The Valdosta Daily Times
VALDOSTA — The Rance Gillespie era at Valdosta started with a bang Friday night.
Valdosta scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, built a 25-0 halftime lead and defeated Brooks County 35-0 Friday at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
“I thought we did some good things. I thought we made some plays,” Gillespie said after his first win as Valdosta’s head football coach. “I’m proud for these kids. They’ve worked hard.”
Valdosta quarterback Ryan Whilden completed 12-of-20 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. Malcolm Mitchell caught three of Whilden’s passes, for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
The Wildcats’ defense also turned in a superb performance, keeping Brooks off of the scoreboard.
“Overall, our defense did a good job of containing their speed, and matching their speed, and I thought we did a good job of tackling,” Gillespie said. “That’s always big any time your defense can shut them out. We’re excited about that.”
Valdosta got the ball to start the game, and put the ball in the end zone in three plays. On the third play of the drive, Whilden threw a screen pass to DaShay March. March caught the ball, got a key block, took off running and sprinted 46 yards into the end zone for a touchdown, giving Valdosta a 7-0 lead.
“The first drive, I thought we were pretty crisp, had a good little tempo and did some good things,” Gillespie said.
On the ensuing possession, Valdosta recovered a fumble, took over at the Trojan 39 and drove for a touchdown. Completions to Jay Rome and Jarvis Roberts and a roughing the passer penalty on Brooks helped move the ball to the Trojans’ 5-yard line. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, the Wildcats lined up in the split-T, and March ran the ball behind left tackle into the end zone for a touchdown. Then Randy Cook crossed the goal line for the two-point conversion, making it 15-0.
Brooks moved the ball to the Valdosta 28 on its next drive, but William Harp missed a 45-yard field goal.
On their next possession, the Wildcats scored on another long pass. On first-and-10 from the Brooks 45, Whilden found Mitchell wide open, and Mitchell caught the ball and took it into the end zone for the score, making it 22-0.
Zach Wang kicked a 36-yard field goal with 2:33 left in the first half, and extended Valdosta’s lead to 25-0.
Midway through the third quarter, Valdosta was facing third-and-12 from the Brooks 48. Whilden threw a screen pass to Mitchell. The speedy receiver caught it, got some blocks and raced down the field for his second touchdown of the night, extending the Wildcats’ lead to 32-0.
Wang kicked a 35-yard field goal late in the third quarter to make it 35-0.
The fourth quarter was played with a running clock. Valdosta played its reserves in the final period.
Earlier this week, Brooks County head coach Maurice Freeman said that in order for the Trojans to win, they had to play a perfect game and Valdosta had to play a lousy game. Unfortunately for the Trojans, the Wildcats played superb football on Friday.
Valdosta also didn’t make any costly mistakes.
“When we made mistakes, Valdosta capitalized on it. When they made mistakes, we did not capitalize on it,” Freeman said. “I think we dropped a few interceptions, we couldn’t pick up a couple of fumbles, we made some bad reads on passes, and they capitalized on it.”
“We’ve just got to go back and look at tapes, and see what we did right and what we did wrong, and regroup,” Freeman added.
“I know that Coach Freeman and Brooks County will have a good year. They’ve got a good football team,” Gillespie said.
Rome caught four passes for 62 yards for Valdosta. March caught one pass for 46 yards, ran for 23 yards on six carries and scored two touchdowns.
Brooks freshman quarterback Malcolm Parrish ran for 45 yards on 12 carries and completed four passes for 34 yards.
“For a young kid, I think he did a real good job for us. We’re extremely proud of him,” Freeman said.