The Valdosta Daily Times
Randy McPherson made it clear. The Lowndes Vikings didn’t cheat and never have.
The Lowndes football coach’s comments were in response to accusations that his football team stole signals from Colquitt County during Friday night’s game at Mack Tharpe Stadium in Moultrie. The Vikings beat the Packers 17-14 in the Region 1-6A opener for both teams.
“We are being accused of cheating. We don’t cheat at Lowndes,” said McPherson Sunday night in a phone conversation with The Times and then again Monday afternoon. “I am proud of the way our team played hard for four quarters last Friday night and executed the game plan that our coaches developed without any external assistance.”
Colquitt County head coach Rush Propst cast the accusations towards the Vikings during his postgame radio interview Friday night, just minutes after the final whistle blew.
Propst said the Vikings used a member of the Thomas County Central middle school coaching staff to steal offensive signals during the game.
“For somebody to make that accusation, that is a strong statement against our employees. I feel like you need to be in a position where you can support that,” Lowndes High Principal Jay Floyd said. “You just don’t need to be loosely making those accusations. You are talking about guys that have several years of coaching experience, that are
igh-integrity and high character. That part is a little bit disappointing and I am going to be in touch a little later this week with their principal, Mr. Bob Jones.”
When reached by telephone, Propst said he would not comment until today, due to certain things being investigated on Monday.
“Here is what I want to do. I don’t want to comment today,” Propst said Monday afternoon. “There are still some ongoing things. There are things that went on that we are in the process of looking into. We have a pretty good idea, and then we will comment on the situation. It is going to be a very big story. There are some things, ethically, that happened.”
Thomas County Central was idle Friday night and the Yellow Jackets’ head coach Bill Shaver and assistant coach Mike Singletary were in Moultrie for the game, said Shaver, who spoke with The Times Monday afternoon.
“Coach Singletary and I were there,” Shaver said. “We had practice that afternoon until 5:30, and we couldn’t go scout any of our future opponents because they are all in Columbus, so we just wanted to see a great game.”
Shaver, whose team lost to Colquitt County 35-33 earlier this season, said he and Singletary stood in the end zone with various administrators from both Lowndes and Colquitt County, including Lowndes County School Superintendent Wes Taylor, who said he and Shaver have been friends since their days as graduate assistants at Georgia Southwestern.
On Monday, Taylor called the accusations toward the LHS football team “asinine,” when speaking on the Talk 92.1 FM morning show.
Propst alleged Friday night that a TCC middle school coach, a member of the Packers’ varsity coaching staff in 2010, stood in front of the Lowndes coaches’ booth on the visitors’ side bleachers with binoculars, where he allegedly tipped off the Viking coaches with what plays the Packers were preparing to run.
When asked if he knew whether this coach was in attendance Friday night, Shaver said he believed the coach was going to be there, although he was not certain.
“He had the night off. We didn’t have anything assigned for him to do. What coach ... does in his own time is his business,” Shaver told the Thomasville Times Enterprise’s Clint Thompson. “I don’t know what (he) did. They fired (him) two years ago. They played against (him) last year when he was at Valdosta.”
On Sunday night, a video was uploaded to the popular website Youtube, showing a man in the stands on Friday’s game — believed to be the middle school coach — with binoculars pointed in the direction of the Colquitt County sideline.
At various points in the minute-long video, the man, who wore a maroon colored shirt, appears to look up in the direction of the Lowndes coaches’ box, which was located directly behind the man. The Lowndes coaches in the box were isolated from the crowd by a window and a closed door to their left.
“I have seen the video and I have never seen the man in the video,” McPherson said. “He is in no way associated with our program. I even asked my coaches if they could hear him — they couldn’t. I can’t help what some fan does in the stands.”
The thought of Lowndes stealing signals takes away from what McPherson credited to be a game filled with “great sportsmanship.”
“I appreciate that the Colquitt County players played hard,” McPherson said. “They have a fine football team, are well coached, and the players exemplified good sportsmanship. We wish them good luck the rest of the season.”
Propst also agreed the sportsmanship between the players was at a high level Friday night.
“The sportsmanship between the two teams I thought was good,” said Propst, who said the Vikings rank as one of the Packers’ top-three rivals, along with Valdosta and Tift County. “I thought it was hard hitting and fair. Both teams got after it pretty good.”
The process of stealing signals would be time consuming and rather difficult due to the fast-paced offense the Packers ran Friday night, McPherson said.
Shaver tended to agree with McPherson, saying “so you’re telling me that the guy was supposed to get the sign, signal the Lowndes coaches in the booth, who then radio down to the field and then the defense was supposed to adjust?” Shaver said. “That seems pretty hard to do.”
Things were different in the eyes of Propst, who said the Packer offense ran plays at a much slower pace Friday night against the Vikings than during the rest of the season.
“Lowndes controlled the tempo of the game,” Propst said. “That is part of the problem of what went on, on and off the field. Normally, we run the plays very, very fast.”
Unfortunately for Propst, the game film doesn’t lie. When reviewing the film from Friday’s game, it is clear the Packers ran plays at a quick pace, often snapping the ball five to eight seconds after being set by the referee. The film also shows Viking players rarely looking at the sideline for coaches’ signals.
The Lowndes coaches were located in a booth on the visitors’ side grandstands, just feet away from where the Viking radio team and The Valdosta Daily Times were located during the game. The Lowndes coaches were often heard from their booth and no suspicious activity was observed during the contest.
The Vikings host Brunswick Friday night at Martin Stadium. It will be the first meeting between the two teams as region opponents and the first since their meeting in the 1999 Class 5A state championship game, which Lowndes won. The Times will have more on the matchup in Friday’s edition.
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