The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valdosta High football team scored 29 of the game’s first 36 points, then held off a late rally to defeat Colquitt County 36-29 on Friday night at Tom White Field at Mack Tharpe Stadium.
The win gave the Wildcats second place in Region 1-AAAAA, and guaranteed that their first-round playoff game next week would be played at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. Valdosta will play the third seed from Region 3-AAAAA in the first round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.
Valdosta finished the regular season with a 9-1 record, its best regular season since the 2001 Wildcats had the same record.
Valdosta and Colquitt own two of the highest-scoring offenses in Class AAAAA, and on Friday night, they combined for 65 points.
“Great football game, great atmosphere and a sellout crowd. A lot of fun,” Valdosta head coach Rance Gillespie said. “It was a big win. They’ve got an awful good football team, they really do, and to come over here and win here, it’s just a big win for us.”
Valdosta’s Malcolm Mitchell had another big night, catching seven passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Ryan Whilden passed for 222 yards, and threw four touchdown passes. Phillip Moore ran for 161 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
Early in the game, the Wildcats struck first, driving 45 yards for a score on their first possession. A 29-yard run by Moore moved the ball to the Colquitt 10, and two plays later, Whilden threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to fullback Jarvis Roberts. Zach Wang’s extra point gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.
Colquitt responded with a nine-play, 65-yard drive to tie the score. Tyler Brown’s 20-yard pass to Ty Smith and D’Amonte Ridley’s 23-yard run on back-to-back plays moved the ball down to the VHS 22-yard line. Five plays later, Tevin King plowed in from the 1 for the touchdown. Rich Tyndall’s extra point made it 7-7.
The Packers then recovered an onside kick, and drove into the red zone again. But an illegal block penalty helped stall the drive, and on fourth down, Tyndall’s 44-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
On the first play of the second quarter, Gillespie decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Colquitt 42. Mitchell caught a screen pass, got a key block, and took off running. Mitchell sprinted 42 yards into the end zone for the touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 14-7 lead.
Valdosta would hold the lead the rest of the game.
The Wildcats added to their lead on their next drive. DaShay March carried the ball on three straight plays, and gained 40 yards, moving the ball from the VHS 24 to the Colquitt 36. Two plays later, Whilden found Jay Rome wide open over the middle. Rome caught the ball, went to his right, then turned upfield. He raced down the sideline and into the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown catch, increasing Valdosta’s lead to 21-7.
Valdosta nearly put seven more points on the board on its next possession. On second-and-goal from the Colquitt 6, Whilden threw a screen pass to Mitchell, who tried to dive for the end zone. But before he could cross the goal line, the ball was knocked out of his hands, and the Packers recovered.
But three plays later, Brown dropped back to pass in his own end zone. Valdosta’s Carlton Harrell and Maurice Faison rushed in and sacked Brown in the end zone for a safety, increasing Valdosta’s lead to 23-7.
Late in the first half, the Packers recovered a fumble at the Valdosta 32. Two Brown completions helped move the ball down to the 10. Brown nearly found Tommy Hudson for a touchdown, but the official ruled that Hudson was out of bounds when he caught the ball.
Then with just a few seconds left in the half, and the ball at the 1, Colquitt head coach Rush Propst decided to go for it. King took the handoff going left, but was stuffed by a Wildcat defender in the backfield, preventing the score. Valdosta headed to the locker room with a 23-7 lead.
Valdosta scored again on the opening possession of the second half. On the fourth play of the drive, Whilden threw deep. Mitchell outjumped a defender, hauled in the pass, then got by the defender and sprinted down the field for a 72-yard touchdown catch, giving the Wildcats a 29-7 lead.
Colquitt responded with a 13-play, 90-yard scoring drive. On first-and-goal from the Wildcat 9, King found a hole and ran into the end zone for the touchdown. Then King caught Brown’s two-point conversion pass, cutting Valdosta’s lead to 29-15.
A few minutes later, the Wildcats faced fourth-and-1 at their own 45, and decided to go for it. Moore took the handoff, went left, and shortly after getting past the line of scrimmage, he broke free. The senior running back outmaneuvered the Colquitt defense, and dashed 55 yards for a touchdown, increasing his team’s lead to 36-15 with 7:40 left in the game.
King’s 4-yard touchdown run made it 36-22.
Valdosta recovered an onside kick, but went three-and-out and punted. Then Colquitt drove 78 yards in 11 plays for another score. On second-and-10 from the VHS 12, Brown found King in the corner of the end zone for another score, cutting Valdosta’s lead to just seven points, 36-29, with 2:02 left in the game.
But the Wildcats recovered Colquitt’s onside kick. Valdosta faced third-and-3 from the Packer 27 with about a minute to go, but Colquitt was called for pass interference, giving Valdosta a first down and enabling the Wildcats to take a knee and run out the clock.
Brown completed 27-of-39 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown for Colquitt. King ran for 156 yards on 22 carries, and scored all four Packer touchdowns. Hudson caught 12 passes for 99 yards, while Ty Smith caught six passes for 82 yards. King set the school record for touchdowns in a season, while Hudson broke the Packers’ record for catches in a season.
Valdosta’s defense sacked Brown eight times Friday night.