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Cats riding streak with playoffs looming
Kayla Jackson
Kayla Jackson carries the ball in game against Savannah Arts - photo by Gerald Thomas III

RICHMOND HILL -- Richmond Hill’s girls flag football team started slowly but finished with a rush and Coach Tony Dragon is counting on that momentum carrying over into the opening round of the GHSA Class A-4A state playoffs.

The Lady Wildcats (6-4) will carry a four-game win streak into its Tuesday game with Columbus (6-3) at Walnut Grove High School. If Richmond Hill wins it will then play the winner of the Walnut Grove-Therrell game later Tuesday evening.

Walnut Grove is the host team and No. 1 seed after winning the Area 6 race. Richmond Hill is a No. 3 seed after finishing behind St. Vincent’s Academy and New Hampstead in Area 2.

Last year the Wildcats reached the Final Four of the inaugural season of the sport and Dragon believes his team is capable of duplicating or bettering that mark as it is playing its best entering the playoffs.

“One of the biggest differences from last year is we’ve been able to understand the complexities of what we’re doing,” Dragon said. “Last year we felt we needed to keep it simple. This year the playbook has expanded three times over what it was.”

At the start of the season the Wildcats were missing 12 players who were tied up playing softball and were unable to practice or play. They opened against two of the strongest teams on their schedule--Long County (10-2) and Southeast Bulloch (14-0)—and predictably got beat.

After wins over Savannah Country Day and Effingham County the Wildcats lost to SVA and New Hampstead before hitting their stride. In their last four games they have outscored their opponents 96-20.

“We were missing several key players at the start of the season,” said Dragon. “They were playing other sports and they weren’t able to practice when we were installing everything.”

“I think looking at everything overall we are only four or five plays away from having eight-nine wins. I feel good about where we are going into the playoffs.”

Among those missing were quarterback Lucy Tuttle and wide receivers Allie Washington and Kayla Raggins. With softball reaching the second round of the state playoffs it meant a late start for them.

“Offensively we’re found our rhythm,” Dragon said. “We’re moving the ball really well now.”

 “Kayla (Jackson) has been strong running the ball and has been impressive,” Dragon said. “Lucy is throwing the ball really well and Allie is having a huge season.”

Tuttle, who excels as an outfielder in softball and last spring won 800 meter run in the Region 2-6A meet, has thrown for nine touchdowns and rushed for another two.

Washington, an all-region shortstop/pitcher and the second leading scorer on a 12-2 state playoff lacrosse team, has caught five touchdown passes and Ragins has three.

Jackson, a speedy sophomore who is at her most dangerous in the open field, has 10 rushing touchdowns. Dragon said Alena Masis and Courtney Harwood have also been key offensive contributors in the Wildcats’ stretch run.

Defensively Akira Webb leads the team with 18 flag pulls and Shannon Lacy has 14. Gabby Lawson and Ashley McGuire each have one interception.

“Ella Snider has also had a good year at linebacker,” Dragon said. “She missed all of last year with an injury but she has made some big plays for us. Having her back has really helped our defense.”

“I think our players are as good as anyone out there. We never take the field that I think the other team will have better athletes,” Dragon said. “We just have to go out there and make plays.”

The competition this year, Dragon said, has gotten better and stronger. This season saw 175 teams playing statewide compared with 87 last year which had two divisions (5-6A and A-4A). A 7A classification has now been added.

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