Joel Whinghter's senior season ended far sooner than he would have liked, as his Augusta Christian Lions football team lost its first-round state playoff game at First Presbyterian Day.
During the 21-14 loss Friday night in Macon, Ga., Whinghter rushed for 167 yards on 29 carries. The AC tailback tallied a score on the ground and also threw a touchdown pass.
There's no doubt Whinghter will be playing for a college team next fall, but you hate to see his brilliant prep career come to an end. The 6-1, 195-pound player rewrote the Augusta Christian record book and stamped his name on quite a few Columbia County records as well.
Whinghter first showed promise in his sophomore season, when he rushed for more than 800 yards and made the all-region team.
As a junior, he rushed for 2,465 yards on 323 attempts. The Lions finished with a 9-3 record last season, but the 2000 campaign ended in disappointment when AC lost three of the last four games, including a first-round state playoff loss at Brentwood School.
This season, Augusta Christian had to replace two key offensive linemen and quarterback Andrew Cromer, and the team stuggled with two early losses.
AC came back strong, with wins in six of the next seven games but finished 2001 with three straight losses to close with a 6-6 record.
While the team's play was streaky, Whinghter was anything but - for the season, he rushed for 2,394 yards and scored 30 touchdowns. His senior year was highlighted by a 406-yard, five-touchdown performance in a 56-28 win over Brentwood.
Additionally, he topped the 230-yard rushing mark in five games and scored at least two touchdowns in nine of AC's 12 games. In The Augusta Chronicle's "Week's Best in Prep Football" section, the Lions' star was featured as one of the area's top rushers 11 times in 12 weeks - another statistic no Augusta-area running back could match.
Simply put, no running back in the state has run farther than Whinghter during the last two seasons.
Augusta Christian has an exciting sophomore running back in Cole Rabun, but the Joel Whinghters of the world come along once in a coach's lifetime (if they're lucky).
The bottom line is this - Whinghter will be missed by AC fans, coach Steve Price and anyone who ever watched him in action.
Ashley Brown's radio program can be heard from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday on News-Talk Sports 1630 AM. His e-mail address is AB@WRDWAM.com.
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