he said. “For the most part, they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. We’ll come up with a game plan and see where we are.”
COMMERCE 48, SOCIAL CIRCLE 22
Commerce scored every time it had the ball Friday (Nov. 6) — save for running out the clock on its final possession — in a 48-22 win at Social Circle.
Commerce built a 26-0 halftime lead over the Redskins and then put up 22 more points in the second half, including a 34-yard touchdown pass from Trey Huff to Shawn Cunningham on fourth-and-seven with just under five minutes left for the final margin of victory.
Commerce totaled 374 yards rushing, while Huff was perfect in the passing game. The sophomore went 3-for-3 for 113 yards with a 35-yard third-quarter touchdown pass to Tyelon Brock along with his scoring strike to Cunningham. Huff hit Jake Frates for a 45-yard completion to set up a second-quarter touchdown as well. Huff also found the end zone with a 7-yard touchdown run for the game’s first points.
Michael Sherman was Commerce’s biggest ground-gainer Friday, carrying the ball eight times for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Sherman scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and a 4-yard touchdown run the third quarter.
Freshman Sammy Brown had another big night, rushing for 131 yards on 12 attempts. That included one of the game’s biggest plays — a 51-yard touchdown jaunt late in the first half.
Tyelon Brock added 42 yards on five carries with a 5-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter.
Hunter Nunn led Commerce’s defense with 9.5 tackles and a pass break-up.