The Valdosta Daily Times
The Lowndes Vikings are moving on from their final-second field goal win over rival Valdosta in last Friday’s Winnersville Classic.
The Vikings are completely focused on this week’s opponent, the Coffee Trojans.
“They have a fine football team,” Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson said of Coffee. “I mean they are good.”
Coffee is 5-2 this season, with losses to Burke County and No.1-ranked Camden County. The Trojans are under the direction of head coach Robby Pruitt, who took over the program after spending the last eight seasons at Fitzgerald.
“He is a top-notch coach,” McPherson said. “He is in the Florida High School Hall of Fame. I mean, me and him go way back. We have been friends for over 20 years.”
Despite coaching in the same states for the past 20-plus years, McPherson said he believes Friday’s game will be the first between the two head coaches.
Coffee isn’t the only tough competition awaiting the undefeated Vikings (7-0) the remainder of the season. Lowndes will visit Tift County before closing out the regular season against top-ranked Camden County on Nov. 2.
“The region championship is on the line Friday night,” McPherson said. “We don’t want a loss. I think the mindset of the team needs to be to win the region every Friday night.”
While his team is focused on this week’s game against Coffee, McPherson did take a few minutes to look back at the win over Valdosta. When evaluating the film, McPherson said the Vikings made a lot of mistakes.
“It was a great football game,” McPherson said. “We played hard. We made a lot of mistakes, but we played hard.”
Despite the mistakes, the Vikings’ coach was still pleased with his team, especially with the play of senior quarterback Alex Stephenson. The former Wildcat completed 6 of 7 passes with a touchdown in Friday’s win at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
“He definitely took a step forward Friday night,” McPherson said. “I thought he handled himself well. He made several mistakes, as did everybody else. But, he came through when it counted and I think that is going to go a long way.”
Stephenson came up big for the Vikings by tossing a 20-yard touchdown pass to running back Nick Burgman in the fourth quarter, which set up Tiquan Lang’s two-point conversion run that tied the game at 14-14 with less than four minutes to play.
The Vikings intercepted Valdosta quarterback Shelby Wilkes and moved into field goal range where senior kicker Gustavo Gonzales drilled the game-winning 40-yard field goal to lift the Vikings to the win.
Defensively, the Vikings held Valdosta to just 189 yards of total offense Friday night. More importantly for Lowndes, the defense forced the key turnover that set up Gonzales’ field goal.
The tough defensive pressure late in the game marked the second time in three weeks the Viking defense made a big play late in a football game. In last month’s game against Colquitt County, the Viking defense forced two sacks and an interception to secure a 17-14 win over the rival Packers.
“They play hard, have good chemistry and it is a team deal,” said McPherson of his defense.
McPherson said the offseason deaths that ripped through the Viking program has motivated Lowndes’ entire team this season and has brought the group of players closer together.
The Vikings lost student athletic trainer Dominique Crenshaw to cancer in February, former Lowndes offensive lineman Ed Christian in a fatal shooting in Auburn, Ala. and rising senior Jacob McCook to a head injury after falling from a pick-up truck during the summer.
“The three kids that we lost, there is not a day that goes by where that doesn’t come up,” McPherson said. “We miss them, and we are not going to forget those kids. They are still a big part of this year.
“The kids talk about them. It came up before the game in the locker room. The kids brought it up. We don’t need to forget those boys.”
The Lowndes High Randy McPherson Coach’s Show airs Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. It is broadcast live from the Holiday Inn and Conference Center on West Hill Ave. It airs live on 99.5 FM.