Class 5A blog: Coffee sidesteps virus issues for hot start

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In a region that’s loaded with top-10 teams, it’s easy for Coffee to get overshadowed by the likes of No. 1 Ware County and No. 3 Warner Robins. But that would be a mistake. The No. 6 Trojans have an experienced team that has grown accustomed to making deep runs in the playoffs. To discount them would be a mistake.

Coffee (5-1) will get its first taste of Region 1 action on Friday night with a visit to Ware County in the 48th meeting of their annual border war. Coach Robbie Pruitt just hopes his team will show up healthy and virus-free on Friday. If so, it would be the first time.

“You never know what’s going to happen week-to-week,” Pruitt said. “We haven’t played a game with everybody all year. It’s been tough.”

The worst incident came against Houston County. Pruitt was informed at the pregame meal that his team would be without several key players, including starting quarterback A.J. Wilkerson. The second- and third-string quarterbacks were both hurt and unavailable and the Trojans called on sophomore Sultan Cooper, who threw for 235 yards that night and nearly enabled Coffee to beat the odds and come away with a win. That has been Coffee’s only loss this season.

Wilkerson, a three-year starter, is an invaluable part of the offense. He has thrown for 704 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 153 yards and three touchdowns. Wilkerson is a strong athlete who has done a nice job running the offense, Pruitt said.

Wilkerson and many of the others on the team were first thrust into the spotlight in 2018, when the Trojans lost to Lanier in the Class 6A quarterfinal. That team started two freshmen and two sophomores and fell just short of making the semifinal round.

“We were practically a JV team,” Pruitt said. “But we were able to make it to the third round and they got some great experience. These guys have been in some big games.” Coffee reached the quarterfinal round again in 2019 and is seeking its seventh straight trip to the playoffs.

The Trojans have a new offensive coordinator this season and were handicapped by the COVID shutouts that prevented spring practice and summer camps – the times when most new systems are put into place. Coffee is using junior Maurice Turner (5-10, 175) in multiple spots and he’s caught 20 passes for a 21.5-yard average.

The defense has been solid and has posted two shutouts. Pruitt said defense isn’t big – “We’ve got a bunch of Mini-Me’s back there,” he said -- but the group runs well and has good quickness and strength. Junior Anthony Gaskin (6-2, 195) is a prospect at linebacker, where he leads the team with 54 tackles, five tackles for loss and four sacks. Safety Jacob Lindsey has 35 tackles and caused two fumbles.

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