The Valdosta Daily Times
For the first time this season, the Lowndes Vikings can relax on a Friday night and not have to worry about winning or losing a football game.
The sixth-ranked Vikings (9-1) are idle Friday night after closing out their regular season with a 24-7 loss to top-ranked Camden County last week.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, their opponent for the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs has yet to be determined, as teams from Region 4-6A will battle it out Friday night to solidify playoff positioning.
One likely option for Lowndes’ first round home game is the Marietta Blue Devils, the current three-seed from Region 4.
“That is a little bit different (not knowing our opponent),” Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson said. “There are a couple of scenarios where it isn’t Marietta, so our focus the next four days is on Lowndes and getting better.”
Although the Vikings are not guaranteed to play Marietta, various Lowndes coaches will be at Friday night’s game between the Blue Devils and the Harrison Hoyas.
“We’re definitely going to have somebody at Marietta,” McPherson said. “It is not automatic, but there is a very good chance that we’ll see them; we feel that way.”
With their week off, the Vikings will work out every day and hold three practices throughout the week, focusing primarily on fundamental work.
“We are going to work on fundamentals,” McPherson said. “We aren’t going to have a lot of contact. There are some things we have to work on and I don’t think we need to be doing a lot of hitting right now.”
Moving into the playoffs, which begin next Friday, the Vikings could have two key players back; all-state safety Tiquan Lang and running back Nick Burgman are both improving and are expected to return.
“They are doing good, real good,” McPherson said. “They are coming along as scheduled, but we’re not in a big hurry to get them out there this week.”
Neither Lang nor Burgman played in last week’s game against Camden County, giving the players extra time to rest before the start of the grueling run towards a state championship.
“If you look at Tiquan, it was three weeks from (Monday) when it happened,” McPherson said. “It will be five weeks, almost, so he should be full go.”
In the loss to Camden County, the Vikings were held to a season-low 121 yards of offense while limiting the Wildcats to just 215 total yards.
“Everybody on our team — coaches, players — we hate to lose,” McPherson said. “I think the team, after playing the No. 1 team in the state, realized just how much potential is there. Now, we are going to get to work at it and try to make a run.”
Defensively, the Vikings limited Camden County to its fewest yards of the season, something McPherson was very pleased with.
“I’m very impressed with the defense and the way they played,” he said. “We gave up a few big plays; we definitely have to get better in that area. But the plays they made had a lot to do with that quarterback they got. Even under pressure, every time he made big plays, he was getting hit.”
Likewise, the Wildcats were able to limit the Lowndes offense to very little offensive production, including just 1 of 5 passing on the night.
“I felt like they man-handled us up front — their defense over our offense in the second half. Their defensive front was really winning the battle,” McPherson said.
When speaking with The Times on Tuesday, McPherson said that despite not winning the Region 1-6A championship this season, the Vikings are happy to not be in a situation of having to win on the final night of the regular season to clinch a playoff berth, a scenario that region rivals Coffee, Colquitt County and Valdosta are all in.
The three teams could potentially be in a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots following Friday’s action.
“Obviously we wanted to win the region, but right now, with as tough as this region is, we kind of like where we are sitting,” McPherson said.