SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Welcome to 15 Teams in 15 Days! This is WSAV’s annual high school football preview series where we do a deep dive on a new team for each of the first 15 days of August. This year, we will ask and answer four standard questions of each team, which are all listed below:

Why are you interesting?

Few local football teams ended their 2021 regular seasons on a more positive note than the Jenkins Warriors did.

Jenkins reeled off three straight wins to end the non-playoff portion of their 2021 campaign, defeating city foes Beach, Islands and New Hampstead in consecutive weeks before losing to Dougherty in the first round of the playoffs.

If you miss the days of slug-it-out football, the Jenkins Warriors might be the team for you. They ran the ball on nearly 75 percent of their offensive plays during the first year under head coach Tony Welch’s Wing T offense.

“It’s simple. I tell the guys all the time that the teams that are the best are the ones that run and block the best,” Welch said. “If I block well and I don’t miss tackles, I’m going to win. We want our guys to understand that blocking and tackling is the main part of football.”

“Our defense is going to be strong. We need to stay physical. Offensively, we’ve got young linemen. We have a senior backfield, but we have to understand the difference between run blocking and pass blocking. And although we’re young, we’ve got to be able to transition from one play to the other.”



Who are your dudes?

Although 14 different players carried the ball at least once for the Warriors last year, senior Josh Pridgen is the clear number one running back. Pridgen ran the ball 148 times in 2021, accounting for almost half of the Warriors’ total rushing attempts. He racked up 1,087 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Pridgen’s hard-nosed approach to running the football is reflected by the rest of the team.

“We don’t give up,” Pridgen said. “We always come back harder and always want to come back out and work more. We just want to play. We always love the game and just want to have fun when we play.”

The Warriors have an aggressive front seven on the defensive side of the ball led by senior Tavion Gadson, a three-star prospect in the Class of 2023 according to 247Sports.com. Prior to camp, Gadson cut his list of potential schools down to just five: Georgia, Minnesota, Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida State.

“I don’t like my teammates playing around,” Gadson said. “I always have it in me to open my mouth and tell guys to shut up and stop talking when it’s time to get serious.”



What’s up with your coach?

Tony Welch is entering his second year with the Warriors, but he has spent far longer than that in the South Georgia coaching scene.

Prior to his time at Jenkins, Welch was the head man at Claxton, Savannah High School and Memorial Day. His coaching career has spanned more than 15 years.

Welch’s players hold him in high regard as a mentor and a leader.

“I’m the kind of person who loves criticism and he gives criticism,” Gadson said. “It does nothing but help me perfect my craft even more and work harder.”

“He’s a complex coach,” Pridgen said. “He wants the best out of us, very much so. He’s always looking to get some things out and always looking to push for more and keep going.”



When’s the big game?

Warriors players mentioned their Week 1 showdown with Benedictine on Aug. 19 as a game they were particularly looking forward to. The reigning state champs beat Jenkins, 49-6, in 2021.

However, the Warriors’ last win over the Cadets was not so long ago; they topped Benedictine, 34-9, in 2019. That capped off a stretch where Jenkins won five of six games against BC over the course of 14 seasons.

After realigning into Class 5A, Jenkins does not share a region with Benedictine anymore, so this matchup is no longer guaranteed to be held on a yearly basis.