It was a good start to the season for the Valdosta Wildcats last Saturday.
Valdosta’s football team began its season with a 28-7 win over North Augusta (S.C.) last Saturday in the National High School Gridiron Challenge at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee.
Valdosta’s coach was pleased with his team’s overall performance.
“I thought, for the most part, we played well on Saturday,” Valdosta head coach Rance Gillespie said. “There’s some things that we want to clean up and do better, but we played a good football team and we were able to match their speed. We certainly played well defensively. We had to overcome some obstacles on offense, but we handled that adversity and didn’t get frustrated, and ended up playing well.”
The Wildcats amassed 410 yards of total offense and scored four touchdowns in the win. Their ground game was particularly good. Game MVP Nelson Herring ran for 140 yards and a touchdown, Malcolm Joseph had 135 yards and two touchdowns and the team had 306 yards rushing.
“Offensively, I thought we played well up front. Any time you rush for 300, you’re playing pretty decent up front,” said Gillespie, who is also the team’s offensive coordinator. “When we did throw the ball, we threw the ball pretty well. And we executed, which is exciting for this time of year. Very few mental mistakes.”
Valdosta’s defense limited the Yellow Jackets’ spread offense to 184 yards, and only allowed one touchdown. North Augusta’s DeVonte Pressley had rushed for well over 100 yards in each of his team’s first two games, but the Wildcats held him to 72 yards on 19 carries, with 51 of those yards coming on one run.
“Defensively, I thought we played fast. There were very few mental mistakes. For this time of year, I think that’s huge. I thought we played physical defensively, and we tackled well,” Gillespie said. “The bottom line is, we played hard. Even when the ball got out on us, it wasn’t like we quit and let them score. We chased the ball down. I thought that was a great play by Jacquez (Jelks, the Valdosta safety who chased down Pressley from behind), and even though it was a 51-yard gain, there was some heart speed going on, and I’m happy about that.”
Gillespie also praised the Wildcats’ special teams.
“I thought our special teams played really well,” he said. “We made smooth transitions in our special teams. Our punt return was as good as it’s been since I’ve been here, and it was a huge weapon for us. Mac (Loudermilk) missed one punt, but punted the ball pretty well. Our kickoff team did extremely well; their average starting position was on (their) 21. When (they kicked off) we got the ball out to the 35- or 40-yard line. Brennan (Goodson, who recently became the team’s starting kicker) was 4 for 4 on his PATs.”
Because the game was played in the afternoon, it was hot. The temperature was in the 90s during part of the afternoon, and playing on an artificial turf field made it feel even hotter. But the Wildcats had no apparent problems with the heat.
“The bottom line is, our conditioning paid off. That speaks volumes for what we do over the course of the summer. I thought it was a huge factor, especially in the second half (when Valdosta scored three of its four touchdowns),” Gillespie said.
“We made a concerted effort throughout the week to make sure our kids were hydrated,” he added. “(We were) pumping fluids in them throughout the week. ... Every day, they were given an extra Powerade and a cup of pickle juice. We did that Wednesday and Thursday. Friday, when we left, we gave them an extra Powerade. When we got off the bus to check into the hotel, they got another one. We did make a concerted effort (to keep them hydrated).”
Gillespie also thought his team handled the trip well. The Wildcats made the 240-mile drive to Suwanee (a city in northeast metro Atlanta) on Friday evening, spent the night in a hotel and got up Saturday morning and headed to the stadium to play.
“I was really proud of how the kids traveled, and handled the trip,” the coach said. “I thought we traveled first class and represented Valdosta very well on the road. All of that was relatively smooth, and that’s important, because when we (travel), somebody may see us (that will) never set foot in this town and that’s basically what they have to judge Valdosta on. I thought our kids did a real good job of acting in a class manner.”
Valdosta moved up to No. 8 in the Associated Press’ Class AAAAAA poll this week.
Valdosta is now preparing for its home opener this Friday night. The Wildcats will host Brooks County, which will make the 17-mile drive east on U.S. 84 to take on the ’Cats at 8 p.m.
It was a good start to the season for the Valdosta Wildcats last Saturday.
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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.
VSU baseball season comes to an end
Delta State scored seven unanswered runs to defeat Valdosta State 7-2 in an elimination game of the NCAA South Region Tournament at the UT Baseball Field Saturday afternoon.
Blazers take 1-0 series lead
Angela O’Connor launched a pinch-hit two-run home run over the left-field fence, tying the game against Alabama-Huntsville in the bottom of the sixth inning, and sparking the Blazers and their fans along the way.
Blazer baseball stays alive, beats Stillman
Valdosta State scored five runs in the first inning to defeat Stillman 6-2 in an elimination game of the NCAA South Region Tournament at UT Baseball Field Friday morning.
Lowndes’ Harwell, Wortham sign with Valdosta State
Lowndes’ Ty Harwell and David Wortham won’t have to go far to play college baseball.
Blazers host respected rival UAH in Super Regional
One would expect a matchup featuring two of the top softball programs in Division II to come in the national championship game.
Unfortunately for Valdosta State and Alabama-Huntsville, who have combined to appear in four straight national championship games, they won’t be meeting in title game on Memorial Day in Salem, Va.
Pop Warner Football coming to Valdosta
Pop Warner Football is coming to Valdosta.
The nationally known organization that puts an emphasis on education and developing American youth has been established in the Valdosta area and will begin playing football this August.
Blazers lose to Delta State, fall to loser’s bracket
If the Valdosta State baseball team is going to win the South Region Tournament, the Blazers going to have to do it from the loser’s bracket.
The Blazers (33-17) dropped their first game of the tournament Thursday, falling to Delta State 4-2 at UT Baseball Stadium.
VSU will face Stillman College, which lost to No. 1 seed and tournament host Tampa Thursday, Friday at 11 a.m. to advance to the weekend portion of the tournament. The loser will be eliminated.
Lowndes’ Willis, Breit named Region 1 Coaches of the Year
The All-Region 1-AAAAAA soccer teams were announced Wednesday and Lowndes was well represented.
Lowndes coaches Chris Willis (girls) and Jordan Breit (boys) were named the Region Coaches of the Year, after leading the Lowndes teams to region championships and going undefeated in region play.
Vikings commit 4 errors, fall to Roswell, 5-2
The small things matter in baseball, especially in a winner-take-all game three.
On Wednesday, Lowndes’ baseball team made too many mistakes on the little things. The Vikings committed four errors that led to five Roswell runs and were eliminated in the Class AAAAAA state playoffs with a 5-2 loss to the Hornets.
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