The Valdosta Daily Times
Valdosta began the 2012 football season with a 28-7 win over North Augusta (S.C.) on Saturday afternoon at the National High School Gridiron Challenge.
The Wildcats were pretty dominant on both sides of the ball. They accumulated 410 yards of total offense, and held North Augusta to 184 yards of offense.
After taking the lead with a first quarter touchdown, the Wildcats scored three second half touchdowns to pull away for the win.
“I thought our kids played well, played good physical football, and I thought we executed some things really good,” Valdosta head coach Rance Gillespie said. “We played a quality football team today. North Augusta’s got a good football team.”
“I’m proud of our kids,” Gillespie added. “We traveled well. We handled the trip well.”
One of the things that the Wildcats wanted to do on Saturday was establish the running game, and they did that. Game MVP Nelson Herring rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, and Malcolm Joseph had 135 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
“We went into the game wanting to establish a good, physical running game, and occasionally mix it up (and) get the ball out on the perimeter a little bit with some of our pass plays. I thought we did that,” Gillespie said. “(Nelson and Malcolm) both played well. And Tim (McClain, who rushed for 36 yards on six carries) came in the ball game and got some quality carries as well.”
“The O-line kept opening holes, and I just kept running through them,” Herring said.
Shelby Wilkes completed 12 of 18 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown for the Wildcats.
Valdosta’s defense only let North Augusta get past the Wildcats’ 35-yard line once. Pressley had rushed for over 100 yards in each of the Yellow Jackets’ first two games, but Valdosta held him to 72 yards on 18 carries, with 51 of those yards coming on one run.
“Defensively, we played extremely well,” Gillespie said. “That was a question mark going into the game, because we thought they were really good, offensively, going in. ... They never could really get the (passing) game going. We kind of got that stopped before it got started. We answered every call, as far as the defense is concerned.”
The Wildcats took the lead on their second possession. Tyler Ragan’s fumble recovery gave Valdosta the ball at its 49-yard line. The Wildcats quickly moved the ball into Yellow Jacket territory, and Joseph’s seven-yard run on fourth-and-1 prolonged the drive.
Then on third-and-5 from the North Augusta 30, Wilkes took the snap, faked the handoff and fired deep. Alex Cason caught the pass in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. Brennan Goodson’s extra point gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.
The Wildcats had three opportunities to add to their lead in the first half, but came away empty each time. Early in the second quarter, Valdosta drove to the NAHS 27. On fourth down, the Wildcats faked a field goal, but holder Mac Loudermilk’s pass fell incomplete. On the next VHS possession, Joseph had a 27-yard touchdown run called back due to an illegal block penalty. On their final drive of the half, the Wildcats drove down to the Yellow Jackets’ 2-yard line, but Joseph was stopped at the 1 on fourth-and-goal.
Valdosta headed to the locker room at halftime still leading 7-0.
It took only 30 seconds for the Wildcats to double their lead in the second half. On the third play of the second half, Joseph took the handoff, followed his blockers on the right side of the line, found a hole and raced 53 yards into the end zone for a touchdown, giving Valdosta a 14-0 lead.
After North Augusta went three-and-out, Valdosta got the ball back and drove 72 yards in seven plays for another score. Three straight Herring runs gained 28 yards, then two 10-yard runs by Joseph and a 15-yard facemask penalty on North Augusta moved the ball to the Yellow Jackets’ 10. On second-and-goal from the 5, Herring got the ball and sped around left end and into the end zone for the touchdown, making the score 21-0.
North Augusta responded with its only touchdown of the game. Pressley’s 51-yard run and a 19-yard pass from Cody Turner to Logan Woodward moved the Yellow Jackets down to the 1-yard line. After a false start penalty, Trey Morgan took the snap out of the wildcat formation, faked the handoff, went right and ran untouched into the end zone for the score. Dylan Davis’ extra point cut Valdosta’s lead to 21-7.
But early in the fourth quarter, Valdosta staged another scoring drive, and put the game away. Again the Wildcats relied exclusively on their running game and their physical offensive line to move the ball. Three straight Herring runs gained 40 yards, and moved the Wildcats into the red zone. Then Joseph came in and gained five yards, down to the NAHS 10, on his first carry. On the next play, Joseph got the handoff again, went left, got blocks from his offensive linemen and ran into the end zone to extend Valdosta’s lead to 28-7.
Turner completed 13 of 23 passes for 99 yards for North Augusta (2-1).