Samuel D. Logan
The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valdosta High Wildcats prepared all week for their Homecoming matchup against the Newton Rams. The Rams managed to beat the Wildcats crosstown rival, the Lowndes Vikings, just two weeks ago and proved to be a team worth looking out for.
The Wildcats proved to be more than ready for the challenge.
With a final score of Valdosta 41-Newton 14, the Wildcats blew the Rams away, moving efficiently on offense and almost unstoppable on defense.
The Wildcats scored on their first five drives, including four touchdowns and one field goal.
Malcolm Joseph (26 yards, 1 touchdown) and Nelson Herring (121 yards, 3 touchdowns) ran all over the Rams defense, racking up 147 yards on the ground.
“Our two running backs really complement each other. They always have their whole career. Malcolm had a big night tonight and Nelson had one last week; the kind of go back and forth each week. We are really blessed to have both of them,” said Wildcat Head Coach Rance Gillespie.
The Wildcats used two main quarterbacks, senior Mac Loudermilk and sophomore Seth Shuman, to rout the Rams.
“He’s (Shuman) in 10th grade and is growing up. There are some nice things he can do that helps our football team. We will continue to balance everything out and do what our guys do best,” said Gillespie.
With the Wildcats receiving the ball first, they scored almost immediately, and the score continued to grow from there. After a run by senior receiver Alex Cason, the Wildcats were set up in good field position for a 32 yard touchdown run by Malcolm Joseph.
On the Rams first possession, the defense almost successfully forced a 3 and out, right before a long 3rd down pass from Rams quarterback Romario Johnson was intercepted by Wildcat defensive back Tre Barrett.
With the score VHS 7, NHS 0, the Wildcats got the ball back.
After a couple of runs from Herring and Joseph, the drive was completed by a touchdown run by Joseph, making the score VHS 14, NHS 0.
The defense played stingy in the first half, causing Newton to fumble 3 snaps in the first quarter alone. After Newton attempted a fake punt pass, the Wildcats attempted something similar on a 4th down in the second quarter. The Wildcats lined up for a field goal, but ended up pulling a fake pass and actually scored on the play with Loudermilk passing a bomb to freshman tight end Khalil McClain.
“Mac did a great job buying time on the throw, and Khalil did a great job never giving up on the play and running under the ball for the catch. Coach Groves, our special teams coach, suggested the play and we went for it and got it,” mention Gillespie.
The defense of the Wildcats has improved tremendously since their scrimmage against Ware Co., stopping the read option almost completely against the Rams. Playing three other teams this season who run the read option or some variation of it helped the Wildcats stop the Rams.
The Wildcat defense gave up 298 yards on defense but were able to hold the Rams to only two touchdowns, both scored on long runs by running back Atrice Hobbs.
The Wildcat defense continued to cause turnovers however, intercepting the Rams twice, once by defensive back Tre Barrett and another by defensive back Joshua Norwood.
“Our entire defense is playing well. I was disappointed in one or two drives in the second half, but our guys are out there causing a lot of turnovers and that is what we like. They aren’t sitting back waiting on a play to happen but actually breaking on the ball and making plays,” said Gillespie.
The Rams quarterback fumbled 5 snaps but was able to recover them before the Wildcats could jump on the ball.
The Wildcat offense stalled a little during the second half, with the most exciting play coming on a 70 yard touchdown run by Malcolm Joseph.
“The run down the sideline was one of the better runs I’ve seen since I have been here,” said Gillespie.
The Wildcats will travel to their first away game of the season next week as they take on the Camden County Wildcats at 7:30 p.m. in Kingsland.
Notes: This is the Valdosta Wildcats Head Coach Rance Gillepsie’s 100th high school football win as a head coach.