VALDOSTA — What a game!
The Winnersville Classic is one of Georgia’s premier high school football rivalries, and on Friday night, Lowndes and Valdosta showed why.
The 45th meeting between Lowndes and Valdosta was a dogfight from start to finish. In the end, Lowndes came out on top for the third straight year, defeating its archrivals 23-19 at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in a game that was decided on the final play.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my guys,” Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson said. “They fought their guts out. They made some big plays, and won the game.
“If we play this hard the rest of the way, we’ve got a chance to win the region.”
Lowndes took a 23-13 lead with 7:49 left in the game, then held off a fierce Valdosta rally in the final minutes.
With 1:42 left in the game, Alfrie Johnson dove in from the 1, making it 23-19. The extra point was shanked, so Valdosta needed another touchdown.
Valdosta’s onside kick didn’t travel the required 10 yards, so Lowndes took over on the Wildcat 41. But two plays later, on a routine bucksweep play, the ball was fumbled. Valdosta’s Parker Mathis recovered at the VHS 42, and the Wildcats had one more chance.
On the first play, a 15-yard penalty on Lowndes wiped out a sack, then quarterback Michael Turner completed a 17-yard pass to Johnson, down to the Lowndes 25. Two plays later, Turner dropped back to pass, but everyone was covered, so he took off, and ran the ball all the way down to the 11. But behind the play, Valdosta was flagged for holding, and not only was the run wiped out, the penalty moved the ball back to the LHS 45.
Turner found Tuzer Chism for seven yards, down to the 38, but then Lowndes’ Kelly Dawsey broke up a pass near the Viking 15 with six seconds left on the clock. Turner threw a Hail Mary to the end zone, but Lowndes batted the ball down, and walked away with the win.
“We’ve got a good defense, and they came up big at the end,” McPherson said.
“I’m real proud of our team. They fought their hearts out, and had a chance there at the end,” Valdosta head coach Rick Tomberlin said.
On the game’s opening possession, Valdosta drove 66 yards in 11 plays to take a 6-0 lead. Turner’s 16-yard pass to Chism moved the ball to the 6. On the next play, Johnson got the ball on the toss sweep, then pulled up and passed to Brian Mathis for the touchdown.
Lowndes responded quickly.
In 2003, Valdosta had victimized Lowndes with a long bomb on its first play from scrimmage. Friday, Lowndes got its revenge.
The Valdosta defense ganged up to stop the run, just like Lowndes expected them to. Instead of handing off, quarterback Christian Glisson faked the handoff and threw deep. Greg Anderson got behind the defense, hauled in the pass, and took off running, going 74 yards for the touchdown. Matt Rowland’s extra point gave Lowndes a 7-6 lead.
Lowndes scored again on its next possession, going 81 yards in 14 plays. On first down from the Valdosta 22, Glisson handed to Darriett Perry on a counter, like he had the previous two plays, and Perry found a hole and raced down the sideline for the touchdown, giving the Vikings a 14-6 lead.
Both teams tried to get points at the end of the half, but wound up turning the ball over four times in a span of five plays, and it remained 14-6 at halftime.
With 4:20 left in the third quarter, Lowndes’ Greg Reid, who had three interceptions on defense, got the ball on a bucksweep, went around end, and raced 45 yards for another touchdown, giving the Vikings a 20-6 lead.
The Wildcats needed a big play at that point, so on the first play of the ensuing drive, they gave it to their playmaker. Johnson took the toss going left, cut the corner, and took off running. He dashed 57 yards untouched for the touchdown, and Brad Barr’s extra point cut Lowndes’ lead to 20-13.
Reid’s third interception, and the subsequent return, gave Lowndes the ball at the VHS 15. That led to a 28-yard Rowland field goal to make it 23-13 with 7:49 left.
But Valdosta wasn’t done yet. Well after the fair-weather fans on the home side had headed for the exits, the Wildcats still had some fight left in them.
With less than three minutes to play, Valdosta drove 59 yards in five plays for a touchdown. Turner hit Chism for 22 yards and Johnson for 19, down to the 1, and Johnson scored on the next play.
Valdosta got the ball back, but Lowndes’ defense kept the Wildcats out of the end zone, and walked away with the victory.
For Lowndes, Reid rushed for 56 yards on five carries, in addition to his interceptions. Perry led the Vikings with 66 yards on 12 carries. Glisson was only 2-for-6 passing, but for 93 yards and a touchdown.
For Valdosta, Johnson rushed for 110 yards on 15 carries, caught two passes for 36 yards, and threw a touchdown pass. Turner went 11-for-21 for 120 yards, with two interceptions.
Valdosta now leads the series 33-12, but Lowndes has won seven of the last 10 games.
Vikings win in close matchup
VALDOSTA — What a game!
- Local Sports
Sending the Blazers off
The Valdosta State softball team made the long journey to Salem, Va. Tuesday, leaving Valdosta at 10:30 a.m. with devoted fans cheering them out of the parking lot.
All-Region teams announced
Lowndes was one win away from a trip to the Class AAAAAA state semifinals, and the success by the Vikings this season showed when the All-Region 1 baseball teams were announced Monday.
Lowndes tennis dominates
Lowndes’ tennis team dominated the All-Region 1 teams, with coach Heath Phelps garnering Coach of the Year honors on both the girls’ and boys’ side.
Banks Lake Youth Fishing Derby a success
The 13th annual Banks Lake Youth Fishing Derby held May 11 drew 150 children from ages 3 to 15 who competed for trophies while learning how to fish.
Valdosta's Alakulppi ties for 2nd at state
Valdosta freshman golfer Luukas Alakulppi fired a 71 to finish in a tie for second at the Class AAAAAAA state golf tournament in Tifton.
Brooks County's Parrish in Rivals Top 100
Brooks County rising senior Malkolm Parrish is ranked the 73rd best high school football prospect in the nation, according to the release of the Rivals.com Top 100.
Summer camp information
VSU baseball camp coming soon
Prince Automotive donates new baseball equipment
Prince Automotive of Valdosta is supporting the Valdosta community through its partnership with the Valdosta/Lowndes County Recreation Department. The dealership has joined forces with the national Chevrolet Youth Baseball program to provide new equipment, instructional clinics, and a monetary donation.
Needmore holds final races before big Memorial Day weekend
Saturday night racing at Needmore Speedway saw some new faces in victory lane.
That wasn’t the case in the Late Model division, as Valdosta's Gene Ross drove to victory once again, but not without some close competition from Steven Roberts who came in second.
In the Limited Late Model class, it was another win for Cole Exum, with Gene Maine finishing second in the NAPA Auto Parts special.
VSU softball wins South Region, headed to nationals
For the third time in four years, and second in a row, Valdosta State’s softball team will play in the national championship tournament.
The Blazers won their third South Region championship Saturday, beating Alabama-Huntsville 8-3 in game three of the best-of-three series at Steel’s Diamond at Blazer Park.
- More Local Sports Headlines
- Sending the Blazers off