VALDOSTA — Valdosta High’s spring football season came to a close with the annual spring game Friday night at Cleveland Field.
An estimated 1,500 fans came to Cleveland Field to watch the Wildcats compete in what was actually more of a practice session than a game.
“I appreciate the way the fans came out and supported us,” first-year Valdosta head coach Rick Tomberlin said. “There were a lot of people here tonight, and they cheered when we made a big play, and then they applauded us after the scrimmage. That was great.”
Those fans saw a Valdosta team still learning a new system of offense and defense under a new coaching staff. But they also saw some big plays on both sides of the ball.
“To be honest with you, it would be hard to be more pleased,” Tomberlin said. “If we went up and down the field and scored eight times, I’d be worried about our defense. If we could hardly get a first down, I’d be worried about our offense. But I thought the first teams each played well. They knew the plays, and we didn’t have a lot of misalignments. We played a lot of guys. I was very pleased.”
Tomberlin said there is still a lot to work on. But he was also happy with plenty of things Friday.
“I liked the intensity. Everybody hustled, they hit, their attitudes were good. They’re working hard, and they’re improving,” Tomberlin said. “We’re not anywhere near ready to play a football game, but that’s OK. The players just need some more reps, and they’ll be fine.
“We got done what we wanted to get done. We wanted to get out there under the lights, in front of a big crowd, on the turf. We wanted to find out where we stood, who our players are. We got the film to evaluate them. We saw our No. 1’s and our backups play.”
Valdosta’s varsity offense had two touchdown drives in their three offensive series.
Both quarterbacks, Michael Turner and Alfrie Johnson, led 70-yard touchdown drives. Johnson had a 13-yard pass and a 10-yard run to help drive the Wildcats down the field, but the big play of the drive was a 24-yard run by Jamil Chandler. Marcus McNair scored on a 13-yard run on the next play, breaking through a hole between the center and right guard.
On Turner’s touchdown drive, he took off on a busted play and dashed 29 yards. Chandler followed that play with a 20-yard run. Turner finished the drive off with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Weatherspoon.
“Some of those (quarterback) runs were on broken plays, but they showed some athleticism and good decision making,” Tomberlin said. “The first-team offense moved the ball well.”
Chandler rushed for 44 yards on four carries, while McNair gained 35 yards on six carries. Turner was 2-for-2 passing for 15 yards and had one carry for 29 yards, while Johnson was 1-for-2 for 13 yards and carried twice for 19 yards.
For the most part, Valdosta’s first-team defense dominated the second-team offense. The second-team offense took 23 snaps, and six went for negative yards, with 10 going for no gain. The only sizable gain was a 22-yard completion by Kyle Rowe.
“Defensively, we looked quick, we bounced around and hit people,” Tomberlin said. “The players are learning the new defense.”
The spring game started with the hard-hitting Oklahoma drill.
The rising freshmen were the first players to take the field. The soon-to-be ninth graders got a 42-yard touchdown run by Dickey Stewart and a long 24-yard run by Dharhrod Hall. The ninth grade coaches also praised the play of quarterback Chad Prain and defensive end Davion Baynard.
“I thought the freshmen looked good, and the young guns,” Tomberlin said. “Our young quarterbacks, Kyle Rowe and Travaris Belcher, hung in there and played hard against our first-team defense.”
After that, the varsity offense took the field against the second-team defense, then the “best of the rest” group scrimmaged. The scrimmage ended with the first-team defense facing the second-team offense.