The Valdosta Daily Times
The Lowndes-Valdosta rivalry is back in top-form following last year’s thriller at Martin Stadium.
On Saturday, a little more fuel was added to the rivalry when Lowndes assistant coach Hiram Johnson and Valdosta head coach Rance Gillespie had an interaction that got the whole crowd buzzing.
Representing the Vikings for head coach Randy McPherson, who was with the team at a 7-on-7 passing camp in Tampa, Fla., Johnson turned and thanked Gillespie for quarterback transfer Alex Stephenson, who spent the 2011 season at Valdosta.
When it was his turn, Gillespie didn’t hesitate to respond back to Johnson.
“You’d think Coach, you have a thousand more students than we do, that you wouldn’t have to come to Valdosta to get your quarterback,” Gillespie said.
The remark sent an immediate buzz through the crowd that filed into the room at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center.
For the coaches, they both smiled and Gillespie went on talking about his team and the upcoming season.
Stephenson started the 2011 season as Gillespie’s starting quarterback, but after throwing more interceptions than touchdowns and then suffering a foot injury he was benched. Shelby Wilkes, who himself transferred into Valdosta from Colquitt County, took over the reigns of the Wildcat offense and the rest was history.
Wilkes led the Wildcats to 14 points in 48 seconds to beat Lowndes for the first time in seven seasons and he led the Wildcats to their first region championship since 2003.
The success of Wilkes left Stephenson without a starting job, which was the reason he moved his entire family from Ware County to Valdosta in the first place — to be the starting quarterback for the Wildcats.
Demoted, Stephenson enrolled at Lowndes following the completion of the 2011 season, and he has been with the Vikings’ football program ever since he opted to trade in his Wildcat black and gold for Viking maroon and silver.
Stephenson is now the front-runner to be the Vikings’ starting quarterback this season.
Crosstown rivals, Lowndes and Valdosta will meet on Oct. 12. The game will be played at Valdosta’s Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. Stephenson will surely be a hot-topic the week of the game.